Yesterday I was on the news. Not a side-walk interview kind of appearance; I was invited by a friend to model for a segment called, “Style for Entrepreneurs.”
I didn’t even hesitate to answer yes when she asked me.
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with anorexia, orthorexia, and body dysmorphia. I went through years of therapy, rehab, and a lot of self-work to process the underlying beliefs I held that manifested into an eating disorder.
For a long time, my confidence was non-existent. I’d cringe at my reflection in a storefront window. I froze in group settings. I wore baggy clothes that hid my frame. I never spoke up. I cried whenever I saw my naked body in the mirror.
A similar opportunity like the Fox LA one came up when I was in college. USC’s Fashion Industry Association hosts a fashion show every year in which students model the clothes. My friend heard about the auditions and begged me to try out with her.
We both got picked and a few weeks later were getting our hair and make-up at a salon near campus.
On the day of the fashion show, I met the rest of the models: thin, beautiful girls that you’d imagine attending a southern California university. I starved myself for a couple of days before the show; I figured I could lose a few pounds and manage to look only slightly whale-ish compared to the other girls.
The moment we got to the venue, I knew I’d gotten in way over my head. We had several outfit changes, which meant getting undressed in front of everyone. I could barely look at my own naked body, yet here I was, revealing it to a room full of girls I deemed much prettier than myself.
I cried a bit. Just enough for a single tear to roll down my cheek but not to the point where someone would notice. Then I plastered on a smile and began the show.
The final time we entered onto the runway, I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety flood my body. I suddenly became aware of everyone staring up at me. I smiled and posed, but all I wanted to do was run off stage and cry.
Then the show ended, and I did. I found a one-person bathroom and balled my eyes out. I vowed I would never do something like that again.
After I reached out to my family to receive the help I needed for my eating disorder, I started to work through the beliefs I about myself. I tried reframing my thoughts around food. I began processing traumatic events that still affected me in the present.
But I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. 85% of my thoughts were consumed by eating and food. What would I eat later that day? How many calories had I already eaten? How many calories would I eat for the rest of the week? How long could I go without eating?
I felt like my mind was broken, and I’d never get out of this hell I created.
But I kept going with the work that promised to heal. Because a long time ago, I realized something: when you’re in the depths of hard times, you have a choice: stay in that place or do everything possible to fight your way out of it.
So even though I saw no reward for journaling my thoughts, even though replacing negative thoughts with positive ones seemed futile, I kept on with them. It was either that or wallow in my misery.
And month by month, year by year, I started to see my old habits disappear. I stopped critiquing myself every time I saw my reflection. I quit being hard on myself when I ate out with my friends. I started to become an outgoing person. I began to feel at home in my body.
And that’s when I realized that confidence doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. There’s no quick fix.
Self -esteem is molded through years of experiences, subconscious beliefs, and behaviors we do every day. There’s no way we can repair it overnight.
But when you put in a little bit of work, every day, the results can be life-changing. Still, to this day, I baffle myself at how far I’ve come. Because the change didn’t come suddenly, it came slowly. Slow enough that I didn’t even realize it when it happened.
Two years ago, I would’ve never said yes to modeling on live TV. I would’ve made the excuse that I was too big. I would’ve convinced myself that I wasn’t important enough. I would’ve been too scared.
Instead, I took the amazing opportunity to meet other badass female entrepreneurs. I helped out a friend that’s always helped me. My parents got to watch their daughter on live TV. And I got to feel confident in a tight jumpsuit as I started into a camera broadcasting my image to thousands of people.
Confidence is an elusive feeling; one negative comment can tear down a hundred compliments. It’s a fragile beast.
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