Desperately Seeking Perfection (The Mermaid)

Body Confidence Week continues on the blog with an extremely open and honest post by The Mermaid about eating disorders.  Ironically, if you were to ask me to name the most successful, inspirational women I know, then The Mermaid would easily be among them – and not for what she looks like.  The Mermaid is a hugely talented, internationally renowned artist, who has travelled the world and had more adventures than people five times her age.

But here she speaks candidly of a warped quest for success and achievement which has dominated most of her teenage and adult life.  And I know it’s one that a lot of you will relate to in some way.

Thank you for sharing Naomi.

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

I was 15 and in High School when I was at the peak of my obsession with shiny magazine covers

I wanted so badly to look like all the celebrities.  I admired the way they seemingly effortlessly sported perfect bodies.  I watched on, as the media congratulated them on how well they maintained their beauty through thick and thin.

I remember wondering what was wrong with me. Why was my will power so poor that I couldn’t just diet to be as thin as them?  Why couldn’t I just walk, talk and act like them!

In reality, with my large frame, tall build, and my unique style and looks, those aspirations were completely unrealistic.  But who was I to know?  I just saw the pictures in the magazines.

There was also the pressure at school from my peers.  I thought I’d never get noticed by anyone if I wasn’t groomed to perfection.

With dreams of being a famous actress and model, I was determined to put myself through all the challenges I believed I faced in order to be noticed for my beauty.

And so this included …

A diet of about 400 calories a day

Drinking 4 litres of water

Doing a minimum of 2 hours cardio exercise every day to burn all the calories I’d ingested (and realistically, more …)

Fake tan or hours out roasting my body in the Australian sunshine, lathered in coconut oil

Thousands of dollars on cosmetics

And that became my routine for years to come.

By the time I was 18, I had achieved so-called ‘perfection’.  I had starved myself to 62kg (under 10 stone).  On my 6ft frame, this was scary.

I’d invested all my money in DD breast implants, my hair was perfect long blond extensions and my tan was flawless.  I was being picked for modelling jobs and acknowledged by all my friends for my good looks, but on the inside I was dying.

That year I had several collapses and landed up in hospital on a number of occasions. I refused to admit I had a problem and instead blamed it on everything other what it really was.  My friendships and relationships suffered, and my work as a fashion stylist overwhelmed my tired sick self.

The hole I’d dug for myself was getting deeper and deeper.  I was scared, and depressed, and lonely, carrying the weight of my secret eating disorder. I felt constantly under a tremendous pressure to remain ‘perfect’, fearing that if I didn’t, I would lose my place in my social world.

On the 25th of February 2009, my 19 year-old cousin, who was also one of my best friends, was killed in an accident with his girlfriend.

It was one Hell of a wake up call,

For the first time, I properly realised that we’re not invincible for the first time.  It also made me realise I couldn’t continue doing this to my family.  If they lost me too, it would all be too much.

Something needed to change.

My solution was to travel, to run away from everything I’d ever known.

I stayed for the funeral, then got on a flight the next day.  It wasn’t my first time travelling, but it was a big deal. I packed up and sold of my life.  I quit my job, dumped my boyfriend, and waved goodbye indefinitely to my family and friends.

I had always wanted to learn to scuba dive, so i headed off to the Caribbean to start my Dive Master course.  I had no idea what to expect.

Five years later, and I’ve been home three times.

I’ve traveled to over twenty different countries, lived in over fourteen, and  I’ve seen and experienced things which most people only dreem about.  I’ve become a yoga instructor, a free dive and scuba instructor, I’ve exhibited my art all over the world, I’ve had my heart broken, and I’ve broken hearts!

I’ve experienced existence.

Throughout all this, I’ve still struggled with my reflection of self, despite all that I have accomplished.

I still live with a bully in my head pushing me around. Mostly she bullies me into dieting and achieving impossible physical demands.

I often wonder if I were totally alone, would I accept myself? Is it still the pressure from the media and society which affects me?

I’ve written my story.  I’ve got a lifetime of memoriesm and big plans for the future.

The Past will always be something that happened, but it doesn’t have to define me.

The Now is what I have, and what I am with all the time, so this is my focous.

I’m about three weeks into a new eating plan, where I eat healthy food every three hours.  The idea is that I need to trust that this is the nourishment my body needs.

I’ve stopped the abuse I used to enforce on my body, and started treating it with a little bit more respect.

I can’t deny that this is me, and I need to stop trying to change or modify what I have. It isn’t going to make me happy, in the way I once believed.

Instead it will just lead me back down a road of self hate.

My dreams for the future have changed a lot from was fifteen, staring at those glossy magazine covers.

Nowadays, my dream is to engage with my natural beauty, and be proud of who I am,  on ALL levels. It won’t be easy bringing that dream to life, but I realise I have nothing to lose, and no time to waste.

So here I am, on the journey of my dreams.

Blaming other peoples’ comments for the way we feel is not the answer to the problem of women’s insecurities. Yes, there is enormous pressure to be a certain way, just about everywhere we look.  But I think it’s more important to establish tactics on how to cope with all those images and messages, and rise above it.

In a perfect world, the pressures to look and act a certain way would not exist.  But in reality they always will.

And so the only way to live a life free from feeling that need to alway try to be ‘one of them’, is to acknowledge that those pressures will always be there, and instead develop skills to look past it all.

So what about you guys? Do any of you have any advice on how to build inner confidence?  How to protect yourself from the superficial pressures around us in the western world?

Thank you, Lots of Love

The Mermaid 

Bare Faced Mermaid

Other Body Confidence Week Posts – 

Body Confidence by Miss Twenty-Nine

Face Value by Miss Twenty-Nine

Blurred Lines by The Student

2 Comments on Desperately Seeking Perfection (The Mermaid)

  1. The vicious and the virtous circles are basically the same thing. The key question is the starting point, i.e. do you accept yourself and become self confident or is it the other way around. You have to answer the question for yourself, however, my impression is that self confidence coming from inside and not from the look, is getting more and more important the older you become. Why? Because as men start looking to start a family they realise that it needs more than just looks. While they still prefer to have “all of the above” they know that a woman who needs to spend hours every day for “body maintenance” will not be able to have a real life with a real job and a real family. Think about it. It might be great to have an affair with a perfect body, however, do you want to live together for the rest of your life with someone who is eating only salad? I know I am taking extreme positions here, but the truth is not far off.

  2. I.V. Strand // August 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm // Reply

    Building inner confidence is hard and anything anyone tells you can easily be shot down with the response of ‘Easier said than done,’ but that is not the point. Inner confidence and security are based on your thoughts, your feelings, and who you are as a person. As you see nowhere in that list does it say ‘what you look like.’ I will admit my inner demons of my physical being trace back to being the fat girl in grade school. Now that I am older I appreciate what I can do or challenges I accomplish. You are not your body, that’s a shell that can change. Inner confidence and beauty comes from the essence of who you are as a person…and because everyone deserves a booster shot of confidence, your naked pic is gorgeous as is your art. You must be very proud.

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