“I’m tired of trying so hard to be what everybody else wants me to be, so now I’m fighting for the girl…little girl in the mirror.” Penning these lyrics was one of the most freeing and rewarding feelings in the world. If someone had told me when I was a teenager that struggling with and recovering from an eating disorder was going to help me realize my biggest passion in life, I would have rolled my eyes and laughed.
From a very young age, I was always “known” as a singer and performer. The ten-year-old version of myself embraced crazy dreams and believed that I could do something special someday. Focusing on my “goals” quickly escalated into an obsession with perfection, and, at age eleven, I had developed an eating disorder. If I was going to make it in the entertainment industry, I thought, I was going to have to do everything possible to be beautiful.
At that time, my very-flawed definition of beauty was equated with being as thin as possible by monitoring everything I ate and exerting my body through over-exercising. Over the next several years, I honestly came to dislike myself – to the point where I truly wondered why I had ever been born. I wanted to go back to that young, carefree version of myself – the little girl in the mirror. I was constantly crumbling under the pressures of finding my identity and living up to my own perfectionistic expectations.
After struggling with my body image for three years, I finally reached my moment of surrender. It definitely wasn’t something that happened overnight, but something finally started to click: trying to find satisfaction in how I look, how I perform, or how other people perceive me would never give me peace. I was going to need to figure out where to put my identity.
I began my personal walk with the Lord at a young age, but, up until that point, I don’t think I really understood what that meant for my life. My personal recovery meant learning to not put my worth in external things but in how He defines me. The recovery process was gradual, and re-training my distorted thinking was not easy. I would love to encourage you with a few things that I eventually came to realize (and am still reminding myself to this day):
- Identity has nothing to do with how you look. Feeling confident about your appearance is a good thing…and I will forever love glitter, makeup, and putting on fancy clothes. BUT what you see, or don’t see, when looking in the mirror does not define you. Physical appearance will never add to or take away from who you truly are.
- Identity is not about what you do. I think our society gets this very wrong. When meeting someone for the first time, we are in the habit of asking their name, followed by what they do for a living. I am (obviously) a huge fan of pursuing dreams and opportunities, but your studies, vocation, and accomplishments do not give you worth in and of themselves. Identity based on these things can be shattered in a moment when something does not go as planned.
- Inner qualities are to be celebrated. Your beliefs, personality, passions, natural talents/abilities, and even quirks all make up the true you. These qualities in their raw, vulnerable, and unfiltered versions make you very special and beautiful.
- There is a purpose for your pain. For years, I saw my eating disorder as an extreme inconvenience. As I grew out of my teenage years, I began to realize that I was given my story for a reason. It helped me learn lessons that I could have learned in no other way. I believe that your struggles can uniquely equip you for bringing hope and encouragement to others.
- Sharing your story is powerful. In today’s culture, it seems that we are often being told that we are not good enough, making insecurities about body image very common. Whether you are currently battling the eating disorder enemy or have recovered, you have been given a unique story that others need to hear. There will only ever be one you in this world that has your circle of influence – and that is worth embracing.
So, while music has always been my passion, I’ve come to realize that sharing my story within my circle of influence will have a far greater impact than any catchy song that I could ever write and sing. It is now my passion to use music as a platform to share my story…and I’m going to always keep fighting for that little girl in the mirror.
Stephanie Owens is a country music singer-songwriter living in Nashville, TN. Passionately devoted to using music as a platform to share her story and inspire others, her debut EP is a collection of songs that creatively captures both the raw vulnerability and bold intentionality of her personality and music. She is committed to promoting a positive body image amid today’s pop culture. You can find Stephanie on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Links to her music can be found on her website: https://www.stephowensmusic.com.