Finding strength in face of online judgements - Sophie Mei Lan

Still recovering after a recent spell in hospital, Sophie Mei Lan reflects on the emotional and mental strength she has needed.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 11:53 am
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 12:32 pm

As soon as I dipped my bunion-clad dancer’s feet back into the world of social media following a sabbatical in hospital, I felt a toxic wave of abuse flood into my home regarding my “body”.

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I would have brushed it off had it been about my feet which act as a broad surface to enable me to dance, do yoga and are purely functional to my life. What I wasn’t quite prepared for were the comments, messages and accusations over my appearance and “weight loss”.

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Mum-of-two Sophie Mei Lan has opened up about her recent experiences.

Within moments, the mental strength used to get me out of hospital, after emergency procedures with more surgery to follow, seemed to evaporate.

I have built a largely positive and self-aware mindset, having previously healed from body dysmorphia and severe bulimia that left me hospitalised and caused weight gain – contrary to popular belief. It means that I have discovered the power of developing self-awareness and managing triggers.

I have been on a long journey from self-hatred to self-acceptance over my perfectly imperfect body and I even have written a book that was published last year.

Yet in some moments lately, with my body still in the early stages of recovery following my recent unrelated hospital admission, the social media trolls and judgemental messages seeping into my inbox have made me question whether I could ever leave the house again.

I have had to accept that my body has changed over the years and evolved like nature with age, trauma, life, children and work – and now it is physically needing to recover. It may not be aesthetically pleasing in today’s body-obsessed society and I confess it isn’t how I would like it to be at its optimum because I feel weak and struggle to move.

I had decided to leave vanity at my hospital door though as most of the physical changes are temporary and the other life-long changes are balanced out by gratitude for receiving treatment and having a now mostly-functioning body.

But the judgement in the shape of verbal and online abuse as well as the well-meaning assumptions about my “weight loss” has been so acute that I did initially decide not to leave the house.

Part of the judgement arose because I chose to keep the nature of my illness private. I want to have finished treatment and feel stronger again before I decide to disclose or not as I do no wish to be labelled by my illness.

Some may argue I am “fair game” for putting myself out there as a content creator online, but I have heard such justification too many times when we scrutinise minorities who don’t fit our ‘norm’.

Rather than stay shut in at home, I chose to take action using what works for me. I have reduced time on toxic channels of communication and enlisted the support of positive friends.

Whether you find yourself projecting internally or externally your insecurities over your own body, try to stop, reflect and work on believing in your own power and beauty inside out. It can start with appreciating something as a simple yet vital your own breath.

The perfect body is one that is loving and alive. I hope this helps as you walk, wheel, strut or shimmy out of your home after any challenge or setback.