Talking Body: Eating Disorders, Insecurities, and the Media

We (as humans, women, adolescent girls) live in a society that shoves superficiality down our throats. The result-- a world stricken with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and an insurmountable lack of self-confidence. Honestly, I don’t know if there is a person out there who does not look in the mirror and wish to change at least something about themselves. And if this person does exist, I admire and aspire to achieve his or her level of self-confidence.

My eating disorder story is something I have never outrightly shared on the internet, or to massive amounts of people in general. I’ve reached a place in my journey to where I possess the agency to speak rationally about it. For the past four and a half years I have struggled with anorexia, body dysmorphia, and other forms of disordered eating. At times it has appeared more transparent than it does now, but eating is still a challenge I brave every single day. It began as me obsessively counting calories and over-exercising, then progressed into a psychological awareness of everything I put into my body. It is constant and it is exhausting. Some days all I desire is to just flip a switch and turn it all off. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. The good news is that I’ve found help and support in so many different people, and I’m in a better place today than I have been in the longest time.

The significance in the whole experience goes back to its origin. The disorder surfaced when I was about fourteen, a certain peak of self-awareness. I looked at images in magazines, on TV, on Pinterest and Instagram. Then I looked at myself. All of the people in pictures seemed so happy, and the only explanation for their happiness was that they were beautiful and thin. As an adolescent, my brain was so malleable to false forms of happiness that I could’ve mistaken anything for authentic emotions. The factors precipitating my disorder (the things making me unhappy) drove my desire to mimic what I saw on social media. I know that the circumstances for everyone dealing with an eating disorder are different, but this desire to fill (or not fill) a void in one’s life is a constant. One vice that seems unanimous amongst all adolescent girls, especially in today’s society, is social media. Images of thin models, actresses, and musicians are as inescapable as the sun-- you’d literally have to be a hermit to avoid them. Most young girls are conditioned to worship them. To make matters more difficult for myself, this time period coincided with my discovery of the online world of fashion. I was-- and still am-- addicted to it. The line between worshiping beautiful clothes and the emaciated models adorned in them was completely blurred. I watched supermodels like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner become icons and, dare I say, role models. How could I ever be happy with myself when the most apparent display of happiness in my life was derived out of wealth, beauty, and a slim physique?

To make things clear, I’m not saying that the media was the actual cause of my eating disorder. It is a psychological illness, a coping mechanism for anxiety and sometimes depression. However, the blaring display of images in the media skewed my vision of how I needed to look and act in order to find an answer to my problems. It took me awhile to identify the problem itself, and I have slowly made progress in actually addressing it. Only in the past year have I truly targeted this enemy to positive body image. Aside from a few exceptions, things still seriously need to change in the world of media and advertising. I sometimes find myself drifting back to old habits of comparing myself to the beautiful people pixelated on phone screens and magazines. Another thing to clarify, I do not by any means think these are bad people. They are (most of the time) good people exploited by the media. They are victims of the system that created their own success. I’m sure if you asked any of them, they would say that they too are insecure about some part of their body. Because like I said before, we all are.

This is where things need to change. I’ve only shared a summary of the story, but my struggle with body insecurities and eating disorders has actually served as a blessing in disguise. It has unveiled the world of body positivity, a movement that is on the rise. I want to dismantle the current confines of beauty, especially in the fashion industry. My battle created a platform for my art, which candidly visualizes the subjects of eating disorders and exploitation of the media. This post is only the first of many that will discuss body image and eating disorders and promote body positivity.

It took a lot of courage to write and publish this piece, so I hope all of you enjoyed reading it. Today I speak openly on this subject in hopes to help at least one person who’s like me. I know that the new school year is starting for most of you. It is a very stressful, vulnerable time for most girls (myself included). Try to be mindful of the way you see yourself and others. If you’re feeling insecure, know that you are not alone. All of you are beautiful, but looks are not everything. In the grand scheme of things, they really aren’t anything. Remember this, and have a wonderful day!