I Am A Mental Health Advocate, And I Stopped Looking Up To Demi Lovato
Yes, you read that title correctly. And no, I am not talking about the whole I-want-to-look-like-my-role-model-so-I’m-going-to-work-out-like-crazy-so-I-can-get-her-body kind of looking up to celebrities. I have nothing against people looking up to them; I’ve just realized that it might not be the healthiest thing, for reasons that go much deeper than trying to get your dream body or winning an Olympic gold medal or a Grammy (whichever you prefer).
It is no secret to anyone who knows me personally (or reads my blog) that I was bullied pretty intensely in middle school. Sure, it might pale in comparison to the bullying that kids get on social media nowadays, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still haunts me, more than a decade after those things were said to me.
As far as I knew, there was no one I could look at in the media who was going through depression and bullying. There was no one I could look at and say, “If she can do it, I can do it too.” I thought I was completely alone in the world; I thought that no one else in the world could understand how I felt.
It wasn’t until Demi Lovato started speaking about her experience with depression and bullying after she was discharged from rehab that I found that model, that person who understood what I was going through; she was the person I wanted to be: a happy, successful young woman who loved herself.
But in my quest to get where she was, I lost track of two very important facts:
I wasn’t her. And she was not Miss Recovery.
Yet, I was looking at her like she was. I was pushing myself to get to where she was. I was jealous of her. I wanted to be where she was so badly that I was discrediting my own journey. I had lost sight of what recovery meant for me.
And that was when I realized that looking up to her and her journey wasn’t healthy for me.
This is not to say that I do not admire her for the example she’s set for our generation or for the strength she showed in being so vulnerable about her journey. But I also know that in order for me to recover and be happy with who I am, I cannot discredit my own recovery or compare it to anyone else’s, no matter how easy or tempting it is.
Just as we each have different definitions of what constitutes perfection, we each have a different picture of health. What looks healthy for one person doesn’t mean that it’s healthy for everyone else. Sure, your idol may look like the picture of health, but if you let their standards of health become yours, you may end up sacrificing your self-esteem in the process.
We talk so much about unattainable standards of beauty that sometimes we don’t pause to wonder how we contribute to the problem. We often forget to embrace our own uniqueness and appreciate what we have. It’s only when we begin to appreciate our differences that we begin to develop self-confidence and good self-esteem. We forget that when we fall in love with celebrities, we fall in love with an idea of who they are. Rather than falling in love with an idea, we need to fall in love with ourselves first. And when we learn to love ourselves, life becomes a lot more enjoyable.
So next time you find yourself adopting another person’s standards of health as your own, take a step back and ask yourself if they really work for you. If they do, carry on. If you find yourself getting jealous or discrediting your journey, take a step back and reevaluate. Don’t spend your life making yourself unhappy while reaching for your dreams. Life isn’t meant to be lived that way.