The concept of beauty is a weird thing, I’m sure you’d agree. I’m also sure that you would agree that there is more than one perfect image which epitomises beauty, and I’d even go as far to say that beauty is a state of mind, and not something that you can just obtain. If beauty is a matter of opinion, then nothing is truly beautiful or, if your glass is half full, everything is.
Well. That was pretty deep of me, wasn’t it? I’m not here to tell you that everyone is beautiful; I’m here to tell you that no one is. Okay, that was harsh. But by saying that, I’m also saying that nobody is ‘not beautiful’ too.
Am I confusing matters? Are you keeping up? Because I’m not sure that I am, I’ll be honest. But that’s kind of the point… If I have one. The concept of beauty IS confusing. Something that SHOULD be an opinion has become widely considered as fact. And the result of this? EVERYONE having cripplingly low self esteem, being afraid to be proud of the way they look in case they are told they’re wrong, as society’s depiction of beauty doesn’t fit their own. That is what spawns low confidence, not people hating that they’ve got a monobrow or a snaggle-tooth. It’s the FEAR of having other people tell you that you should be ashamed; that’s the real punch in the stomach that makes pretty much everyone wish they looked like somebody else. You can blame celebrities all you want for making the youth of today aspire to the size 4 (I refuse to use American size 0 as a point of reference; Britain is where we live) but they are under the same pressures as us, only magnified like, 629.7 times.
Right, I had to get that in there, I felt it was important. But now I have a confession to make. I’m not going to sit here and lecture you all about how you should all love yourselves and how it’s stupid that we all care so much. If I did, the following confession would make me a tremendous hypocrite – a title I don’t make a habit of giving myself. So, without any further ado, here it is. I have an eating disorder.
There, I said it. The proverbial elephant has been removed from the room which is this charade. I’m not telling you this as a cry for help, or for attention, or for my own benefit of finally being able to voice it; I’m telling you because I know that there are plenty of you that are closet anorexics too, even if you don’t know it yet. I’ve had problems eating on and off since I was twelve, to the point where two years ago I was inducing vomiting multiple times a day. I’m not proud of the weight I’ve lost, and I’m certainly not proud of how, as it has hindered my life tremendously. Even to this day I find myself battling the urge to throw away my lunch or purge after a meal, and it sickens me that I’ve become so dependent on something so shallow and life-endangering. Every time I feel I have it under control, you can guarantee it’ll rear its ugly head again a few weeks or months later, fiercely punishing my “lack of motivation” and forcing me into a cycle of stress and self-deprivation.
Even right now, whilst on my high horse of knowledge and wisdom, I am thinking of how much I’ve eaten today, and how much I’ll have to lose before the summer.
It’s horrible. It’s all-consuming, it attacks every aspect of your life, not leaving you to think of other things or enjoy being a teenager. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s not something to be desired. Saying all this makes me a hypocrite, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. If anything, it should show you that starting the road to self ‘perfection’ often ties you there for life, and there is certainly no destination. With every meal you skip, every pound you lose, the bigger the urge is to become thinner. It’s horribly addictive, and if you get too deep you may never break out of it, so I beg of you not to start.
You all know Gok Wan, yes? I’m pretty sure you all are aware of his belief of Big Being Beautiful too, are you not? As I’m sure a lot of you know, Gok Wan used to be terribly overweight, and he became anorexic in his attempts to become “acceptable”. His book, Through Thick and Thin is massively touching, and for me it really shone the light on how serious this problem can be. In addition to this, it showed me that I’m not alone, and neither is anyone else who can’t stand their own reflection. If you are indeed suffering an eating disorder, or know somebody who is, I urge you to read it.
If Mr Wan doesn’t really float your boat, then maybe you’d be more enticed by what Ms J.K. Rowling has to say on the matter. Upon browsing her website, I came across a piece she’d written on how emaciated clones are not to be desired. For your convenience, said piece is located here. Now, being a total Potterhead, this was so inspiring for me. Any words that JKR has put on paper have been a big part of my life for the past 9 years, and to see her say that really did make me realise how stupid all this ‘body image’ stuff really is. Read it, it will take no more than ten minutes of your time and would leave you in a better place than where you were on point of arrival.
I know that this all sounds a bit crazy really. A teen with an eating disorder telling you that you shouldn’t give in to society’s image of perfection. I’m telling you this in order to urge you to stay safe, eat right, don’t listen to the voice inside you that insists you should be thinner. I don’t even know who you are, and I can tell you right now that the voice is wrong. Being too thin isn’t being healthy. It’s not sexy, it’s certainly not attractive, and it’s definitely not going to make your life any better. The voice is mimicking society, but since when did we listen to that? Society once said the world was flat, that gay or black people don’t deserve the same rights as white heterosexuals, and that evolution is poppycock invented by a madman. Society is very nearly always proved wrong, so I urge you, listen to the educated minds of the support you have on offer. Listen to the wise words of Gok Wan or that guy who does that show on anorexic kids. You don’t have to listen to me, what do I know? But if I’m not any help, then maybe the support that is advertised on Wicid will be. If you feel that external support isn’t for you, then listen to your friends, who I trust will be wise enough to tell you that eating disorders aren’t big and clever. But please, don’t sit alone thinking that you should listen to what the world is telling you to be. Pride yourself on what makes you who you are, focusing only on staying healthy, rather than trying to ‘better’ yourself into emaciation. Eating disorders should never be taken lightly, and if you suspect that you or anyone you know has one, please, stop before it gets out of hand.
You’re only as perfect as you let yourself believe, and putting your life in danger will have serious implications with no benefits. Take it from the one wearing the T-shirt; don’t go there, do that, or buy it for yourself.
If you have an eating disorder or know someone who does, and would like to talk to someone, you can also contact Meic, the confidential Information, Advice, Support Helpline fro Children and Young People in Wales. It’s completely FREE
Tel: 080880 23456
Meic – Information, advice and support for your life. Freephone Open 24 hours
Image Copyright: Mandie Willis