“Placing our time and energy into trying to resemble ideological concepts of men or women brings no conceivable aid to us as a race (tbh, it’s detrimental). Our planet’s surface is heating up day by day, global poverty is rising rapidly following Covid-19 and race and gender inequality remains a predominant issue in many modern workforce systems – yet, so many of us are here, focusing on “perfecting” our physical appearances? Human intellect has so much to offer to the world; we have so much to work towards, I wish we would just wake up from the distraction that is our bodies.” – These were the words that I received in a Messenger notification one night from my 21-year old, drunk, brother (who by the way, is a white, straight, good looking fella). Being one of the most important contributors to my eating disorder recovery, I thought I would include his short text inside this essay, which I hope will help you realise that purpose and self-worth can be found in so many areas beyond beauty.
One of my favourite books is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. In one of the chapters, Covey asks the reader to imagine that they are attending a funeral; their own, where four separate speakers will be giving speeches to commemorate the deceased person’s life. In other words, the author uses this scene to make the reader ask themselves: What exactly do they want to be remembered for when they pass away? – and this is exactly what I am asking you to do right now. For example, when I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I put so much effort and time into being “the tall, blonde, skinny girl”, “the one who never skipped the gym” or “the one who was so dedicated to her health and studies”. This was all people could describe me as back then, as it was what I committed about 80% of my time to. But was it really what I was put onto this Earth to become? Was this really what I wanted to be remembered for when I died? These are real, important questions that you need to ask yourself right now: is this endless torment of trying to look a certain way (and most likely, an unrealistic one) worth it? You only have one shot at life (as far as we know), it is worth re-evaluating if the one you are leading right now is the one you want to leave behind.
What makes it so difficult for us to let go of our obsessive behaviours is that in today’s society, we are often praised for them. I mean, I had received soo many compliments for losing those 22 pounds in my second semester at university. Not only that, my strict exercise regime was repeatedly glorified as “exemplary dedication” or “an amazing new year’s resolution”. With this new waist size, I landed my dream summer job working at my favourite (one-size) clothing store, I was scouted in London by a reputed modelling agency and I got my first boyfriend. No wonder I thought that if lost those 6 gleaming abs or that precious thigh gap no one would like me anymore- I would have lost my identity. What I didn’t understand was that these favourable events were not a complete result of my weight loss, they were also a result of my actions and personality. Sure, a pretty face or an hourglass figure can help you make good first impressions, but you don’t keep a job if you’re not hard-working, you don’t get signed with a modelling agency if you don’t have confidence and poise, and you most definitely don’t secure a boyfriend if you don’t have a few qualities that go beyond being good at sit-ups. What had truly happened was that I had gained confidence in my new body, but this can also be achieved at any size. Think about the most empowering and influential women in modern history for instance: when Kamala Harris became America’s first female, black, south-Asian vice president-elect, did your esteem of her decrease because she doesn’t fit into a waist “24? When Malala Yousafzai walked onto the stage to receive her Nobel peace prize, did you pay attention to the size of her thigh gap? (probably not because she was wearing a knee-long shalwar kameez dress, but you get my point). All this to say that looks don’t change the world; actions do. Looks don’t make you interesting; your personality does. And finally, looks most definitely don’t make you happier; close relationships, true hobbies and holidays to Bora Bora do (so get working, girl, you got this).
So, how do we liberate ourselves from any type of obsession? Well, we find purpose elsewhere in life (which by the way, is easier to do than it seems). For example, ask yourself the question Covey raises in his book, “What do you want to be remembered for when you leave this planet?”. Give it a deep, long thought and write your answers down somewhere; these were mine:
- I want to be remembered for being a person that was always there for her friends and family when they needed her, someone they could always count on.
- I want to be remembered for my love for the environment, and how I fought so hard to save it.
After establishing these objectives, I made a plan of action: dedicating a small part of each day to one of these points. At first, it was simply helping my brother out with his university applications and reading up about global warming. Then, I started reaching out to friends who were feeling lonely during lockdown, I became committed to sharing sustainability tips on my Instagram story each week and I even signed up to an online course on “How to become a climate activist”. Very quickly, the rewards of focusing my energy on the people and nature around me started to flourish, giving me a deep sense of joy, accomplishment and satisfaction. For the first time in a long while, I was doing what I truly loved, and you can do the same, but you have to start right now.
So go ahead, pull out a piece of paper and write down all the things that you want to accomplish before you leave this Earth. It could be anything- qualities that you have such as compassion or kindness, that you want to showcase more of in your every-day life; hobbies that you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time to, such as reading, journaling or investing in stocks. It could be projects you want to lead, fighting for injustices that mean a lot to you, learning more about a particular topic, connecting with new people around the world, etc. – you simply need to find something that you would be ready to invest your time, money or talent into (and ideally, that doesn’t involve your looks). Once you find it, you will be amazed at the amount of confidence and mental clarity you gain. You will see yourself grow into the person you always wanted to be; and trust me: being who you want is so much more fun than looking a certain way.
Written by Anonymous
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