I have a secret. Up until a few weeks ago, I felt completely unworthy in the eating disorder and speaking world. There weren’t any letters behind my name or degrees on the wall to prove my worth or that I belonged. Mingling with researchers or speaking on panels with professionals, especially ones that I knew, made my palms sweat profusely. That negative voice that would constantly bark,“What are you doing? They think you are dumb and a ‘wannabe’. You have nothing to contribute. You are and will always be just a sick patient. You don’t know what you are talking about. You. Don’t. Belong.”
My favorite recovery skill is ‘Fake it until you make it’. I became a professional at ignoring this voice, holding my head high and pushing on. Deep down, I knew I belonged and that with time, I would find my footing. It was an odd place to be in at first. I found myself straddling the world of patient and professional, with two worlds constantly colliding in the craziest of ways. I often felt unworthy and confused as to where I belonged. But with time, patience and, of course, therapy, I navigated (and continue to navigate) my unique path. And truthfully, I love the unique position I am in. Being able to connect with both professionals and patients is such a gift on so many levels.
Last Wednesday, I stood before the packed room at SmashTALK: LSU. I stood proud and strong. I KNEW I belonged. After a month and a half packed with Smash events and speaking engagements, I came to realize letters and accolades do not make me worthy to speak. I share my story simply to touch others, to pay it forward and maybe give a little hope to those suffering. I can finally state the fact that God blessed me with a unique gift in my ability share my story. I am a good speaker. Phew. As painful as it was to type that sentence, it feels good to own my gift and come out of the self-conscious closet.
We ALL have a story to tell. The world needs my voice. The world needs YOUR voice. Do not be afraid to own your gifts and talents. It does not make you conceited. Confidence is a beautiful thing.
I never dreamed that being a speaker and sharing my eating disorder story would be my path, but there is no denying that I am right where I am supposed to be and that I am WORTHY to be here.