Self Love + Mental Health Month
No frills. No Photoshop. Just a little realness for you guys. I realize that there are probably a significant number of people who may read my blog, or see my Instagram, and not know anything about me and the things that make me who I am. This post is one small attempt at breaking the "social media wall" and giving you some context behind the images you see. So, hi there.
This is a touchy subject for me, but when I was reminded that May is Mental Health Month, I just knew that I had to speak out on it.
Body image isn’t an easy thing for any person to reconcile with–especially when you’re a young woman surrounded by a society that tells you to love yourself one day, and then immediately turns its back the next and spews harsh criticisms at yet another celebrity who has “put on a couple pounds” or who–heaven forbid–has a zit. Even if you don’t actively go around saying such harsh things, you have to admit, you’ve definitely thought them. We all do. We’re human. We are ambivalent about how to feel about other people’s bodies, just as much as our own.
For those of you who might know me personally, you’d know that I had an eating disorder when I was a teenager. It’s no secret; I don’t hide behind it. At least, not anymore. In fact, in college I even ran a social media campaign aimed at self love and getting the conversation going about eating disorders. But I haven’t always been as open about it as I am now. It’s a tough, embarrassing, self-effacing thing to grapple with. It almost destroyed me in high school. The constant thoughts about not being enough, and not being beautiful enough, ate away at me (literally?) all the time.
That period of my life started almost 10 years ago today. When did it end, you might be wondering? To be honest, it never ends. At least, not really. There’s always the judgement, the doubt, and the self criticism that never fails to bubble up in the back of my head. But if you’re lucky, you learn to raise the lid, let the steam out, and not let it overflow and consume who you really are.
But to this day, I have to admit, I’m still tough on myself. It’s difficult, especially when you put yourself out there constantly (take this blog, for example). Whenever I shoot and go back home to review the photos afterwards, I’m always subconsciously looking for something to criticize.
Scrutinize... Wish I was thinner/had a nicer complexion/better hair/a sexier smile... Sigh... Delete... Next.
But in a lot of ways, this blog has been therapeutic, too. Putting myself out there, creating images I am proud of and think I am beautiful in, and writing words that have weight, and substance, and meaning that I hope resonate with other people is something that I honestly love doing. I am not perfect, and no one else is either, no matter what social media leads you to believe.
Along with this blog, I’ve healed through fitness. It’s a love-hate relationship, but things like yoga, salsa dancing, running, and HITT (my current jam: Kayla Itsines’ BBG. I’m on week 31!) have kept me sane, and have given me a much healthier and more gratifying goal to work towards. I’m not saying I’m in crazy good shape or anything either. Hell, I can’t even do a push-up correctly. But does it make me feel good, and beautiful, and like a total badass when I finish a 3-mile run, sweaty and bright red and out of breath? You bet it does.
So this is me. In my element. Unedited, and perfectly imperfect. The sum of all of my past struggles and all of my present pursuits. I'm healthy now, but I haven't always been. But you probably wouldn't have guessed that if you didn't take the time to find out, would you?
Mental illness is as real as any other disease in this world, even when you can't see it. So if you ever find yourself stuck in your head, never forget that you have a voice. Use it.
And for the rest of us, it’s our job to listen.