Stacey Kaliabakos ’23
Chief Opinions Editor
As a 20 year old college student who is somewhat active on social media, I can plainly see that many people suffer from negative body image issues. There are endless studies that support this theory that social media is an exacerbation, or even a downright cause, of this problem. Obviously, I agree that social media plays a large role in this issue, but I feel that there is a deeper reason behind it as well. Statistically, people are moving away from faith– not just Christianity, but any faith. Historically, faith has given much motivation and support to people to persevere through obstacles they may experience throughout their lifetime. As an Orthodox Christian, I became curious about the decline of Christianity in the United States. I discovered that 50 years ago, approximately 90% of Americans identified as Christian, whereas 64% identify as Christian today; almost 30% of Americans currently describe themselves as atheists or agnostics as well. In referencing only Christianity (as a Christian), it is thus my opinion that this cultural move away from faith and God has left a void in the lives of many Americans.
An extraordinary example of someone who could have a tremendously negative view of themselves and who could have wallowed in self pity and depression is Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics is irrelevant in this conversation. Abbott was born to a family of modest means and in his sophomore year of high school his life was forever altered when his father died of a heart attack. He went on to earn a degree in finance in 1981 and then married Cecilia Phalen, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants. He obtained a law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in 1984 and secured a job in a prominent law firm before graduating– his life looked promising to say the least. In July of 1984 when he was only 26, Abbott went for a jog after a storm and in a freak accident he was crushed by an oak tree that fell on him. He had two steel rods implanted in his spine and was left a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair ever since. Abbott called on his faith to get through this truly catastrophic event. He said, “After my accident I had to rebuild my strength. I would roll myself up an eight story parking garage, spending hours going up the ramps. It got harder and harder but I would not quit.”
Despite his accident he stayed with the firm until 1992. He went on to serve Texas as a trial judge, a Texas Supreme Court Jurist, Texas Attorney General, and governor since 2015. As an aspiring lawyer, I am so inspired by Governor Abbott’s ability to not only survive but to thrive both in his professional and personal life. As a practicing Catholic, he has credited his faith for helping him get this far. He has never sought to cover up the fact that he is in a wheelchair– rather than believing that his wheelchair would make him appear weak, he accepted what occurred to him and truly made the most of his life, reaching every goal with determination and perseverance, knowing he is never alone because God is always with him.
Most people who suffer the negative effects of a bad body image do so for superficial aesthetic reasons. Abbott should serve as an inspiration to everyone to embrace life and the God given talents that we are each gifted and to see the beauty in every person. Every life is worth living to the fullest.
Photo by Mikala Compton/American-Statesman