Community Stories

Renae Regehr: Free From Seductive Thinking Traps

Reach out to someone because you are stronger and more capable than you realize.

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What does Freedom mean to you and what are you “Free from”?

Freedom means knowing–deeply knowing–and appreciating my inherent value and worth. It means accepting and acknowledging that I’m not perfect and I never will be; I’m human. And also, importantly, it is an experience of being known and loved for who I am, just as I am.

I’m free from seductive thinking traps.

For so many years I bought into powerful beauty myths that resulted in having disordered eating. As a teen I (subconsciously) believed that if I changed my body to look a certain way, then I would unlock the door to confidence, opportunities, and happiness. However, Jean Kilbourne changed my life with her documentary “Killing Us Softly.” As I learned about incredibly sophisticated marketing strategies of advertising I realized how deeply my attitudes, behaviours, and beliefs had been shaped. That information truly transformed my life.

Tell us a bit of your story. How did you get from where you were to where you are today?

In my teens I was very preoccupied with my appearance which resulted in being anxious, unhappy, and floundering in life. Everything that I thought would make me happier and confident had the opposite effect. Then in my early 20s I watched Jean Kilbourne’s documentary.

My worldview was profoundly changed as I realized how significantly media images and message influence all of us.

I seriously wish I had understood the nuances of media as a teen to avoid wasting energy on things that didn’t make my happy. And I couldn’t get that precious time back. I couldn’t keep this information to myself, so I started talking with others. As I shared and received insights from others, a network of support developed.

At the end of the day my relationships with myself, others, and God changed, and they ultimately healed me.

It was new head knowledge combined with experiencing acceptance and freedom for who I was, just as I am, that was essential for transformation.

Later, in my Masters of Counselling Psychology I developed and tested a research-based program — “Free To Be” — to equip others to be resilient to negative body image pressures and ultimately arm them with tools for a meaningful and happy life. And that’s how Free To Be was born!

How would you describe the contrast between your life before experiencing this sense of freedom and after?

It was liberating; It was like taking off a heavy backpack that I’d worn for so many years and not even realized it. I still had struggles as I began transforming to healthier person because I had spent so many years thinking a certain way.

I had to rewire my brain and that takes time!

However, I could finally recognize when I was putting the backpack of beauty myths on, and then I chose to take it off and challenge my thinking or beliefs I had adopted.

How are you committed to sharing this message of Freedom?

Free To Be is one of my missions and callings in my life to help others.

What message do you have for others who may feel trapped or alone right now?

You may feel alone and that can be terrifying and anxiety-provoking. There are people who may not have experienced the exact same thing as you, but they can help you with struggles you are having.

Reach out to someone because you are stronger and more capable than you realize.

Right now, you might just need an external brain to help you realize your capability and strength. We all need help at different times in our lives.


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