by Christina Tinker
So many people say “I hate public speaking “Aren’t you scared when you get up in front of a group to speak?” they ask. And very honestly, I used to say, “NO! I love it!” And to some extent this is true. But it’s only half the story.
It was spring of 2015, when, with just a handful of family in the audience, I stood on a stage in a beautiful new theater just off the Riverwalk in San Antonio, and told 250 strangers… my deepest, darkest secret.
The room echoed with silence as I stepped up to the podium and said, “Hi my name is Christina and I’m a recovered anorexic perfectionist.”
It was the first time I got up on a stage as a grown woman and spoke my truth. I was petrified. I was deeply grateful for the blindingly bright spotlight that made it impossible to actually see people’s reactions. After the talk, I found myself wondering, “Why did I even do this?”…. “Does anyone even care about what happened to me as a teenager?”
And the question that haunted me as I walked off the stage was, “Why had I thought it was a good idea for my sweet, innocent 7 year old son to be in the audience?” I’ve heard it said, “The truth will set you free.” In so many ways, sharing my eating disorder story on that very public platform for the first time brought me a freedom I had never known. Telling the truth means standing in the light instead of the darkness. I was surprised to discover that revealing my story touched hundreds of women who are inspired by this courage. But in many ways, it’s also left me somewhat lonely.
As I began to more boldly and regularly tell the truth, what I noticed is that more people were inspired and wanted to “follow” or “watch” my journey, but not many people wanted to actually get too close and I think I figured out why.
In my experience, not many people regularly and boldly tell the truth.
We women are actually socialized to do just the opposite –
Don’t cause a fuss.
Don’t be so dramatic.
Don’t be so bossy.
Don’t be so loud.
Sit still; look pretty.
And most of us play along. But what if we don’t? We can be isolated. Admired from a distance, but often not joined. And then, have you noticed, there are times when others are so uncomfortable with our new found courage that they begin to throw stones and try to pull us back – like there’s a circle we’re supposed to stay in.
There is an abundance of research proving we are hardwired as human beings to be connected. We create smaller social groups to feed this need for belonging. But have to be in, there are others who must be out?
We experience this as moms all the time. We show support on the surface, then walk away secretly judging, and even gossiping. Sometimes we say things to validate that what we are doing is the right way.
Well, I bet there are moms reading this post who have a purse full of diapers and Cheerios and there are moms reading this post with purses full of business cards and fine point pens.
One may have spent two weeks making lists and finding a sitter for her infant just to go to a business meeting, while another may have spent two weeks orchestrating schedules to be able to leave work for two hours just to attend her child’s choir performance this week. And both these moms may be suffering with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or addiction at this very moment.
What if every time we thought about judging another woman for her mistakes, we looked at her and simply offered grace instead?
What if our connection to one another is what gives meaning and purpose to absolutely everything here on earth…What do you think?
What I know from my experience, is that we are better together. That our power lies in our connection to each other… and that it is ultimately this human connection and love that helped bring me into recovery after battling anorexia and bulimia for more than 12 years.
There’s a name for walking through the mud and the muck with the scars and the stick with an attitude to show for it. It’s called GRIT – an indomitable spirit. TED speaker Angela Duckworth says grit is more important than either talent or intellect to our success. As Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, just keep going.”
Everyone of us living in active recovery from eating disorders is a SURVIVOR. We’ve earned our GRIT by owning our stories, honoring that pain, and deciding to write our next chapters courageously.
For me, the only way I got to a place of real recovery and not just existing but THRIVING in my life is by letting others into my private world and letting them love me.
I will forever seek to be the woman I’d wish would be there for me in my darkest hour.
Christina Tinker is a public speaker and teaches workshops on how to tell your story. You can find her website here.