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ConnectHER Author Offers Advice on “Living Authentically”

Women in the community shopped, ate, and heard an inspirational message at the Greater Vidalia Chamber’s annual ConnectHER Women’s Conference on Thursday, March 24, at the Vidalia Community Center. The event featured bazaar booths for shopping, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and an inspirational message by Darla Harms. Life/mindset coach, behavioral analyst, inspirational speaker, and author Darla Harms spoke to the women on body shaming. Harms gifted attendees with her book, “No Fat Chicks: Overcoming Body Shame and Living in Authenticity,” which she based her address on. She went through the four steps of overcoming shame and living in authenticity: recognizing and acknowledging your own shame, developing a sense of resilience and grit, knowing you are enough, and being aware of what triggers your shame. “Shame keeps us from getting what we want and sometimes, what we need,” Harms emphasized. “Shame is one of those things that will stay with us for the rest of our lives if we are not careful. It is one of those things that can really impact our ability to lead well if we don’t deal with it.”

She shared her experiences with body shaming, which began from a young age. “I was seven years old when I first began to have my own body shame issues,” Harms told the crowd. “One day, I was getting ready to go to the local swimming pool – which is a big deal in my hometown in Nebraska – and I was standing in the kitchen, when my mom said, ‘You don’t want to be overweight, because overweight people get called ‘Tubby.’ ” Harris added, “I was only seven. I didn’t even know what ‘Tubby’ meant. I didn’t even know I was overweight – I didn’t even know what overweight meant.” Fast forward a few years to high school, and I was pretty athletic. I was a point guard for our basketball team, and I will never forget dribbling down the court and hearing one of my classmates yell, ‘Hey! Look at the fat chick!’ and I froze. This young man bullied me throughout all of high school.”

Continuing to discuss the effect that moment had on her life, she told the crowd about the intense bullying she faced throughout high school, which led to Harms’ development of bulimia in her college years. “I didn’t realize what that would do to my self image throughout college,” she said. “I thought it would get better. I lost a lot of weight and was the thinnest I had ever been, but I still thought I was fat.” Harms shared that it was during her counseling that she discovered the source of her body shame: a history of sexual abuse and an indulgence in pornography as a young adolescent. The shame continued through her adult life, as her husband’s family remained outspoken and honest about her weight after she had her first child. Her mother-in-law told her that she needed to lose weight because she was not “eye candy.” She talked about her previous fear of the Internet and people’s opinions, and how she had overcome that struggle through reassurance in herself. “I read a book that talked about a woman walking into a college frat party, and seeing a sign above the door that said, ‘No Fat Chicks,’” Harms added. “I cried, because I realized that is how I lived my life – with that thought lingering over my head. Maybe it’s not all body shame, but we all have it – some sign over our head that says we cannot do something.”

She concluded her keynote address, “ We have to live authentically to overcome our shame. We have to be honest with ourselves, and see the truth about who we are, rather than the lies around us,” she emphasized.

After her address, Harms informed the crowd that she will be participating in the YouTube series of speeches, TED Talks, which she will film this year in Colorado Springs. “I am absolutely terrified, but I am so excited for this new opportunity and to be able to share this message,” she remarked. “It is another step of overcoming shame that I will accomplish, just like I know you all will accomplish in overcoming your own shame.”

Following the event, she autographed books and chatted with attendees about their thoughts and relations to the message.

— Darla Harms

“Shame keeps us from getting what we want and sometimes, what we need.”

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