Last year, for my final assessment for my Masters Degree in Gestalt Psychotherapy, we were to engage in a Passion Project. Throughout my training I had been very passionate about working with clients with Eating Disorders. Having had experienced Anorexia Nervosa myself in my late teens, going into the profession of psychotherapy I thought it only natural that I be interested in this field.
Having had several clients that were experiencing eating issues, it became very clear to me that there were some common factors that presented themselves with this illness. One of the most common factors I found, and in my own illness as well, was feelings of isolation.
With my own anorexia, too often I was in the grips of the evil forces of this illness to the point that I was willing to sacrifice any relationship in order to protect it. The shame too that I felt was crippling that isolating often was the safest option.
Throughout my studies it also became clear to me how little is done about the prevention of eating disorders. Our culture still supports an unrealistic body ideal and women are still perceived to be beautiful at a ridiculously unrealistic low weight and further more with the popularity of plastic surgery and botex, the term ‘ageing gracefully’ doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
With my own experience of anorexia nervosa, my experience of working with clients with disordered eating and identifying isolation as a common factor experienced by these clients, I decided to produce a set of cards that originally were to be developed from clients experiencing eating issues in a group context to promote connection and to promote engaging in a project that would ideally help others in the prevention of eating disorders.
Unfortunately my original pitch was rejected (due to ethical issues) and it thence was suggested that I produce the cards myself. Having not painted in 20 years, and with little graphic skills this was a daunting ask.
However, I was up for the challenge due to my passion for this subject and my desire to create something that will be potentially helpful not only for someone experiencing issues with food but for anyone just generally wanting to improve their image of themselves both on the inside and the outside.
Hence Heart Cards was born. A set of 28 cards, all individually painted by myself, and with affirmations on the back related to body image and self esteem. What’s more, there is a reflection exercise on each card that encourages the reader to take the idea one step further by taking physical action by engaging in an activity related to the affirmation.
Having come up with the art work and the writing wasn’t enough to get these cards produced, I had to then raise funds to pay for their production and for a graphic designer to lay out the work, come up with a logo and information booklet. This is when the magic happened.
I decided to do a crowd funding campaign with Pozible to raise the necessary funds and I gave myself 4 weeks to do so. At first this seemed an impossible feat. I let the word out to everyone I knew and exhausted every possible channel, I got a gig on the evening news twice, I was interviewed on National radio and made it in the local newspaper. After only 2 weeks I hit my target and more, with the most phenomenal response from a breakfast that I did a talk at.
Now at this breakfast, after my talk, the host got the microphone and asked the crowd to answer two questions.
The first being ‘who in this room has experienced self-loathing, or discomfort in how they look or how they feel about themselves inside? and secondly who in this room knows of someone who has struggled with their body image or love of self?’ If you answered yes to either of these questions please stand. And the WHOLE room stood up.
I have never felt so many goose bumps go up and down my spine. It was a phenomenal moment and made me realise how much of an epidemic negative body image and self esteem is rippling through our culture. It also humbled me to know that the positive response to these cards was such that they can add value to so many people’s lives, not just those who are experiencing issues with food.
With the phenomenal success of this project I have continued to develop ways in which these cards can be utilised further. I am currently developing an 8 week online program that incorporates the cards and continues to focus on positive body image and self esteem. I am deeply passionate about this subject and passionate in helping others ultimately learn to love themselves.