THE BLOG
10/07/2014 12:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Model Gets Radically Honest About Body Image

Never in a million years did I imagine that the fear of being radically honest about my violent journey with body image and being courageous enough to take my shirt off outside the photo studio would birth an event that transformed the way we -- and I -- truthfully feel about body image.

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Amy Poehler says, "Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it."

With the look of "What the heck am I doing?" plastered across my face, I get it now. In creating the nonprofit Topless, I've had the opportunity to help people all over the world become happier versions of themselves just by accepting the true nature of who and what they really are -- and, ultimately, by being absolutely OK with that truth. In the enlightened end of our personal seeking, we all find the same answer after we shed the idea of what our image is supposed to be. The answer is that we are perfect just the way we are.

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I have had 10 years of eating disorders, female athlete triad, body dysmorphic disorder and plastic surgery. I have a blood-clotting mutation that makes undergoing surgery extremely dangerous, yet I chose body manipulation over life. In my mind I was not pretty enough -- quite possibly not pretty enough to keep on living. I had to change. My body was a source of shame, embarrassment, disgrace.

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I apologized for the way I looked more often than not. I fantasized about a larger chest, a thinner waist, and bigger lips. Truth be told, when I was younger, I would buy larger bras and fill them in private just to see if I looked more attractive with a big rack. I'd suck in and watch my hip bones jut out just so I could get an idea of what I wanted my body to look like in a bikini that summer. I tanned obsessively in high school. It was never good enough to be just a Plain Jane. Plain Emily had no superpowers, no attraction, and absolutely zero je ne sais quoi.

What I found out was that I was absolutely dead wrong. The beauty mystery for men and women lies behind the door of being confident in the face of your own vulnerabilities and, more than anything, choosing to be painstakingly honest about the blessing of the body you were given.

The body is a vehicle, not a beauty equation.

Need help? In the U.S., call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.