There are bad examples being set for us everywhere. The other day, I kid you not, an 11-year-old boy decided to heil Hitler at myself and my boyfriend; pretend to blow our heads off with a yellow water gun, screaming, “Die!”; and then laugh hysterically and run off, leaving everyone stunned. After talking about the bizarre event with my friends, we came to the conclusion that the boy had probably just seen too many violent video games and war movies and was simply a product of his society.
But I’m not positive society is really to blame.
Three summers ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was unimaginably terrifying. I spent every waking moment with her, watching old black-and-white movies and going out on burrito runs. I kept her company. And I happened to gain seven pounds in the process. Summer was almost at its end; my mother had finally ended her chemotherapy, and I decided to venture out into the real world again. On my first day out, one of my friends remarked, “Have you put on weight, Mia? You look very … bloated.” Ouch. School would start again for the fall semester in three weeks — that was virtually no time to lose all the weight I’d gained. I was going to go to school, and everyone was going to make fun of me for being “bloated.” As I eyed the small blobs of fat around my stomach, I started to panic.
I was a highly impressionable 14-year-old girl, your typical adolescent, and when someone told me I looked fat, I felt bad about it. I was too young, stupid and desperate for quick results to attempt to lose the weight the right way. My need for instant gratification drove me to do something drastic and dumb.
I went on this “500 Calorie Diet,” where I could only consume 500 calories in any given day. The meal plan that I’d devised included breakfasts consisting of one apple, lunches consisting of one slice of white bread and one slice of mutant Kraft Cheese and dinners consisting of one packet of partially hydrogenated microwavable Quaker Oatmeal. The diet was pathetic and disturbing, but it was effective — I lost four and a half pounds in the first week and a half.
By the time school rolled around, I’d lost the seven pounds … and then some. I barely weighed 100 pounds, and I found myself on the brink of anorexia.
If modern views of the media’s influence on young girls can be trusted, my attempt at starving myself to lose weight makes me a victim of society. But honestly, as much as I’d like to say I was innocent, I’m really not a victim at all. Yes, the year I dealt with my borderline eating disorder was a deeply dark time for me, and I was more susceptible to bad influences. But I still can’t use that to make any excuses for my actions. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I went on that godawful 500 Calorie Diet. It isn’t like I was ever under the impression that it was safe. And, yeah, I was pressured by my peers into doing something dangerous.
But in the end, it was still me who made the decision to actually do it.
We are all to blame for the way society functions — not the other way around — because society itself is whatever we make it into. It’s not “society” forcing us to do things we don’t want to do; it’s each and every one of us making conscious decisions to starve ourselves, waste money on following trends, let TV raise our kids, get involved in drugs and alcohol, participate in activities that are overall detrimental to our well-being. I could blame my eating disorder on my mom’s illness, or on my friend’s tactlessness, or on the pressures placed on girls in our society to look skinny. But really, my eating disorder was the result of something that I knew was wrong but chose to do anyway. It was my fault.
Ultimately, we’re the ones who make the choice as to whether or not we let bad examples lead us. So when we’re negatively impacted by these bad examples, we only have ourselves to blame. As they say, we’re blaming “society,” yet we are society. So to make it a better place, we must change ourselves first.
All I know is that, at some point, we as individuals need to take responsibility for our own actions. We have to stop blaming things on other people, blaming things on society. We need to start recognizing that it’s OK, we all make mistakes — but instead of finding ways to avoid being embarrassed about them, we really just need to start learning our lessons.