The Smoke & Mirrors of Obsession

“I attended a summer camp with this little stick of a girl…Twila Stansberry.

Hell of an athlete….captured the flag.

Had an unrelenting passion for fitness.

But she was never skinny enough…..a pound here, a pound there.

Ran like a deer.

Until she couldn’t ….could barely walk.

Turns out she was anorexic.

The disease caused her to lose her sight.

I’ve never known anyone more obsessed with her body than Twila . 

Spent her entire life chasing something that destroyed her.

Make sure your passion isn’t your sickness.”

(Thank you once again to The Blacklist’s Raymond Reddington for this excerpt from another brilliant and typically “Red” script moment.)

 Passion and sickness; I know, you wouldn’t naturally put these two words together would you, but if you just think about it for a second you can see the evidence of the merge between the two in many different examples.

 From passion in religion leading to violence and war, passion for sport leading to feuds, drug abuse and fan violence, and then we have our very own elephant in the room within the health industry – an invigorating passion for health and fitness that leads to debilitating obsession and sickness.

 To have passion for health is actively encouraged everywhere you go, we want people to prioritise their own health and take responsibility for their own wellness. Naturally that is to be applauded, to accept that you are the one in control of your body is something that ought to be encouraged more. But what happens when the lines get blurred, when the once invigorating, happiness and wellness focussed passion turns into a soul destroying obsession?

What happens I fear, is that we barely even notice. 

Obsession leading to sickness isn’t just reserved for over training or restrictive eating, is evident in all areas of the industry, there has been a surge in the ‘wellness warriors’ who create entire empires based around holistic healing protocols, often on the back of devastating personal illnesses. Leading to an army of followers, soon #inspiration hashtags get branded and BOOM, an over-night celeb with an empire is made.

 We base this whole #inspiration tag on nothing but TRUST. By hear-say or because you saw your mate re-tweet her, so you did too and whaddaya know, next thing you are donating your money to a girl you never even met, based on her Instagram page.

 Then we get shocked when we see the truth released and it turns out to be all a crock of bull..

 What, people lie like that…..just for the money? Shucks…

 Of course they do. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are not reserved for the saints of this world, you don’t have to show a squeaky clean record to sign up, it’s prime for the kind of deception it takes to fabricate an entire life. It’s prime for narcissism, it’s prime for fraud.

 The blurred lines are bound to get confusing, I know. Because obsession is actively encouraged in many fitness groups around, depending on whom is around you when your passion starts to leak towards obsession, you may even be given a high-five for that transition.

 Your optimism and determination to create positive change gradually turns into an inherent and paralysing fear of what may happen if you dare to slack, how do you even know that you may be in the danger zone if someone is slapping you on the back and telling you to “Keep up the work, champ. You are inspiring!”

 How do we class inspiration these days; I need to ask, does obsession and sickness inspire you? Because unless we get access into the real lives and souls of these passionate / obsessed / dedicated #inspirations, we will never know what they really feel about their journey, how their mind is as a result and if it has even made them feel better or worse.

 Heck, we don’t even know if their story is real.

 We assume things about them. Because they don the make-up and do their hair and give the big teeth smiles for Instagram or Facebook, we assume that they feel nothing less than as happy as a kitty under a leaky cow.

 We also assume that they are trust worthy. We have never met them, but we trust everything they say, instantly.

 To assume is a dangerous habit.

 The Twila Stansberry’s of this world (of which there are many) quite possibly would be #Insta-Famous because of her such true dedication and passion towards fitness.

 She would of course omit the details about the anorexia, people don’t need to know that, do they?

 The truth is we want to see these things. We like to see the body, the dedication, the passion, because we want to be told that this is the key to our happiness. We want to be told that there is a way that we too can be that happy, we just have to become like them.

 If only you could look like this, or train like this, or be as dedicated as I am – you can become like me, you can share this smile, you can be like me and you too have a chance at living this perfect life.

 But you can’t.

 And you won’t.

 And if you knew the whole truth behind the smoke and mirrors, would you even still want to?

If you knew the truth, you may step back and look at yourself and realise you ain’t so bad after all.

 We join these fan clubs because we are given hope with it. The hope that if we just looked a little more like them, then we may be able to experience that full and rich life of selfies, poses, confidence, and gain more WORTH, like they have.

 You are wishing yourself away with very, very shaky odds. Would you trade your own self, body, life in on the basis of a series of well-edited photographs?

 How do you know that the person behind the passion isn’t crying inside? They aren’t going to tell you even if they were; because they have a reputation to manage, one that is validated by others and meticulously engineered and controlled behind the scenes.

 How do we ever know that they are healthy, happy, and worthy of these #inspiration tags handed to them?

 You have to trust that they’re being honest. You could be weeping self-hate fuelled wishful tears from your less-than-perfect-blue-eyes all over someone you don’t even know to be telling you the truth.

 Someone who may even be weeping their own self-hate fuelled tears from their own “but-I-wish-they-were-green!” eyes.

 The trail continues on and suddenly we have 10’s of thousands of girls all weeping their own self-hate fuelled tears through their all-equally-as-beautiful-eyes, all because of one carefully edited image showing a fabricated, well posed & only-half-the-story snap that they now trust to be evidence of this attainable ‘perfection’.

 At what point does positive, healthy passion become negative, sickness inducing obsession, and more importantly – how do you even spot the difference when it does?

 We will always still have the genuine #inspiration worthy role models who have every right to share their journey to the world, so on the flip side we will always have just as many passion-gone-wrong examples merging themselves into the picture alongside these genuine ones.

 You weren’t to know that your decision to follow a certain diet, or do a certain workout or even follow a certain health-healing protocol was based on complete fabrication of the truth. You trusted that the source was reliable.

 Social media is rife of the initial ‘harmless’ cries for attention that are mistaken for passion, and they can very quickly turn to the grabbing obsession for fame and fortune as soon as that inst-famous label becomes attached.

 It’s not just social media, though.

 How do we expect girls to be happy and confident with who they are if they are still met by Coach Chad (sorry to any Chad’s out there – it was just the 1st name that came into my head) down at the local gym, who meets the site of her newly acquired hips bones with a ‘woop-woop’ sound, a high-five and “Wow, you look AWESOME! You are so dedicated and inspiring, wait – lemme take a picture for my wall!”

 He doesn’t know that her hips bones are only as a result of barely eating for the last week. He doesn’t know that seeing her hip bones show and his reaction to them has now only made her want to not eat for another 2 days, to see if they will show through more.

 His attention and the rest of the world’s attention makes her feel that she is worthy now.

 Two girls at the gym tap her on the shoulder, tilt their heads to the side and sigh, one says “How did you do that? You look so fab…..I wish I could do it…”

 The girl has to think quickly. Should she be honest and say “Well, I just don’t really eat a lot these days and I probably train too much, I’ve lost my period which sucks. I now have a really destructive relationship with food…”

 But she knows that that won’t give her what she wants. She wants that acclaimed inspiration tag, she needs it – she needs that label and attention so that all her pain, tears and suffering has been worth it.

 But she’s still a good person deep down and she honestly doesn’t want these girls to fall into the troubles she has, so she simply lies;

 “Well it’s easy, if you really want it you can do it! I just eat clean. I honestly eat loads of food, but it’s just all good stuff you see..”

…”Wow. That’s so cool. Can you help me, can you tell me what to eat?? You must feel so good…”

 “Oh yes, I feel super healthy. Sure! Course I will help you – why don’t you write me a food diary and I’ll help you figure out what foods you should cut out..?”

 In her eyes this is the ultimate success, she is now on her way to becoming the #inspiration that she has so desperately wanted, she has been working towards this since she was inspired by that other girl’s new slim figure on Facebook last month.

 As she walks on she spies in the mirror the admired hip bones that sparked the very start of her new career as #instafamous #inspiration, they need to be more prominent she thinks, she can’t let her followers down now, by the time she gets to the water fountain she’s already planning which other meals she can cut out so she can continue her new found role of being this healthy #inspiration to others.

 How real do you think this scenario is?

 It’s very real. VERY real.

 But we can’t blame her, can we. We can’t blame the Twila’s of the world. Because it’s US who give them that feedback, that power – we give them the trophies. We feed the obsession. It’s US who bow down to hip bones without finding out what the owner has done to get them, we give praise to athletic achievements without questions about their health or happiness, we hail to the transformations of the physical kind and we then they get shocked a few years later when the “tell all” stories come out about the total life destruction it took to for her to get there.

 We don’t live in a zoo. Let’s stop gawping at the pretty tiger who looks great and performs when he needs to so we can all gasp and say “Awww, wow. Look at the pretty tiger. That’s SO cool!” as we walk away thinking how excellent tigers are, and how we wish we could be as awesome as the tiger.

 Without a second thought of the life in captivity and the abuse he has to endure in order to give us that really cool looking show.

 If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times… it’s up to US to change this.

Choose to stand up on your own pedestal instead, at least you know it’s real.

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