As children we are taught to be anything, to do anything. “You can achieve it all,” my mother used to tell me, but society tells a different narrative. Plastered on the front cover of each and every magazine are near-perfect specimens of the human race. “5 Tips for better abs,” “This Seasons Best and Worst Dressed,” “Top 25 Most Beautiful Women!” We, specifically women, are constantly inundated with reminders that we are not enough. Under the subterfuge of the “American Dream” and “reaching our potential” we are quietly reminded that we must always look and behave a certain way. That in order to be accepted as women, we must check this box, fit this image, shop at this store. While this poses a problem to every woman, we are also unconsciously forcing young girls to grow up with this type of harmful cultural programming.
At the age of 18, I developed anorexia nervosa, more commonly known as anorexia. The perfect bodies in the media permeated my brain every minute of each day. I was not content to eat an entire meal for fear of gaining weight. I liked my body, was proud of it, even: my thighs didn’t touch, my stomach didn’t have rolls and I was able to see my hips and ribs. Each of these things I was taught, were important. If never explicitly stated, the thousand of images, movies and videos being given the most air play propagated this type of figure. Relatively thin to begin with, I got thinner. I ate half meals or sometimes not at all. In vain attempts to fool my family, I would choke down four pancakes for breakfast knowing full well I would eat nothing else for the remainder of the day. This starvation lasted the remainder of my teen years and into my early twenties.
Shortly after my 21st birthday I was reading a book on the Buddhist religion when I had an epiphany: I was starving, literally and metaphorically. My anorexia was an attempt at control and I had surrendered to the beast many years before. In order to gain back ownership of my life I needed to make drastic changes. Over time I have come to know that because I am alive I am inherently beautiful; that true beauty comes from within and to give others the power to dictate my self worth was literally killing me. From that moment on, I fully immersed myself in the search for deeper meanings, authentic power and true health and wellness. To truly know myself, to connect with people on a meaningful and profound level and to eat food that I actually enjoy, guilt-free, has satiated me in a way in which anorexia never was able.
At the age of 27, I can say with full confidence that I have done something truly remarkable with my life. No, it was not becoming more powerful than my eating disorder, though to that I give full recognition. It is something far more consequential, more far reaching. I have clipped the restraints which society so tightly weaves around us. I have broken down the walls of how I should look, how I should be, what I should do, to live a life that is truly my own. As a result of rejecting the cultural programing that daily surrounds us, I am my own. I am free.