I have written countless blogs. Prior to this, I have written only one line in one article concerning my battles with body image. I have never really been ready to have that become public knowledge, as most of my personal life is. It always made me feel ashamed and small. I felt it may discredit me as a writer, and even as a person. I was embarrassed. In the past few weeks, that situation changed.
I became a part of the American Greetings ThankList documentary series a few months ago. The campaign is centered on the immeasurable power of gratitude, which has also been an effort The Huffington Post has been supporting and advocating for.
Filming focused on many aspects of my life and writing, and it wasn’t until a day before the video’s release that I discovered it would be focusing on my experience with an eating disorder and the ways my mother helped me through that time, and encouraged me to write about the darker parts of my life. When I initially saw the video, I was horrified. I knew everyone would be informed about the most private and shameful state of mind I had ever experienced. I felt the bright image I had worked so hard to cultivate would be stripped away to uncover someone who was flawed. However, that naked feeling has started to evolve into empowerment.
Everyone in my world knows. It’s been all over the Internet. It’s been on the front page of the paper in my hometown, to be viewed by friends, family, teachers and neighbors. My friends have seen it. My coworkers have seen it. Strangers all over the country have seen it. So it’s out there, and strangely enough I’m starting to see the power in that. There is strength in allowing the people around you to see the darker parts of who you are. If we all hide that, then how can we ever help each other? How can we ever understand? There’s a truth behind eating disorders that many are afraid to share, because they’re just as ashamed as I was, and I understand that. But it’s something we should talk about. If we don’t, nothing changes — and it has to. As I am already exposed in a perplexingly beautiful way, I will start talking.
The truth is that struggles with body image take on different forms, and therefore can go unseen. Body issues manifest in so many corners of the human brain, and never really leave their safe little homes. They lie dormant in times of confidence and progress and creep back to the surface in times of despair and self-doubt. They prey on the times in life where feelings of control and purpose start to wither. People try not to see the struggle. Many struggling don’t even admit this to themselves. Many consider themselves recovered, or may have never recognized their own tendencies to begin with. It goes ignored, or disguised.
The truth is that any obsession with your body is unhealthy. It doesn’t matter if you’re underweight, normal weight or overweight; it’s your mind that’s unhealthy. Disordered eating means being completely and utterly consumed by the state of your body and the food that you are putting into it. There’s a difference between being healthy, and letting your perception of that word determine your entire state-of-mind and confidence in yourself.
The truth about eating disorders is that we like to ignore them. We like to call them different names. We like to make excuses to overlook them, in order to avoid uncomfortable situations. We like to call them “resolved,” even though something like that never really goes away entirely. We like to hide the ugly truths about some of the prettiest people.
The truth about disordered eating is that the only way to uncover and recover is by talking about it. We need to recognize that there can be sadness hidden behind beauty. We need to recognize that we have a power to change it. We have a voice.
There are still so many people, men and women alike, staring painfully into the mirror or at a number on a scale, hating themselves. There are more girls than just this one remembering experiences as shameful as purging her own birthday cake as a 16-year-old girl. There are still people who feel so guilty from missing a workout that they ignore the cries of their own bodies for nourishment. There are still people engaging in crash course diets and dangerous fads. There are still people taking diet pills not approved by the FDA to be put in their poor bodies, making their fragile hearts beat so fast they feel they may break. There are still people feeling so alone and ugly that they couldn’t possibly tell someone else what they are going through. There are still people using food and health as their only means for control in a life they feel spiraling away. There are still people so obsessed that it consumes their every thought.
Maybe they’re right beside you. Maybe they’re a little more distant. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you have been one of them. No matter what role you play, you can make a difference.
You can advocate for health, positivity and self-love. You can show people that they are more than the image society has pressured them to become. You can stop accepting absurd standards of beauty. You can stop paying for the products and services, and supporting the companies that prey on the insecurities of the human mind. You can take deliberate steps each day to love yourself. You can teach that to your children and friends. You can spread positivity to the people around you. Society pressures you to be critical of others, and to be as hard on them as you feel you have to be on yourself. Don’t listen. Don’t buy into the poisonous mindset. Realize this issue is alive in the hearts and minds of so many people. It’s still in mine in a lot of ways, and probably still will be, but there is healing in sharing with each other.
You can make the difference. You can make the difference that the support of my family and friends did during my own experiences. You can make the difference in your life, and in the lives of the people around you. You can talk. You can listen. You can have a voice. You can uncover the hidden truths. You can expose your own. You can open your heart, and open this discussion, just as I recently have. You can be brave. You can be remarkable. It’s the little steps towards positive change that create a better world. It’s the little steps towards love that create a better humanity, and one we all deserve to become.