Thankfully, the false dichotomy between brains and beauty that once pervaded society is slowly fading away. Magazines and other media outlets have begun to celebrate attractive, intelligent women like Marissa Mayer and Michelle Obama. Similarly, supermodels like Christy Turlington and actresses like Emma Watson who complete their university education are touted as ‘stars with substance’.
On my good days, I like to consider myself an attractive, intelligent woman too. I am proud of all that I have achieved in my relatively short life using determination and hard work. I feel strong, therefore I feel beautiful. There’s just one nagging problem: on my bad days, my “brains” and my “beauty” are supremely disconnected.
This problem is a bit hard to describe. My beauty doesn’t physically disappear on a bad day (acne breakouts and bad hair days aside), but it’s like my brain no longer registers that it’s there. I feel ugly. I feel fat. I feel completely undesirable. To someone staring at me, I don’t look any different than I do on a good day, but what I see is different.
To further this disconnect, my brain knows all the rights things to say (“beauty is as beauty does, etc.”) but I don’t accept it. I can accept that conventionally unattractive people who overcome adversity or contribute meaningfully to society are beautiful, but I can’t accept that I am. I know that I’m doing the best I can and that I should be proud of where I am in recovery, but somehow, on some days, that just isn’t good enough.
Eating disorders ravage you from the inside out. It’s the mental health problems on the inside that lead to the noticeable physical health problems on the outside. But even once the outside improves, the inside never simply follows.