During my first day at James Island High, I wandered aimlessly through the halls. Hundreds of students buzzed by, but I couldn’t hear anything for the dark voices. “Nobody will ever be your friend. You’re a loser!” I kept my head down toward the gum-spattered floors. I wanted to spare everyone from my hideous appearance. When the teachers called out my name During roll call, I didn’t answer; instead, I sulked in the back of the class, afraid to utter a single word.
As the days passed on through March, I wanted to disappear. I was certain that if I stayed at James Island High much longer, everyone was going to find out about my past. Deep down, I longed for others to understand, but I knew that no one could, so I avoided conversations at all costs.
During lunch, I anxiously raced through the lines and grabbed a couple of brown paper bags and desserts. I thought it best to dodge the noisy chatter at the tables and skipped straight ahead to the bathroom stalls. There I at least had silence. The crinkle noises my sandwiches made as I unwrapped them was all the friendship I needed. I had my food, and I had my thoughts. Although, I questioned my thoughts most of the time. I could only sit with my thoughts for a few minutes before purging; it seemed like the rational method to rid myself of the pain.
Read the full blog post at Eating Disorder Hope.
It is a widely-known, yet little-talked-about fact that trauma in childhood can lead to the development of unhealthy and potentially-fatal coping behaviors such as eating disorders. Until a few years ago, I never spoke a word about the abuse that I had endured in my household, as well as the disordered behaviors I lived with for most of my life as a result.
That all changed when I left my high-profile modeling career, got a mentor, went through recovery, and began writing. Once I started writing, it was as if I had blown the cap off a lid of a tightly-sealed bottle of explosives; all of my memories shattered onto the keyboard, and I couldn’t stop writing about them.
Read the full post at National Eating Disorders Association.
Denial and Profit
A part of me can’t believe that I am writing about clothing retailers and that fact that they are still selling “super skinny” and “toothpick” jeans – how long must we go around and around this issue and still see no change? Yet another part of me is not surprised at all; after all, the majority of people are not properly educated about mental health issues, especially eating disorders, and the goal of businesses, especially clothing retailers – is simply, profit.
This was a recent conversation I had with Christopher Willson, the Clinical Director from Dine Monte Nido, a unique outpatient program designed to help those suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Chris was furious one day when he went to buy jeans for his eight-year-old daughter and found that many of them read “super skinny!” Oh dear. Now, most businesses grasp that in order to keep their profits high they must act as good corporate citizens. Therefore, clothing retailers should listen to the cries of consumers, such as Chris, and incorporate changes that will in turn, make their customers happy. Let’s look at the bigger picture – for example, all the parents who buy jeans from clothing brands that advertise them as “super skinny”- you can expect that there are going to be some downright angry moms and dads writing letters, calling and blasting their opinions all over social media. After all, these labels place unrealistic expectations on already impressionable minds. Let’s review some statistics:
“42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.”
You would think that clothing companies would do their research on mental health and listen to the consumers who are unhappy about how these labels are affecting their kids and teens. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder; certainly the higher ups and employees within the clothing companies must know someone who is or has been affected.
Or perhaps, they turn a blind eye, like this country has done for so long. Why? There are many reasons, but I would say that in the case of retailers a lack of education and focus on profit are the biggest culprits. To actually think about the well-being of others means to stop thinking about themselves, and to do that would (gasp!) would mean to potentially lose money, at least for the short-term.
I am relentless in advocating for change because eating disorders are an issue that affect over 30,000,000 people in America alone, and those are just the reported amounts. And, as a former fashion model who was always trying to fit into the fashion industry’s unrealistic sizes and portray an unhealthy image for impressionable minds, I am adamant about helping to restructure the business and stop the selling of products that are damaging to consumers. At the very least, we can start with mental health education – everyone needs it, especially the advertising and fashion industries.
Even if someone has not suffered from an eating disorder, almost everyone has been affected by low self-esteem and poor body image, however children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable; they don’t need added pressure from retailers telling them that they need to look a certain way in order to be accepted and valued.
Finding the Solution
Lately I have been working with California Assemblymember Marc Levine, the National Eating Disorders Association, Sara Ziff from the Model Alliance and Dr. Bryn Austin, the director of Harvard STRIPED, on AB 2539, which will create healthier standards and promote the labor rights of models in the fashion industry. One thing that has stuck out to me in reading Dr. Austin’s research is how crucial prevention is. As she puts it, there is not a whole lot of literature and research dedicated to preventing eating disorders. Tying into Dr. Austin’s research lies my main interest: mental health education in the workplace, particularly the modeling industry. When we educate, we can help to prevent. I think that back during Karen Carpenter’s unfortunate and highly publicized case, eating disorders became known and glamorized because of the media – it’s what they do, they sensationalize – but they have yet to educate the public properly about eating disorders and mental health in general.
The National Eating Disorders Association has been introducing literature on eating disorders into various workplaces. Education is power because when we educate we have the knowledge to understand the what, why, when, how and who. If clothing retailers are uneducated when it comes to eating disorders and the impact their marketing schemes are having on young people, and if they are only thinking about profit, then they will continue to contribute to the mental decline and fatalities of our youth. Focusing on prevention and education in the workplace are crucial steps towards changing the way retailers and advertisers approach consumers – especially our youth.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them! Drop me a line – email@example.com
On this episode I sat down with Laura Porter who is a student at George Washington University majoring in political communication with a minor in psychology. After taking three semesters off of school for her own mental health struggles, Laura became passionate about advocating for increased awareness of mental illness among college students, specifically eating disorder awareness. Laura served as president of Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge at GW (SPEAK GW) as well as a communications intern at Active Minds Inc.
“I grew up in charming Charleston, South Carolina in the eighties and nineties. Its beautiful cobblestone streets were lined with gorgeous gardens and mansions that dated back well before the Civil War. At first glance, one would have not suspected that anything bad could have happened behind the wrought-iron gates and pastel-colored walls of the grand estates. But like all homes, each one holds a story, and ours was no different.
After the divorce, Momma and I moved into a modest, one-story home on a quiet street shaded by Spanish Moss trees. It was no mansion, but it was our dream, an escape into another world. I was only two, and Momma was nineteen, and more than she desired love, she wanted security. She soon found it in the arms of an older man who promised to love and protect us. Our home quickly expanded, and the idea of a ‘family’ was no longer a fantasy, it was real.”
Read more on Peaceful Hearts Foundation.
“8 Ways Your Struggle Brings Gifts
- They make us stronger. That’s right — after recovering from a lifetime of abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction and alcoholism, one thing is for certain, I am a stronger person. I don’t see my former addictions and mental health issues as a downside, rather as things that have made me more powerful, able to tackle anything life brings my way.
- They help shape our character. Of course we are all born with character, but I believe that my struggles have sharpened mine. With every challenge we face, our character is being built, so we can choose to see troubles as a blessing.”
Read more on Recovery Warriors.
This piece is by a regular contributor thirteen year old Emma K. from Los Angeles. Emma is a talented young artist who understands the beauty of the pain behind her creations. She has struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder but has overcome so much of it through channeling her energy into her incredible artwork.
Emma normally draws in anime style, but her teacher encouraged her to paint something figurative. Emma agreed to step outside of her comfort zone and through the depiction of the Mona Lisa she and her teacher not only formed a stronger bond, but she was able to open up about her OCD.
When I observe this painting, I sense a raw wisdom and emotions that reflect Emma’s remarkable inner beauty and strength. As Emma’s mother remarked, “It’s a true gift that comes with a struggle.”
Thank you Emma for sharing a part of your soul with us today.
B.E.A.U.T.Y hopes to redefine our understanding of beauty. Have a painting or artistic representation of inner beauty you would like to share? Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org to submit your poem, drawing, painting, recovery story, photograph, song, or any creation that represents your inner self…which is simply beautiful!
*Note: B.E.A.U.T.Y is meant to serve as a tool to release feelings and to build confidence in an otherwise damaged society. Our perception of beauty today has been lost and many times we feel ugly inside, instead of the perfectly created souls we are. The content submitted is raw and unedited, as every individual has the right to express their perceptions that have led them to where they are today. The sole intended purpose of B.E.A.U.T.Y and all content therein is to bring healing and the message that full recovery from all eating disorders, mental health issues, abuse, and negative situations is possible.
When we hear the word “self-image,” what comes to mind? The mental pictures we form about our identities may be a reflection of the positive and negative experiences we have encountered over a lifetime. Sometimes the manners by which we perceive ourselves is consistent, while other times we are capable of changing our mirror formations radically in the blink of an eye. Whatever the case may be, our self-image is critical in how we interact with ourselves and the world around us. Our image is a mere representation of what we show to outsiders; are we giving a correct portrayl of who we are to those around us? Are we honest in our spirits first, and letting that flow to our physical image? So often in life we wear many masks to various associations and crowds of people; we desire our image to be one thing to one group, and another thing to another. The problem with this is that we can never be anyone but our true selves, and if we don’t know who we really are, we will never live fulfilled. We musn’t live life for others because truly no one is going to be approving of us all of the time. We must connect with a self-image that is peaceful and content at our core, and be satisfied with the image that is projected for all of the universe to see.
How and What I feel about Image
by Jacaila, age 13
Image to me is a bunch of crap society makes up to make us feel bad. I mean I didn’t receive proper care when I was five years old! Don’t get me wrong, I care about image too. Whenever I think I look good, somebody always has to tell me I look horrible. It brings my self esteem to an all time low. I’ve always tried to figure out how girls can be “ana” or “mia.” I tried to be like that once but food is just too good! When I say, “I tried,” I meant it. I purged and starved myself, tried diet pills without eating anything after words. In fifth grade things were changing for me, just because of someone’s opinion of me. The boy called my “ugly.” It took me awhile but in my mind I thought he was right. Every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was ugliness. My whole attitude changed, grades slipped and relationships slowly disappeared. In sixth grade, self-harm played its way into my life. I couldn’t stop, therapy wasn’t helping at all and life wasn’t getting better. So I feel that self esteem, image and what we think about it is restricting us from thinking better about ourselves. In conclusion, image is just society’s way of keeping us down.
*Jacaila is now fourteen years old, and has a more positive view of herself through working recovery.
About six years ago I had the pleasure of meeting entrepreneur and author Christopher Kai, who became my friend and inspired me to continue writing and working with young people. Christopher Kai founded the wonderful program Mondays at the Mission at Union Rescue Mission, and on September 8, 2014, I had the privilege of celebrating the four year anniversary with the mentors, staff, and inspirational young people. Christopher works incredibly hard to uplift and instill worth and value in others, and that is life-changing for countless young people that go in and out of those doors at the Mission every year.
My tumultuous past gave me a sense of a connection with Christopher, the team, and the children. In June, I told my life story, and taught a B.E.A.U.T.Y. art class, where I had the students paint a picture that reflected what inner beauty meant to them. After that day, I couldn’t stop coming! I felt privileged to be able to give of myself every Monday night to young people, to help them grow and to see in themselves what was already there. I have so much respect for everyone at Mondays at the Mission and at Union Rescue Mission, and will never be the same because of their dedication and support to helping others transform their lives. I thank you all for letting me be apart of such a phenomenal program with devoted volunteers. You guys are remarkable in every sense of the word!
Thank you to Andy Bales, Matthew Bennett, Christopher Kai, Kiersten Brown, Jason Kwon, Darin Leach, Ariel Yarrish, Kelly Gluckman, Vani Murthy, Antonio Spears, Justine Sophia-Rabia, Lisa Nola, Adam Marks, Marco Curreli, Cindy Ghali, Kevin Lee, Tim Mudd, Cheri Hodge, Rozzi Crane, all of the inspirational mentors, speakers, staff, and of course, the reason why I kept coming back and will live a life of passion–the leaders of NOW–the young people at Mondays at the Mission!! You all are more talented than you will ever know.
Here are some highlights and a video from the night, made by Darin Leach, one of the Mission’s motivating mentors! Also I would like to share some memories at MATM and with my mentor friends 🙂
Orlando’s artwork is a fine example of the emotions in life we all go through. Emotions should be welcomed and felt, as they help us experience life in a greater way! 🙂
Thank you, Orlando, for your positive drawing on inner beauty!
Jordan sees beauty as being outside and playing in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and a dog, too! I think that that’s not a bad way to see life, what about you?
How about getting back to nature and reconnecting with the simplicity of what God has created? Life is naturally beautiful; sometimes we just need to stop and pay attention.
Thank you Jordan, for your art and zest for creation!
Saunvvia drew a big, happy heart surrounded by a rainbow and colorful dots!
Inside of the heart were positive words such as “love” and “harmony.” I suppose Saunvvia was trying to tell us that inner beauty is a reflection of all of the wonderful emotions we should focus on, right? 🙂
It’s not that we don’t experience the negative feelings, it’s just that the more we magnify the positive, the more the positive emotions will grow, and that makes us stronger!
Thank you Saunvvia for your deep insight and excellent addition to our Beauty Project!
I was Blessed to be asked to speak to a very talented and special group of students at a Mondays at the Mission class which is held at Union Rescue Mission here in Los Angeles. Each and every student greeted me with open arms and warm smiles, and they taught me just as much as I had to tell them!
I opened up the class with my story about how when I was a little girl my dream was to be a supermodel because I thought that that was the greatest thing in the world! I imagined that a glamorous life filled with clothes, hair, makeup, and outer beauty would cover up all of the pain that I was experiencing in my home life.
I went on to explain to them that sometimes in life we are drawn to superficial standards of beauty and happiness because we are deeply unhappy with circumstances on the inside of us and around us. I told them that as a child I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by a couple of people close to me and that as a result I often felt afraid. I also isolated myself as a child and young adult and never felt that I connected well with too many people. My mother died a couple of year’s ago from alcoholism so I felt detached from her growing up as well. On top of everything I was also hiding a big secret for more than seventeen years: I had an eating disorder that spiraled deeply out of control.
I grew away from God for many years of my life because I felt angry as a result of all of the things that were happening to me that were out of my control. I was often suicidal and I made many poor choices. I then explained to them that when I became a model, I had all of the material things that I thought that I wanted that would have made me happy, however all of the people who were around me only wanted to be with me because of my job and because of the way that I looked.
I learned throughout everything and all of my struggles that God always was there with me, even when I didn’t feel His presence, and that I could always rely on Him. I learned that true beauty came from the inside and that it was more important for me to share my hard times and be a role model for other people, than to place so much importance on my outer appearance alone. I now am determined to help others with their difficulties in life because I went through so many in mine.
The class went so well, and the students responded tremendously to the message that it is really what is inside that matters. They discussed all of the qualities that a role model should have such as believing in God, the abiltity to persevere, confidence, humility, helping others, and more! The students broke into several groups and each person drew a picture of what they thought inner beauty meant to them. I will be displaying their artwork right here on the B.E.A.U.T.Y section!
I think today we can get lost more than ever with all of the social media, television and hate in the world that we really need to just be still and…quiet. In the secret, private places of our hearts, we will find the answers to what really matters. Have we as a world complicated ourselves with too much? Does the answer to life really remain…love, inner beauty, and God, above all? I believe it does.
“Hello, gorgeous people, my name is Nikki. I am a model, host, commercial actress, writer, believer and dreamer. I am an advocate for NEDA, and sponsor those in eating disorder recovery because I am a survivor of a seventeen year battle with bulimia and anorexia. At the height of my modeling career, I was known for my beautiful curves; however in Europe as my battle with anorexia overcame me, I became known for my bones. Recovery for me has been filled with years of ups and downs but I decided from day one to never give up. I was fighting for my life and striving to be a role model for everyone suffering silently in the modeling industry and beyond. I am forever grateful to be free of addiction and pain, however I know that it is only because of my God, and by helping others every day with my story. Now, if I get back into the modeling business, I am calling the shots! I don’t care how much I weigh, and I refuse to surround myself with a team who would ever try to make me lose weight. I believe that our value comes from who we are on the inside and this is the message I want to leave behind for generations to come!”
Read more on NEDA.
After going through my Step Four Inventory the first time in 2010, I was scared to death to actually share it with another person. I had read in my recovery book early in my program that I had to confess my deepest, darkest secrets to God and to a trusted sponsor, pastor or unbiased friend.
At that time I remember thinking: “HUH? How humiliating! Wasn’t it good enough to give it to God in prayer and trust that He was Healing me? Why would I tell my shameful past to another person? Besides, they would just hurt me like everyone else…right? How in the WORLD could I truly trust blindly someone else. I knew it, here was the catch. I knew this recovery program was too good to be true, everything always is. No one and nothing is ever to be trusted. There is always fine print.” And I thought like this for about, oh, a good six months or so the first time I went through Steps 4 and attempted to go through Step 5. And I backtracked in my recovery and slipped into old habits because of FEAR. Do you know what fear really stands for? F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real.
I was so afraid of the false scenarios I spent more time making up in my mind about sharing my mess with my sponsor than actually DOING it for the healing that I needed to get, that I ended up having a relapse. Now, relapse can be a part of recovery, but do you see what I am saying that if we just learn to take hold of the fearful thoughts and know that God is with us and for us, and just DO the things that are being asked of us, surrender and get the help we need, we would see so much victory in our recovery and lives.
Fast forward, three years later, strong in recovery, Praise the Lord I did regain victory over the relapse and did end up completing Steps 4 and 5 (a few times). I had gotten a wonderful sponsor and life coach who really worked and worked with me and never gave up. I would never be where I am without my sponsor and without working with her and continually taking inventory and telling her about my messes. I believe that we generally give up too easily in life and we can give up on others too soon also. You never know what you can do for another person’s life if you just keep praying for them, working with them, and helping them in any way you can.
In the Catholic religion, confession is very similar to step five, you know, going and releasing your sins to the priest and being relieved of your burdens. Well in recovery, your past and the things underlying your addiction truly have to be inventoried and shared with God and another person because if not, they continued to get buried. Our secrets, pains, traumas, defects and past fuel our addiction if we do not get healing for them. This is what I consider to be the most critical step of any 12 step program.
So as I continue in sharing from the Life Recovery Workbook, here are the questions from Step Five.
1. What am I avoiding in Step Four by delaying Step Five?
2. What is the exact nature of my wrongs as listed in Step Four?
3. What interferes with my being honest about myself?
1. How do I react/respond to the truth that God does not give up on me?
2. What keeps me from being truthful with God?
3. What makes me think that I can hide anything from God?
The Plumb Line
1. Have my morals and values been in line with God’s? Explain.
2. Have I had morals and values without being able to apply them to my life? Explain:
3. What has kept me from staying in line with God’s and my own morals and values?
4. Am I ready to surrender to God’s moral “plumb line” and share my Step Four Inventory? If not, why am I hesitating?
Feelings of Shame
1. What scares me about sharing “the exact nature of (my) wrongs” with another human being?
2. Who is my fear related to in my past? How did this fear develop?
3. Has there ever been a time in my life when I felt the fear and took action anyway?
4. Have I set the appointment for completing Step Five by sharing my Step Four Inventory? My commitment to myself:
1. Why would God want reconciliation before praise when we bring gifts to him?
2. Does anyone have anything against you that needs to be reconciled? Who and why?
3. What would be the impact on your life if you opened yourself up to forgiveness of others and from others?
Freedom through Confession
1. Lack of confession and openness with others results in a self-constructed prison. Do you know what that is like? Describe it here.
2. How can confession result in such profound healing?
3. Reflect it here on God’s command to be open not just to Him but also with each other.
1. As you examine yourself, can you admit to some self-deception in the past?
2. Does anyone have the freedom to speak truth into your life on a regular basis? Who?
3. Ask three or four trusted friends to write five words describing your strengths and five words describing your weaknesses. Record them here and examine them to discover areas you can work on within your small group of trusted fellow strugglers.”
Thank you to The Life Recovery Workbook by Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop for letting me reprint the above questions to help further the recovery process for those still suffering.
I saw my butterfly
Laced with pink and purples
Defined by lace.
I saw my butterfly
Soaring over the mountains
I felt your Grace.
Mariposa awoke me in the night,
“Put on your fancy clothes
And tennis shoes
For we are about to take flight.
Jump on my back and hold on
Never let me go.”
Sparkling seas and butterscotch fields
Were lit on fire
By me and my Mariposa
As we sailed in the night.
And I danced
And I cried
And I laughed
And we danced
Me and my Mariposa.
©2012 Nikki DuBose