Yesterday, I read a blog post by Elena on thecitizensoffashion.com (see link below) about how young women are promoting and spreading eating disorders through social media.
Reading about Valeria Levitin, described as “the thinnest woman in the world” in the article, gave me pause. I remembered N., a former room-mate from art school in Paris, who suffered from anorexia and bulemia. I remember her as a talented painter and a highly intelligent and well-read young woman. She did not know her father, and I vaguely remember her saying that her grandmother used food as a means of manipulation. She created a series of self-portraits based on Renaissance Flemish paintings (see portrait by Rogier van der Weyden above) featuring the narcissus flower, and I also remember some type of installation she made comprised of feeding tubes or transparent flexible tubing and live flowering narcissus bulbs.
It seems that N. did not feel loved, and she would manipulate others by stealing, acts of exhibitionism, and other sadly disturbing behaviors. When she became so thin as to resemble a concentration camp inmate, she behaved as if she were proud of her body – as if provoking us (her room-mates) to revulsion. As if to say: I am not loveable, and taking pride in her ability to push others away – all while trying to beg, borrow, or steal approval or intimacy from others and achieving the exact opposite result.
A few years later, I saw N. again, by chance. She had regained a normal body weight, and she appeared to be happy. I don’t know where she is today or how she is doing, but I truly hope that she has found a sense of herself, her talents, and an acceptance of her body and her being that are balanced and not based on the love and approval of others outside of herself.
It is easy to connect the manipulative media images that prompt us to hate ourselves in order to sell us a wide range of products, behaviors, and surgeries that drive society and attempt to keep us all under control of external mechanisms. Freedom from that machinery can only be obtained through self-love. Teenagers are obviously the most vulnerable to this manipulation because they have not yet developed a mature sense of self.
In my mind, the best defense against eating disorders is to raise children – both boys and girls – with a firm connection to inner worlds and inner life. When a person is connected to his or her source as chief source of information and inspiration, that person is less likely to be influenced and manipulated by outside voices. When we are grounded in nature – which is the voice of truth that comes from within – speaking through dreams, intuition, bodily knowledge – we are possibly less easily subject to addictions and fear.
It is not by chance that many young women and some young men are torn apart by eating disorders and self-hatred. We live in a time where media mirroring, bullying and manipulation have reached hysterical heights. My son is 13 years old, and he loves You-Tube videos, facebook, and other web pages that kids follow. I do believe that he has a strong sense of self and understanding of others, and I hope that the storm of influence of adolescence and the media will not sweep him away from his rootedness in life, creativity, and what constitutes his personal happiness.
It is always hardest to love our own selves, and life beats us up – removing our illusions, battering our hopes, and strengthening our resolve and character. If only those of us who are more weathered by the challenges of life could reach those who have no anchor, no grounding in the reality of their own true beauty and purpose. If only we could speak and they could hear us. If only our voices could be stronger and more meaningful than those of the media, a siren song which is driving thousands of young people away from themselves and into a storm of self-hatred and self-destruction.
Love and encouragement need to speak up and become stronger than the alluring voices of the negativity and the manipulators that drag us down. I strongly feel that the generation being born into the world right now is doing its best to bring in an energy of inner-driven wisdom to our world obsessed with externals and competition. I wonder why for so many thousands of years humanity has been stuck, over-developing the ego structure which was initially created in order to help us survive as vulnerable physical beings in a complex and dangerous world.
Our challenge today is to help human beings everywhere to realize that we are all spiritual beings who have each come to live on Earth with an intended purpose and mission. To become over-obsessed by our material survival, accumulation of possessions or physical beauty is to lose sight of the meanings of each of our lives.
I strongly feel that our collective approach to educating our children is backwards. Our entire social focus has not evolved beyond our fears of survival. Technology and information does not make us into highly evolved beings, because deep-down, we are frightened and insecure. From this comes our obsession with competition, criticism of others, manipulation, and power struggles of all types. To make the leap to a higher level of evolution, we must consciously put our fears aside and try to remember why each and every one of us decided to manifest in this lifetime. If we succeed in doing so, we will be much better equipped as parents to educate and guide our children.
For example, as a single parent, for years I have worried about providing for my family. The degree of my worry and fear is such that I have put to a lower priority the gifts, talents, and messages to the world which I came her to share and promote. I am now just clearly realizing how important it is for me to pursue these gifts and fulfill my life mission – and not to worry about my or my family’s physical survival.
The key is this: I am a responsible person. I pay my bills on time; I make sure that my life is in order, and I avoid drama whenever possible. When I remember why I came to this Earth, then my fears of physical survival for myself and my family lessen. I knew what I was getting into when I came here. All of the suffering, all of the challenges were pre-planned, in order to help me to help others. I must take a leap of faith and trust that my and my family’s needs will be met when I step forward and do the work that I signed up to complete…before I was born.
By continuing to take one step at a time towards fulfilling this mission, I am not only loving myself and coming into agreement with myself, I am also coming into agreement with the Universe. Our children need to see us doing the work which is right for us, the work that stems from our passion, in order to feel right about being themselves, and in order to resist pressure from society to conform to images that are designed to manipulate, crush dreams, and condition with fear. I feel certain that children who are raised from birth to know that they chose the circumstances of their life – from physical appearance, to birth family, to gifts and talents, to challenges encountered in life – will face their experiences and relationships with others and the world with confidence and purpose.