My story began on the day my mom died. I was 10 years old and losing her really impacted me. It was as though I lost not only my mother but my best friend too. After she was gone my life got really dark as I lost interest in everything around me and let my grief swallow me whole. About a year after and I would fall into disordered eating and exercise addiction in my attempt to be ‘healthy’ and never get cancer as she did. For a majority of my teens years, ages 12 to 16, I was stuck in an endless cycle of restricting, overexercise, overeat, gain weight, lose weight, and it went on and on. At seventeen I then lost my aunt who was like a second mother to me and it sent me on another downward spiral as I approached my senior year of high school. That year was very dark as misfortunes kept happening and I felt more and more out of control. To cope I fell once more into disordered eating tendencies and pushed everyone away. As my senior year of high school progressed, my health started to worsen. It was no longer the disordered eating dragging me down but something more, a mysterious health crisis that no one understood. For the next eight months, I’d suffer silently as my body waged war against itself and no local doctor could help me. Eventually, I went off to college and between my alarming health decline and my passion to do something besides college, I dropped out. For my first year home I worked part-time jobs when possible but mainly dedicated those six months to figuring out my health. I found a Functional Medicine doctor that did lots and lots of tests to prove that my body was quite literally a mess. After that, I found my way to a Liver specialist and got a diagnosis of chronic Hepatitis C. It turns out that in 2009 my mom was diagnosed with Hepatitis C after being infected with an outbreak in her cancer hospital. That Hep C turned to Liver cancer which then killed her and somewhere along the lines I must have used her razor or something to get the infected blood into contact with mine. The testing for Hep C states that anything under 15 is normal and my markers at the time were over 11 million. It was clear that the Hep C was now chronic in my body and causing all the extreme health issues as it attacked my body. I’ve now completed my treatment plan and in technical terms, I’m ‘cured’ as my blood is no longer contagious and the virus can no longer replicate inside me nor attack my body. Currently, I’m in a time of transition and growth where I’m starting to uncover my true passion for life and what I want to do with it. So far that’s included starting my Instagram, my podcast, traveling, creating community, and working to build something of my own. Who knows what the future holds but I’m young and ready for whatever comes next.
How would you define confidence?
To me, confidence means looking within and living our most authentic lives. For so many years of my life, I tried to find confidence solely through my appearance and by hiding who I really am to be like others. This led me down a path of disordered eating and body dysmorphia which in turn, ruined my confidence and made me want to blend in even more. I wasn’t living in alignment with myself because everything I did was to ‘fit in’, to please others, and to make sure I was never seen as an outcast. I now define confidence as the feeling of living our most authentic truth and being in alignment with our morals. It’s about not trying to change myself to appease others or fit in; it’s about being 100% ‘me’ and not letting anybody change that.
When is your first memory of feeling confident?
I remember a few occasions that remain prominent in my memories. As a young kid, I was naturally confident and nothing shook me, so much so that I remember for the first day of school wearing this hot pink and black blazer that had neon flowers stitched all over and triple braids in my hair. I felt so confident and nothing that anybody said to me mattered, I just felt so happy with myself. Then in later years when confidence was hard to come by I remember feeling very confident at my job actually. I work at a Drive-In movie theater during the summer and since day one my bosses have always said I’m the most hard-working employee and that makes me feel at home. Plus, with the skills it has taught me and my own talents, I feel confident that I can lead my co-workers when we work. And of late, it’s when I feel connected to my inner self and everything feels in alignment. For example, a local community member asks me about my work and before I’d always downplay it, shy away from explaining it and not feel confident to share in fear of judgement. Now, I tell anyone willing to listen about my work because I fully believe in it and feel proud of it. Everything about my works aligns with my morals, my ethics, and is true to me so of course, it brings me great confidence in any regard!
When is your first memory of feeling insecure?
I’d say in middle school when I first started to judge my body against others and then in high school when my skin went berserk on me. In both circumstances, I was finding confidence externally which sent me in a downward spiral. It was the first time I was physically set apart from the crowd and that made me feel uncomfortable and not confident. Later in life, I became insecure in my local community because I was beginning to explore topics such as astrology, meditation, and energy work while others thought it to be odd. In that case, my beliefs and interests set me apart and it wasn’t until I accepted it that I was able to move forward.
Why did you feel this way or what made you feel this way?
Whether with my body, my skin, or with my beliefs and interests, the reason I felt so out of place and not confident was that in most instances, my physical form/personal beliefs made me not “fit in”. Even if “fitting in” isn’t our intention, it’s in our blood to want to. We come from histories of tribes and villages where the person who didn’t abide by the general appearance, stamina, education, personality, or beliefs became a social outcast. It must be ingrained in our genetic makeup at least a little bit to fear to be that outcast, to fear not “fitting in”. The way to override that and be confident no matter your appearance/beliefs is to face it, accept it, and find your own confidence. I think that’s the key to overcoming whatever instinct we have to “fit in” and instead make our own standards to live by.
What makes you feel most confident now? How has this changed?
Now my confidence comes from within so I correlate it with what I’m feeling or experiencing. For instance, I love to make others laugh, and help them, and support them so when I can do one of those things, I feel confident in myself. I feel confident in my work with the podcast because I know it’s helping others. Just as I feel confident in making others laugh and smile because that’s helping them too! Confidence for me is all about the feeling from within whereas before I depended on external sources to make me feel a certain way.
How are you using your platform to make a difference?
My Instagram was started as a way to connect with others and feel less alone in my struggles. Through it, I’ve made the best of friends, connected with hundreds of people, and have found the community I always needed. When I started the podcast I had the same intention; to connect with others and build a community of support. Through both platforms, I now share content to inspire, educate, and empower others which also happens to unite us and make everyone realize that they truly are not alone. My knack for holistic storytelling is that by sharing these stories, journeys, and bits of wisdom through my content and guests, it shows others that they have someone to relate to! In this, I aim to provide others with the hope of a better tomorrow and knowledge that someone else has been through the same struggle they now face. At the end of the day, I just want to provide for and support my audience in the ways that “I” needed it during my dark times.
What is something you’re most proud of?
I’d have to say two completely unrelated things: my podcast and my rescue cats .. hang with me here I promise to explain! When I was going through my darkest times of grief, disordered eating, and depression, I developed a habit of taking in homeless and injured cats. They would just show up at our house or the SPCA would call me and every single time I’d drop whatever I was doing and help. I invested so much time, energy, and love into those rescues and in 6 years' time I saved 12 cats from life/death situations. And on the human end of the spectrum, my podcast is how I help others. It was a true labor of love, money, and time but has given me the gift of community and the reassurance that I’m making an impact on others. Every time someone shares an episode or DMs me or leaves a rate/review I feel my heart skip a beat because it makes me so dang happy to help people. Those are two of my proudest accomplishments I suppose!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To let go of control and just live. I spent so many years of my life trying to remain in control of everything around me that I lost myself in the process. It’s now been two years since I dropped out of control and officially started to let go of controlling everything and I must say, although it hasn’t been easy it’s definitely been worth it. Once you let go and start to live in a flow state, little things pop up that take you by surprise, some good and some bad, but either way, it shows you that life truly cannot be controlled. I’ve found that since letting go of so much control I’m happier because life no longer feels as though it’s happening to me but rather for me. That’s the advice and reality check I wish someone would've given me years ago but at the same time, I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not gone through those times.
Emily holds such an empowering story and has obviously fought for her confidence and voice. Learn more about Emily and her wellness journey on her Instagram platform. Her holistic podcast can also be found and followed here!
The Campaign for Confidence supports LARK's mission to empower women to feel comfortable in their skin, embrace what makes them one-of-a-kind, and show up as they are -- because we are all beautiful. To learn more, click here.