If you only read one thing today, please make it this beautiful, impactful and incredibly powerful article. Get ready to be blown away, touched to your core, have the depths of your heart strings pulled at and walk away inspired. Taylor Lee is not only a beautiful person, but a wickedly talented artist. She uses her art as a celebration, a form of expression and investigation: to investigate emotions, societal standards and the connection between beauty and violence. And that right there sums up her journey, her real journey with an eating disorder. But, whilst this article talks about the perception of beauty and all of its shortcomings, it is also a celebration. Today is a beautiful celebration of how far Taylor has come, how much she has turned her life around and the penultimate fact that she is a survivor.
Taylor is inspiring to say the least, she is beautiful, she is strong, she is resilient, she is courageous, she is brave. Brave is a quality I value so much, because, with anything, it’s easy to lead with fear and shy away from courage. To be brave means to endure or face pain or danger, to show courage. It takes guts to be brave.
Taylor is brave for so many reasons: she is brave for fighting her demons, she is brave for facing a battle every. single. day and still coming out on top against her eating disorder, she is brave for surviving, she is brave for putting herself out there, authentically sharing herself. And, she is brave for speaking out loud and voicing a question that so many of us ask ourselves on a daily basis. Something that is engrained in us via the society we live in. Something that is slowly changing, but still has a longgggggggggggggg way to go. And that is, the proverbial question of what defines beauty?
In her quest to delve deep down this path and truly discover the what and the why, Taylor has learnt many things. Amongst them she shares that a large part of it comes down to being kind to ourselves; reminding ourselves of our worth. And this is true for all of us, for whatever demons we face: for all of those seeds of self doubt, for all of the comparisons, for all of the lack of self love. Taylor talks about self love being a habit, which I loveeeeeee.
Because, it’s the simple truth – it’s something that we constantly need to work at, all of us – and if anyone tells you that they don’t, or have never had to work at it – well, either they’re lying or can we please find these mythical women and ask them to teach a self love masterclass because I don’t know of anyone who has completely mastered it to never work on it ever again. It can be likened to building muscle memory. And the more we practice self love, the easier it becomes. It also comes down to being kind to each other, reminding each other – all of the women we are surrounded by – at every possible opportunity, that we are all beautiful.
I know that Taylor’s article will have a significant effect on you, because it’s impossible for it not to. I hope that it serves as a powerful reminder, today and always, of so many things. Above all else, that we are to be celebrated, life is to be celebrated. Thank you Taylor: for being brave, for sharing your inner dialogue as compelling evidence that we all have thoughts along the same theme, for being an example and an inspiration. And thank you, thank youuuu for starting the conversation. I hope today you are celebrating YOU and every single part that makes up sweet, incredible, beautiful you.
And, on that note, it’s with great pleasure that I hand it over to Taylor…
I used to think that if I was pretty people would like me – maybe even love me. I thought that if I was beautiful I would have no other problems; life would be easy.
Let me tell you a little bit about my journey with beauty. In 2012 I sought treatment for an eating disorder that had plagued me for over ten years. It began with social anxiety, like not wanting to eat my lunch in front of the other kids at school, and resulted in me making a habit of skipping meals. As I grew older I became more aware of a heart-throttling fear that would not allow me to eat at all.
I began to over-exercise, even with injury, until my anorexia came to a sharp climax in the spring of 2012. I lost an absurd amount of weight in three months, passed out on multiple occasions, and visited the ER four times that spring for malnutrition-related symptoms. The final time I went to the ER was the night of my sister’s graduation from her Master’s program, when I had to get my mom to help me get dressed, and my dad carried me to the car. This was rock bottom. I was going to die like this.
Today I celebrate my five year anniversary of recovery. When I think back to that decade of struggle and isolation, I think of one word that sums it all up: violence. An eating disorder is an incredibly violent way to treat our bodies, both physically and emotionally. I am heartbroken by this revelation, that we might abuse ourselves in the pursuit of becoming beautiful.
I’ve been working through this revelation in my art. Painting has always been there for me as a hobby, but it became particularly important during my recovery through art therapy. I use my art to explore the emotions I’m feeling. In Mexico this past summer, I realized I was applying the same standard of beauty to my art practice – I thought that if my art was pretty people would like it and, by extension, like me. When I recognized this I knew that I had to understand why.
I am currently exploring the concept of beauty. What is beauty? Who decides? And what is the purpose of beauty? I am painting self-portraits, reading books about the female form in art history, and constantly asking this important question – why do I think that beauty makes me lovable?
An eating disorder is a lifelong battle. I think about my eating disorder every day; sometimes it’s a whisper, and sometimes it’s a roar. Sometimes I wonder if the constant struggle is worth it, and then I know people like my parents, my sister, and my friends, and I, know it is. Living a normal life in the aftermath of an eating disorder feels impossible sometimes, but this year I’m thankful that I can enjoy chocolate, sit without touching my stomach nervously, smile in anticipation while John makes kabobs downstairs, let my eyes glaze over the unwanted calorie information on a fast-food menu, and trust that I will be able to travel to Mexico to pursue my next art project without passing out, because I am well fed and in love with my body after 15 years in battle together.
One of the key things that has helped me stay on track with recovery? Learning to be kind to myself. Negative self-talk was like second nature to me, and it was an extremely difficult habit to break. But that’s what it was – a habit. We must get into the habit of being kind to ourselves. This isn’t easy, I know. A trick I use is to question my thoughts and feelings as they come up. If I find myself feeling unloved, I ask myself why. That stops a negative thought in its tracks and brings me back to kindness.
I hope that my story will help shine a light on the power that beauty has over so many of us, and I hope we can start a conversation about it and see that beauty has a lot of different definitions.
Taylor Lee is an intuitive abstract artist inspired by music and communicating her experiences through vibrant, colorful, and expressive paintings.