The more people I meet, the more it dawns on me that you truly have no idea what goes on in other people’s lives, behind closed doors.
It is our outer appearance that is first portrayed to others. They see our faces, our bodies, our clothes, and our body language and make assumptions from there. It is nothing to be ashamed of, it is an automatic reaction we have as people – to assume, to categorize and to shelve. It makes the world feel within our control, that there isn’t really anything to be scared of. Maybe that is why we focus so greatly on what our bodies look like to others. We feel the importance of our bodies as a picture we paint to society. So, we must be perfect. We must look like the models we see in magazines because they are the image of beauty and success. Or so we think.
But that is only our appearance. That is the only thing we can see.
Behind closed doors, inside ourselves, the little voices in our heads, our minds…they paint the most beautiful masterpiece of all. They are what make us who we are. If we saw our emotions as we saw faces, how much more beautiful would our world be? So, I question why our appearance is so vital in this airbrushed reality when our hearts beat in volumes of beauty that our bodies will never be capable of showing.
A study completed by Dove released in 2021, found that 87% of Irish girls studied aged 10 – 17 don’t have a high level of self-esteem when it comes to mental health. Increasingly shocking is the realisation that we have one of the highest figures globally. But women aren’t in this alone.
A documentary made by Irish director Alan Bradley named ‘Unspoken’ astounded me. The documentary followed the story of three incredible Irish men – Cormac, Eoin and Daniel – battling with their mental health and body image challenges. Weeks later, I am still lost for words at the sheer amount of strength and courage it took for these men to come out and tell their recovery stories to the country. While witnessing each man’s story, shocking statistics were flashed throughout, including the fact that 1 in 4 people with eating disorders are men.
I could write a book about everything you could take away and learn from this documentary. But what shocked me to the core was the words that flashed on my screen halfway through the documentary. ‘In 2018, the HSE committed to establishing 16 specialised eating disorder treatment facilities across the Republic of Ireland.’ In that year €1.5 million was allocated and €137,000 was spent. One year later, €1.6 million was allocated, and nothing was spent. In 2020, funding for the facilitates was suspended entirely. It was at that point, I cried. Because I was lost for words at the very idea that promised funding was being forgotten about. People are suffering and little help (if any) is provided.
And I began to ask myself why. Why has this happened? Why has this been allowed to happen? If we all went blind tomorrow, would we care about what others thought about our bodies? Would we then get the help that people need and not tell them ‘They aren’t thin enough to receive immediate medical attention and help? Why are we struggling to help others in these ways?
I am only 17. I am not a health care professional nor am I a doctor. I am only human. But the answer I concluded was the fact that we are scared to be educated. Scared to be told what is really happening in our country. We are ashamed of how our own people are suffering. Scared to learn about what changes really need to be made. Scared to hear the stories of people like Cormac, Eoin, and Daniel and say enough is enough. We need to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. Because ending the stigma that surrounds body image is a battle long fought, and may, unfortunately, be done so for a while longer. That doesn’t mean that we cannot help the youth of today navigate the truth about their bodies. Learn to love them and look beyond someone’s skin, into who they are as a person.
Our outer appearance is so powerful we forget to look inwards and remember the most important things…our thoughts, our hearts, our kindness and our voices. Maybe that is the secret behind fighting negative body image. We must look beyond how a person looks, look beyond their skin, their size, and their appearance to find the most important thing. Their heart.
Until we can fix our broken mental health system, let’s take the small steps needed to make a big change and look beyond what we see.
We never know what goes on in someone else’s life. And it will always be the thing that fascinates me most about the human race; our desire to be perfect to everyone else bar ourselves and the bodies we were hand-crafted to carry the kindness and love of our hearts. I hope one day we will all look at our bodies and say with a full, healthy and grateful heart ‘I am enough.’ And mean it.
By: Amelhyne O’Regan-Farineau
You can find all Amelhynes contact info here
For more Information on help and advice regarding body image and eating disorders you can visit BodyWhys here
Amelhyne is also the host of the Amazing Talk About It Podcast.
You can listen to Talk About It Podcast below: