Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fighting Stigma: We are Not Vain

A lot of people have done posts about this (Ruby did a brilliant one some time ago) so I guess it’s my turn to add something to the mix.
For everyone out there who thinks people with eating disorders are shallow and vain and care only about losing weight, you’re wrong. Individuals with eating disorders can be vain, but they’re vain independent of their ED. Being vain is not a part of having an ED. In fact, usually, it’s the opposite. Most of us care more about others than we do ourselves, and when we’re complimented on weight loss we smile on the outside and on the inside smack ourselves. Most people I’ve met with eating disorders are very kind, shy, and have very low opinions of themselves. A few people have even said that low self esteem, rather than being vain, is a characteristic of the disorder. I agree with this, although I do think that some people can mask their low self esteem by being big and bravado- maybe something that gives rise to the stereotype of vain people with EDs?
Someone else mentioned that when people are depressed or in the depths of a torturing mental illness all they can focus on is their struggle. I would buy that. That someone with anorexia or bulimia is so consumed with his/her illness that they can’t focus on anyone else and so appear vain. (in fact I buy this so much that I make sure to talk about myself as little as possible to others in order to ensure they know I care about them) But I haven’t met anyone like that yet. I think people tend to be focused on their illnesses when alone, but once they’re with other people they turn their attention outward.
Even if people are so caught up in their struggle that they can’t imagine anyone else having problems, I don’t know if I would call that being vain. That’s just another product of low self esteem.
I don’t know if this added anything new to the old rebuttal to all the stigmatization. But maybe someone new will read this and their opinion will be changed. Fingers crossed. 


  1. So true Emily
    Eating disorders are not driven by vanity
    After all what is vain about vomiting 5 times a day?
    What is vain about looking down and seeing there is sick on your clothes?
    What is vain about looking like death warmed up?
    I could go on and on

    Eating disorders are so misunderstood
    There are so many myths out there
    Good on ya Emily for dispelling some here x

  2. What annoys me the most is when people say, "If you think you're fat, you'll just make everyone else feel worse because you're smaller." I don't know if it relates, but I think that's what they also sometimes mean by being vain. But ED patients I've met, they don't say such outwards, only in their head? I don't know. Why such stigmas are linked with EDs I don't know


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