You’re probably aware that Abercrombie & Fitch have fuelled a passionate discussion about body image. Comments made by CEO Mike Jeffries in a 2006 interview have been resurrected causing widespread debate and protest. Here’s what Jeffries said to Salon some 7 years ago:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids.”… “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
So Abercrombie & Fitch are implying “coolness” is associated with a certain look. And yet again we see the prevailing social conversation that links self-esteem with physical appearance and being a certain size.
Unfortunately, it’s conversations such as these that can lead to a variety of eating disorders. In fact, a battle with your body is the likely reason bulimia developed in the first place. It was for me.
Back in my 20s I was a successful, international model. From the outside it looked as though my life was perfect. But the reality was completely different. My obsession with my body image, my appearance and my size completely took over. And despite the outward success of appearing in magazines, and being on billboards and TV around the globe, I was plagued with a constant internal battle to look a certain way – and I convinced myself I needed to resort to extreme measures to make it happen.
Back when I was modelling, this obsession with body image was largely restricted to professions where how you looked decided your success. However, today it seems the majority of women, and increasingly men, have poor body image and low self-esteem.
How you look has come to define your self worth.
We now live in a society where an ingrained belief exists AND is perpetuated for monetary gain. This belief is if you look a certain way – you are beautiful (or “cool” to use Abercrombie & Fitch’s definition). AND if you are beautiful, you will be happy, loved and accepted.
And whilst beauty has always been highly prized, the modern problem is our narrowly defined, standardised, “one size fits all” definition is practically impossible for anybody to attain. Even the models and celebrities that “set the standards” have their images “manipulated” and airbrushed to achieve that level of perfection.
But that logic doesn’t mean the pressure to “fit in” goes away. Instead, we’ve become vulnerable to the media messages that play on our fear that we’re not good enough. And the messages are everywhere – movies, TV shows, advertisements, magazines etc. Silently we compare and judge ourselves with the images we see, and when we don’t stack-up, our fragile self-esteem is chipped away. We are left thinking we need fixing and so buy products (or even people) that promise a “quick fix” solution. And unfortunately increasing numbers resort to drastic measures, such as bulimia, to stay thin and look a certain way…
As a bulimia recovery coach I see the pain and damage of this obsession every day
It’s heart breaking to speak with people who are trapped in a battle with food because of their distorted belief of what makes them valuable as people – and this in’t something restricted only to teenage girls. Value is not about appearance or size, and the answer to why you feel unworthy is not “out there”.
In fact, seeking answers from an outside force only enhances the problem. Think about it.
- What happens if that person who says you’re “good enough” changes their mind?
- What happens if society’s definition changes?
- What happens if you’re not as thin as that model?
Don’t give up your power
Permanent self-esteem will only ever come from within YOU. And you’ll discover it when you love and accept yourself for who you are – not from having met the criteria of an outside force. And it’s a false belief to think you’re not good enough or that if you were thinner, you’d be more loveable.
Instead, choose to accept you are perfect right now and that there is nothing to fix. Your heart already knows these truths and if you look close enough, you’ll discover you already have all the self-esteem you need. What’s more, once you embrace it, you’ll reveal the possibility and potential life has held for you from the moment you were born.
Embrace your unique talents, qualities and abilities.
The real tragedy is many people never accept or use them because they become trapped in a conversation that places appearance, celebrity and power over just about everything else.
And here’s the real disservice. By refusing to accept your own personal greatness, you’ll deny the world of the gifts you are here to deliver and deny yourself access to your self-esteem and all it brings.
Some people make an impact on a global scale. Others make their mark by impacting the life of just one person. Others are here to share their music, their philosophy or their words. Others have the potential to show love, empathy and peace.
But what are your unique gifts?
You need to discover them because once you find them and share them – your self-esteem will blossom (and I guarantee it’s got nothing to do with how you look). And surprisingly, this could also open the doorway to a life where you can become free of bulimia – without the struggle and without the need for therapy.
And this option isn’t the stuff of fantasy and fairy tales. In fact, it was the way I was able to move beyond a life controlled by daily binges and purging, laxatives and lies. I simply shifted my thoughts.
Instead of trying to fit in by focusing on how I looked and controlling my intake of food, I began to shift my attention to doing the things I loved. I wanted to feel healthy and vibrant. I wanted to feel the zest for life I had as a child, and my attention turned to that.
And before I knew it, the voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough and drove me to binge (then purge) became more and more silent – until eventually it was gone altogether. And with almost no effort, the bulimia that had controlled my life for over 15 years was in the past.
So you see, you may feel the need to look a certain way. You may feel that once you’re happy with how you look things will change.
But they won’t. The only way you can ensure things change for good is to:
- Accept who you are right now.
- Discover and explore the stuff that makes you unique.
- Then use your imagination to create and live a life you love.
And never forget. Not only do you deserve to have this joy – the world needs it.
As Steve Jobs said “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become. Everything else is secondary”
To learn more about how I can help you become bulimia free, simply sign up for my free video series at the top right hand of this page.
Bulimia Recovery Coach
Julie won a 15 year battle with bulimia over 20 years ago and now mentors and coaches others to bulimia freedom. She is a compassionate, caring bulimia recovery coach who brings a unique and powerful perspective on recovery that has helped people from all walks of life, not just stop bingeing and purging but learn how to love themselves and their bodies and create a life they love.