I’d like to believe that even though I speak and write publicly about my eating disorder, my advocacy and my personal struggles, when it comes to “real-life” experiences and day-to-day interactions, I am a very private person. This fact is difficult for my personal acquaintances to fathom, but that doesn’t make being private a fault.

Life is not about keeping secrets, but it is not about telling everything to everyone else, either. I guess I have never felt comfortable shouting to the world the nitty-gritty details of my life. Much of it is no one’s business anyway. Being so open all the time leaves you vulnerable to negative emotions in the end, in my opinion.

Being a private person is a positive trait that is underappreciated in a noisy world. Our culture is obsessed with sharing our lives all the time. Society tends to uplift the loudest out there, and if you are being talked about, then you are on top. People constantly compete to be seen and heard. What a load of garbage.

Making the most of your time and efforts, whether public or private, can seem daunting when you don’t even know who you are. I’ve muddled through that question time and again, and I know exactly where things lie for me. Being male, having an eating disorder, being Christian, having conservative views and being a sexual minority tend to make audiences question why I stand where I do and where my reasoning comes from.

For example, in the past six months I’ve heard, overheard, read and been told plenty of things regarding my personal life:

“You are nothing but a facade.”

“You don’t date much, and you need to have a better sex life. You are a very lonely person.”

“You are so hard to love (platonically).”

“You concern and confuse people, and you never communicate what is going on in your life.”

Not to mention finding out that a very immature individual I’d previously dated had publicly communicated with others about me. That just takes the cake.

Now, not only did I massively overhaul the sorts of people I surround myself with, but, more importantly, I adopted a completely different approach to how I view myself. I found out that my biggest adversary was me. Life lessons, therapy and all that jazz have taught me one thing: I will never need someone or something to make me complete, even if society tries to tell me otherwise.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, self-acceptance is largely determined by how we feel we are viewed by those around us whom we deem important. Just as I subconsciously let events and thoughts give rise to the eating disorder that I’ve battled for far too long, allowing myself to die slowly because of my own thoughts and because someone else’s feelings didn’t match my own, I’ve found that I was still allowing the other’s influence to dictate my own outlook.

To build healthy individuality, we must undertake the task of understanding ourselves and our feelings. This involves appreciating the not-so-simple act of self-disclosure. For us to truly understand ourselves, and to stop being concerned about others’ opinions of us, we ought to be able to disclose what our true beliefs are. After all, allowing an influence that is fundamentally ingrained inside us is detrimental to our well-being.

When we candidly admit to ourselves that we aren’t perfect but are all we’ve got, we can begin to benefit from a finely tuned self-acceptance. Getting rid of people we’ve surrounded ourselves with may be the hardest thing we try to do, but consider the cost of preserving their presence in our lives. Our attention, polluted with hurt, is not only counterproductive but dangerous given the wrong person and situation.

Letting go can be extremely helpful, and I cannot emphasize enough that this process is just that: a process. It cannot be done overnight. Working on and coming to terms with who we are doesn’t have a timeline.

It is impossible to please everyone. Do your best to accept that and make yourself a priority. Remember, you aren’t responsible for anyone else’s expectations. Knowing yourself (and the world around you) is one of the hardest things in the world to figure out. The beginning of wisdom happens when we are honest with ourselves. I’ve always believed that life’s events happen for a reason, and all through my journey I’ve found that hardships definitely enhance the strength to hold on.

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