For Jameela Jamil, the teen years were tough. She developed anorexia and body dysmorphia at age 14 after a class project required her to be weighed in front of her entire class. And to make matters worse, she didn’t have many friends to go to for support.
The Good Place star, 33, believes that her loneliness at the time made her eating disorder more severe.
“I was really unhappy and I think it contributed to my ability to have an eating disorder for so long, because there was no one kind of monitoring me and I had no one to turn to with my sadness and bad feelings, so I just had a really rough time as a teenager,” she tells PEOPLE.
Jamil is now teaming up with Bumble BFF — the friend-finding side of the dating app — to encourage people to meet potential BFF’s.
“I’ve had lots of experiences with loneliness myself, and I wish that I had an app like this when I was a teenager, so that I could have met other people who were also looking for friendship and companionship,” she says. “I’m socially awkward, and there was no set up to help socially awkward people admit they were socially awkward and that they needed a little bit of a boost to find friends. And I love the idea of de-stigmatizing the feeling of loneliness. Everyone gets lonely from time to time.”
Jamil, who runs the inclusivity platform I Weigh, says that she eventually learned how to make friends, but it required breaking out of her shell.
“I’ve learned how to suck it up and make an effort and put myself on the line and ask people out for coffee,” she says. “I’ve even officially asked people to be friends, just to make sure that everyone’s in agreement that there’s some sort of friendship forming. I started doing more things that I love and meeting more people via that, and I’ve found more people who had the same interests.”
Jamil says that her adult friendships have been vital to her confidence as she navigates Hollywood.
“A friend is a witness to your life, which I think is something really beautiful and amazing and really shapes your bond with someone,” she says. “We go through a lot as a woman or just generally as a human and having someone to share that with and having someone in your corner and tells you that you’re wrong when you doubt yourself is so unbelievable. I don’t think I would be the person that I am without my adult friendships and their love and support.”
Jamil also has a few tricks for building confidence. She says she makes I Weigh pages in her spare time — lists of all of the accomplishments and personality traits that make her who she is — and she stopped looking in the mirror.
“The only time I look in the mirror is when I put on my eyeliner in the morning and when I take it off at night,” she says. “I’m not interested in my appearance. I still suffer from body dysmorphia so it can be very distracting for me. Doing that has helped me concentrate on progressing and doing things that enrich my life, like watching my career grow and my relationships grow. That’s what gives me a wonderful sense of self.”
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