I was hanging out on FB yesterday and stumbled across a great article from a father to his young daughter. In it, he redefines our cultural ideas of beauty. If you haven’t read it – CLICK HERE and read it. That post was so touching to me. Sure, it had a great message – one sorely needed at a time when so many girls are at risk, partially due to what our culture teaches them.
But that isn’t the only reason. This topic is highly personal to me.
I grew up without a father figure until I was in my early teens. By then, I had already developed body dsymorphia – I saw myself as an obese girl even though I was a normal weight for my size. There are a ton of reasons why the body image problems developed (and that’s for another post), but suffice it to say it was a huge issue for me. For years I facilitated between periods of anorexia and bouts of bulimia. I was a mess.
And no one knew.
I kept all of that hidden away from the rest of the world. My weight stayed somewhat constant. I was in beauty pageants, even won a few. I modeled and even went to NYC. My weird quirks were normal with models and beauty queens. We were all suffering body image problems. I never told anyone about my secret rituals around food. Never admitted how ill I was.
In college, my first time away, my gifted introverted self hit crisis mode. I saw a counselor for the first time. It was terrifying. And like any bright, scared, soon-to-be-adult, I ended counseling as soon as I felt “ok”.
For the next several years, I hit the depth of my body image issues until finally I couldn’t ignore the pain any longer, and I again sought help. I had a great therapist. I stopped and purging. Stopped the anorexia.
At least for a while.
But, although I stopped behaving like an anorexic, I hadn’t fully healed the core of my body issues. And so I became an emotional eater, and a new issue with food (or maybe the same issue reborn) blossomed.
It has taken more years than I care to admit to become more comfortable with my body. I have only just started to allow pictures of me, only now refused to inhibit my speaking career related to my body issues. I am finally in a place of healing, acceptance. I’ve done the work on the core issues, replaced emotional eating with healthy eating and no longer engage in the rituals.
In short, I am finally happy with “who” I am now. I’ve learned that diminishing myself serves no one, least of all me. I’m not willing to hate myself in order to be liked by others, something I thought I had to do in my youth. I’m better. Stronger.
It has been a long and difficult road. I wish someone had noticed the turmoil I was in, wish a trusted adult had said the words the father in the above article said to his daughter. But I am grateful that I DID figure things out. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for being.
I am proud to say I have two amazingly strong daughters. They are healthy, fit, and not focused on cultural norms for beauty. They are self-confident and feel quite comfortable forging their own path. I would like to think I had something to do with it – who knows. Most of the time I am fairly certain they just came onto the planet with an amazing amount of resiliency and emotional intelligence. There are my example, my ideal.
Strong. Resilient. Intelligent.
I stand here now humbled and grateful – for the strength I’ve found, the life I have, and ability to give to our children the strength I once needed.
Whew – okay. There you go. Confessions of this victim of our cultural definition of beauty…
What confessions do you have to share?