Same Book, New Chapter: Bebe Howell's Summer of Self Love
Last August my parents helped me move into New York City, where I would be staying as a permanent resident for the first time. I had only ever lived in New York for one month at a time, a few times a year, due to various modeling jobs. However, it felt no different to move in for a longer stay; I was ready to take on whatever the city life threw at me.
Or so I thought.
I left New York this past May with my self-esteem at an all time low. I could barely look at myself in the mirror, practiced horrible eating habits, had long since lost control of my workout routine, and would break down when looking at pictures of my previous “high fashion” self.
Body dysmorphia was a demon inhabiting my brain 24/7. It forced its way into the deepest corners of my mind, and broke me down until I was a completely fractured version of myself.
I’m very lucky that Models That Eat happened to be growing so quickly around the time that I was struggling. Watching other people tell their stories helped me understand and acknowledge my own issues. Eventually, I was in a well enough place to share my own thoughts. You can find that video, which explains my story with body dysmorphia more in depth here.
Living and working in one of the busiest cities in the world on top of this mental turmoil did not help. I felt as though New York was constantly pushing me to suppress my emotions and just hustle through it. We who live these “fast-paced” lives often forget that this is not okay.
It is in our human nature to heal most efficiently when we are put in a place to be vulnerable. This is why so many different types of “talk” therapy exist today. We find it most difficult to open up about our struggles, however, the moment that we do is when a sort of catharsis occurs.
New York often prevents people from doing this. The city prioritizes workaholism and achievement (often of the materialistic kind) over mental well-being or time for proper emotional reflection. I thought I would have the easiest adjustment out of the 6,000+ students moving to NYU, however, most days I felt as though I couldn’t breathe from the constant movement and battle for success.
I released my video with Phoebe around the same time I was packing my bags to go home for the summer. It was at that time that I made a point to myself that I would not return to the city again until August unless absolutely necessary. I needed a break.
In my video with Phoebe, I briefly touched on my poor relationship with working out. I used to love going to the gym in high school simply because I loved exercising. It was my stress reliever. Because I quit my competitive team for dance, going to the gym became my alternative for releasing all that after-school energy that I used to get out in the studio.
Going to university changed things. Gaining all of that weight and dealing with body dysmorphia changed my incentive for working out. I suddenly felt a need to go to the gym, not a want. I felt like I had to lose weight, not just to book modeling jobs, but to look more attractive to society in general.
This summer I’ve been working on ways to enjoy exercising again so that I could change that mentality. I set a goal for myself to try new things at the gym and see what I enjoy most. That goal has allowed me to grow in my relationship with working out all over again. On top of my own personal workouts, I now take barre classes every week. This not only provides a super effective workout, but reminds me so much of my dance days. Barre is a mix of yoga, pilates, and ballet, which sums up to be the perfect workout for my goals and I.
And as I enter my last couple of weeks at home, I do in fact see a change in my mindset.
I see a girl who used to find it hard to leave her bed every morning be in the gym by 9am every morning. I see a girl who used to avoid wearing certain clothes because of her insecurities throw those outfits on without a second thought. I see a girl who used to walk past every mirror without making eye contact with her reflection stop, look at herself, and most importantly, like what she sees. I have learned this summer that your journey towards both physical and emotional well-being does not have to exists solely for you to appear more attractive through society’s eyes. It can exist for your own sake, to become the best and healthiest version of yourself, for yourself.
It is so important that we give ourselves that time to heal. Time to be away from the hustle and bustle of life’s demands. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get out of the city every once in a while. It clears your head far more than you could hope for.
I move into my apartment in just under three weeks now. At the beginning of June I was convinced that I would go into it with the same negative attitude. This is no longer true. While I still have my bad days, and those moments of second guessing my appearance, my cognition is different now. I know that my body is great. I am a strong, healthy, beautiful young woman. This summer has left me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I feel as though I’m reading the same book, but entering a new chapter.