Mary McDonough discusses body images issues at SOKY Book Fest

Sarah Stukenborg

Mary McDonough, author of “Lessons from the Mountain,” spoke about body acceptance and issues of body branding at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest.

McDonough starred in “The Waltons,” a hit television series of the 1970s, which led to child stardom.

She said at her workshop on Saturday morning that her rise to fame brought her many self-esteem issues that she had a hard time coping with.

“I struggled to figure out who I was,” she said.

McDonough experienced many different influences from being on the show and felt a pressure to be perfect all the time.

“The more I tried to be perfect, the more I struggled,” McDonough said.

This struggle for perfection took physical tolls on her body, such as a rash on the back of her head. McDonough began to engage in unhealthy eating habits such as binging and radical diets in order to live up to what everyone else saw her as.

In order to prevent other people from experiencing the same issues, McDonough decided to speak out and write a book.

“I never want anyone to feel as alone or clueless as I felt growing up,” she said.

One of the main issues that McDonough discussed revolves around “branding.”

People tend to “brand” themselves and each other with stereotypes such as popular, pretty and geeky, among others. McDonough said these brands are a waste of time and don’t do any good.

“I looked outside of myself for my brands,” McDonough said of her own body branding issues as a teenager.

She said it is typical for people to brand themselves according to outside forces, such as unrealistic media images and people at school, and she did this herself as a teen.

“I thought I had to be an actress to have value because that’s what everyone told me,” she said.

McDonough realized she had to get away from the image issues and find what truly mattered to her. She learned how to love herself and was inspired to persuade others to do the same.

McDonough encourages the people that attend her seminars or read her book to find a purpose and embrace who they are.

“You put out what you want to get back,” McDonough said.

Audience members participated by answering questions and writing their personal brands on a notecard.

Bryan Carson, an instructional services coordinator and a special assistant to the Dean for Grants and Assessment at WKU, attended the seminar and said he would take an important lesson from McDonough.

“Who we are has more to do with who we think we are than what others think we are,” Carson said.

Celest Jackson, who also attended the seminar, said she found McDonough’s insights very powerful and instructive.

“Her insights are very profound, and she’s taken a great deal from her wholesome TV show and transformed it into things that everyone can use,” Jackson said.