Recently I was fortunate enough to meet two vibrant young women from Melbourne who have just begun their business startup journey. We were attending the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance summit in Moscow where 400 of the world’s best young entrepreneurs gathered to learn about new skills and possibilities.
Ashleigh Grogan and Haylee Collins launched their magazine Young Vagabond earlier this year and we quickly became acquainted, sharing stories and finding a common ground of empowering and promoting women, not only in business but in life. Like me, they’re passionate about helping teenage girls and women to find their sense of being, appreciate who they are, and ensure they chase their dreams and achieve them.
From a very early age I suffered self-esteem and confidence issues; I was ‘overweight’ until my late teens and suffered at the hands of those around me who thought it ‘cool’ to let me know just how true this was. Despite the huge lengths I went to in order to fit in, it never quite seemed to work out and I was always the odd one out.
As a 13-year-old I developed an eating disorder and struggled with the ups and downs of bulimia and anorexia for many years to come. I became an expert at hiding my feelings, excelling in and out of school activities, and surprising a few people when I was chosen captain of my high school. I went on to perform well in the HSC which allowed me to pick the university course of my choice.
Yet despite all of this, my eating disorder didn’t disappear and I spent years in and out of casual therapy trying to find the reason why in order to beat it.
It’s easy for me to look back now in bewilderment and ask ‘was that really me?’ Time, lots of help, an amazing family and a belief in a higher power are what got me to where I am today.
With the NSW Government having just announced a $1.6 million investment for helping those with eating disorders I hope this is put to good use towards not only the programs in place for the treatment of recognised disorders, but also towards educating the community on understanding the devastating impact of such a frightening disease.
My experience is not one I have spoken of publicly before until now. Yet my chance meeting with these two uplifting ladies made me aware that the need to support, guide and empower young women is just as relevant now if not more so. In part I hope that by sharing my experience I can help young girls and women with eating disorders see there is a way to a much better life. But more importantly I would like to think that there are people reading this who will pay more attention to the type of messages we send our young girls and boys (eating disorders do not discriminate against gender) so it doesn’t get to that.
These are our next generation of thinkers, leaders and doers who will set the path for society for years to come. It is up to us now to help create the agenda and set the path for change.