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Being Authentic: How to Write From the Heart While Appealing to Spoon at Large

Connecting to others with your own personal experiences.

Prior to coming to college, I was in the closet. Not about my sexual orientation or sexual identity, but about my disease. I was anorexic throughout my entire high school career, yet nobody knew—my parents, closest friends, and even doctor were in the dark about my unhealthy, restrictive relationship with food. And even though I felt as if I conquered my illness by the time I stepped onto Northwestern's campus, I carried with myself the baggage that is shame and stigma.

Although I no longer starved myself, I became stuck in a new cycle: one that was dominated by binging and guilt. By winter quarter, I gained a significant amount of weight and lost so much of my self-esteem that it manifested itself in the form of insomnia. Running on no sleep and no morale, I sought a therapist because I knew I needed to get help, and it was the first time I had acknowledged my issues with a medical professional.

But that wasn't enough. I was still hiding, still scared of judgment. After discussing things extensively with my therapist, we came to the conclusion together that, in order for me to regain the agency I had lost through years of self-hatred, I needed to take ownership of my story: my eating disorder, my battle, and my journey.

I'm not going to lie: it wasn't easy. In fact, there were times where I questioned whether I should publish my first article out of fear of being perceived as attention-seeking or over-sharing.

However, after fighting myself for so long to hold my experiences in, I decided to relinquish control—which, ironically, later allowed me to regain it. By sharing my personal stories and views with the world around me, I was able to connect with thousands of people who otherwise would feel alone in their own body image issues. 

But, how exactly are you supposed to speak your truth yet articulate it in such a way that people understand and empathize with you? Through trial and error, here are five ways to make your Spoon article a community-building tool.

1. Use "I" statements.

This may sound counterintuitive, but the first thing you need to do in order to bridge the gap between reader and writer is to write a piece that is explicitly about your views if you're writing any sort of personal essay.

Using "I" statements is something I've become more conscious of since entering college; they ensure that your points don't isolate people that don't share those views by making blanketed, generalized statements that might not apply to others.

It's crucial to establish, first and foremost, that your piece comes from your personal convictions, which gives you the credibility and respect you deserve.

2. Write from the heart.

To build off the first point, when writing, make sure that, alongside your story, your voice also shines through. Don't change your tone or views because you think other people will relate with them more; doing so makes you seem disingenuous and readers will catch on.

When you're putting your all into a piece and when you're truly passionate about the subject, that's when you'll find yourself successful and impacting those around you.

3. Be unapologetic.

Women, I've noticed, are conditioned to always think of other people's feelings first. They don't want to cause a stir or make those around them uncomfortable; so instead, they lead a conversation with an apology or stay silent altogether.

I was very much like this in my pre-college years—too cautious with my words, too concerned with how people perceive me. Though it is important to be mindful of your impact and the implications behind what you're saying, stand firm in your beliefs. Never say sorry for expressing your insights, because they are valuable, and they are worthy of being heard.

4. Make your story more than just about yourself.

The base of an amazing think-piece is to explain one's own perspective; but to make an article one that touches people, you must extend your views to an entity or cause outside yourself. For me, I wrote about my eating disorder story, but I did so with a specific intention: to de-stigmatize mental illness and prove to other people that might be going through these same issues that it is possible to conquer this ailment.

Remember: Spoon is a national publication that reaches millions of people. Your story is one that other people need to hear, so to make sure it resonates, tie your story into a broader narrative that is pertinent to our readers and society, in general.

5. Take care of yourself.

Once this is all said and done, the final (and arguably, most important) step is to take care of yourself. It can be emotionally and physically taxing to be vulnerable; you may feel over-exposed, scrutinized, or judged.

Something I haven't talked about openly was the aftermath of my "To the Bone" article, which was picked up by Insider. Refreshing the page and seeing the page views swell up into the high thousands turned me into a perpetual ball of anxiety to the point that it started interfering with my interpersonal relationships.

If sharing something makes you feel overwhelmed, you are doing yourself and the world a disservice. Not only will it wreak havoc on your mental health, but it will prohibit you from opening up to people. So, when you do publish a piece for Spoon, make sure that you are prepared for it to go live, and look to people you trust for support during this time. You more than deserve it.

As writers and content creators, we have an immense amount of power to make a huge contribution to the world, and I hope that I've helped you to figure out what you can do to improve the lives that you will touch.