“Acting As If…”: Inspiration from Body Confidence Queen Michelle Elman

Hello, my computer cuties!

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching YouTube (as I often do), and I came across a video that really inspired me. It was by Michelle Elman, a body confidence coach who is perhaps best known for her two very popular Instagram accounts (@bodypositivememes & @scarrednotscared). She also has a YouTube channel, where she discusses everything from body positivity to therapy to dating. In this particular video, she talks about how to build up your confidence.

Self-confidence is something I’ve thought a lot about in my own life this year, and I feel like I’ve reached a personal turning point. I have built a foundation of confidence that I didn’t quite have befeore. But there was one concept she explained in the video that put to words something I’d thought about before but never been able to succinctly articulate. The idea is “acting as if,” or acting as if the things you want to be true already are. As Michelle explains, it’s a different take on the commonly-used phrase “fake it till you make it.” Watch the video below to hear her explain it more fully: 

I think the reason this idea resonated so strongly with me at this moment in time is that a lot of the pieces of my life feel like they’re in flux right now.  I’m not quite where I want to be, nor am I content staying where I’ve been. I’m on the move, so to speak, and that’s a good thing. But of course, uncertainty and putting yourself out there can be a little scary, to say the least. 

What I struggle with sometimes is not knowing right away how things are going to turn out. Patience may be a virtue, but it’s never been one of my strengths. Some things I can be more zen about than others. I have wholly accepted that writing a book is a long-distance journey, mostly uphill (but one that I can take in my PJs, so that’s cool). Plus, I keep in mind what Cheryl Strayed, my favorite author, said in a letter to her younger self: “Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.” 

The arena where I struggle with this the most is dating (perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s also the topic I’ve written least about). If writing a book is a mostly straight, uphill path, then dating is a multi-level obstacle course, where you learn the rules as you go. One day you’re blushing from a text you’ll read more than once, and another you’re trying to crack the code on what when wrong. It’s a lot. I know it’s worth it, but it’s a lot.

And since dating is an area of my life that feels less in my control—not to say I don’t have a say, but relationships are dependent upon not only the other person, but a lot of things that are hard to articulate—being patient is harder. I’m ready already. It’s not even so much that I need to start the chapter of building a relationship with my life partner right now, I just need to know that it’s coming. I don’t even need to know the birthdate, I just want to know that it exists. So maybe I can chill out a little bit. 

That’s where Michelle’s words struck me. I’ve thought a lot before about how I would act if I did know.  Would I relax a little more? Embrace this chapter of my life as not limbo or purgatory, but a wholly worthychapter of its own? Because honestly, it really isn’t a bad one at all. Sure,there are a lot of loose ends in my life that I’m attempting to string up, but all in all, I’m happy. Like today, for example. I am in my oversized Cookie Monster shirt and favorite PJ pants,and I probably won’t change unless I decide to venture out to Whole Foods (one of my favorite treat-yourself places). I am in the pink office I designed exactly for myself, and I’m chipping away at my goals. I’ve reached a point in my life where I recognize how much I enjoy my own company. I may not know exactly where the various paths of my life will lead, but I’m choosing to move boldly forward on them anyway, and that’s what matters.

So I am going to write Michelle’s advice on my heart. I am going to “act as if” the future I imagine already exists, I just haven’t arrived yet. And with that, I’m going to make more of an effort to enjoy the journey. When I was a 17-year-old who was just beginning to write and working her first job at Panera. I remember looking at my little aproned reflection in the bakery window and thinking how very few people knew all that I envisioned doing someday. I felt the excitment of what it would be like, as those dreams began to come true, to look back at that moment when everything was just beginning, and I was simply a bagel-slicing teenager with a lot of hope and confidence. I was happy in the now because I had faith in the future. As we head into 2019, I wish that sense of happiness and faith for me and for you. 

Actually, I don’t just wish it. I believe in it. 

xoxo

Marie

5 Empowering YouTubers to Follow

Hello Internet angels,

I spend a lot of time on YouTube. Like, a lot. Anytime I’m at home and doing something I find mildly boring—brushing my teeth, putting away dishes—I’m probably also watching people do stuff on the Internet. Putting on their makeup, testing out weird products, sharing their experiences with mental health or travel or just life in general. I’m not sure why I’m so into it, but I’m into it.

I’m working on an article regarding a famous family I’ve spent many hours watching (you can probably guess who I’m talking about!) and what it means to be a conscious consumer. I learned about that concept when I was in college and involved in the Eating Disorders Education & Prevention group on campus.

At the time, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) encouraged people to be “media watchdogs”—to be mindful about the media they consume and how it impacts them. Being a watchdog also means using your voice (and buying power) accordingly. We are presented with so many options about how we spend our entertainment hours (and dollars). It makes sense to stick with things that lift us up. All of us.

These YouTubers make me feel good, because they do their part to share stories and perspectives that aren’t always represented in traditional media. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I think it’s a good start.

Molly Burke

Molly is bubbly and charming and lives a life filled with adventures, sparkle, and a very sweet dog. She also happens to be blind. In addition to sharing typical lifestyle content on her channel—including fashion, hair makeovers, and  travel—she talks very openly about her experience with blindness. She challenges misconceptions, answers common questions, and tells her story. I think hearing the stories of others is a great way to build empathy, and I’m so grateful Molly is willing to share hers.

Jackie Aina

Jackie is so funny. She’s so funny! Not to mention her skills with a blending brush. But I especially admire that she is willing to use her platform to talk about the lack of diversity in makeup lines and the beauty community, and to challenge brands to do better. I’ll admit that untill too recently, I took for granted that as someone who enjoys makeup, I can walk into any Ulta or Sephora and find a ton of products that match my skin tone. Far too many people don’t have that experience. Of course, it’s not just about being able to buy a concealer; it’s about seeing your beauty reflected in the world around you. Jackie is doing her part to move our culture in the right direction.

Jessie Paege

The first thing I noticed about Jessie Paege is her really lovely, kind, gentle energy. I would love to meet her in person. While she does a lot of light-hearted, colorful, fun videos, I was drawn to her channel because of her videos about her experiences coming out as bisexual and dealing with social anxiety. Being as young as she is (at this time, she’s 19), she has a unique opportunity to connect with young people who are going through similar experiences as they grow up. I’m so glad she’s using it.

Niki DeMartino

Niki is one-half of the famous twin YouTube and music duo Niki and Gabi. They create a variety of fun videos for their joint channel, but I’ve been especially inspired by a series that Niki produces for her solo channel, called “The Truth About.” In each episode, she interviews a female YouTuber about a notable experience or challenge they’ve faced, from being in a public relationship to losing a parent. The conversations they have are incredibly candid, to the point where it feels like being let in on an intimate conversation between friends.

Nabela Noor

While working on this list, I realized I wanted to include a YouTuber who creates a significant amount of content on body image. I was going to feature Bodyposipanda, but I have already shared my love for her on a variety of platforms, so I decided to keep searching. In one article, I came across Nabela Noor. On her channel, she does makeup tutorials and plus-size fashion hauls, in addition to discussing body image and her culture (she’s a Muslim Bangladeshi-American woman). She recently released a series called “The Bright Fight” about beauty standards and self-confidence that I really enjoyed.

Who else should be added to this list? Please share in the comments below!

Xoxo

Marie

Soft Bellies & Hashtags: The Good Side of Social Media

Hello, Internet darlings!

Social media can sometimes be a dark, negative place. Obvious, stated. As easy as it is to scroll down into an Instagram or Twitter hole and not come up for hours, I think we all know that may not always be the best thing for ourselves or our time. Research on the impact of social media on our mental well-being is a growing field, but there’s still so much to be explored as the digital landscape grows and morphs.

But as you can very well tell from the title, I’m not here to get into the negatives. One of the most exciting things about social media, from my perspective, is that creators and activists can share their work without having to depend entirely upon traditional media sources. In particular, I’ve been interested in and excited by the images you can find on social media, which help fill in the diversity gap that still exists in more traditional outlets. Don’t get me wrong—traditional media sources, from advertisements to magazines to television shows, are making improvements. Fenty Beauty made headlines at its launch last year not only because of its celebrity creator, but because it celebrated diversity at every step, from its product range to the accompanying campaign images. But for every big step forward, we still have a loooong way to go. Thankfully, activists and creators are stepping up to the plate via social media. Let me introduce you to a couple of them.

Browsing Megan Jayne Crabbe’s Instagram account, @bodyposipanda, was my first foray into body positivity on social media. Growing up, Megan struggled with an eating disorder. Discovering the body positive community transformed her life, and she started her account to share what she’d learned. She uses her account to not only share quotes, illustrations, and reflections, but to make space for beautiful, loving photos of herself and other women. They are photos that may not find a place (yet!) in raditional media, but that deserve to be seen. (P.S. If after browsing Megan’s account you haven’t got enough, consider reading her fantastic book. I recommend it times one million.)

Another wonderful woman you should know is writer Keah Brown. Just over a year ago, Keah shared a few photos of herself on Twitter (see below!) with the tag #disabledandcute. As she told Teen Vogue, “I started it as a way to say I was proud of the growth that I made in learning to like myself and my body.” The hashtag took off, and other individuals with disabilities shared their own selfies and photos. People with disabilities are given hardly any space in entertainment and other media, and as Keah further explained, when they are, they are often turned into caricatures. With every selfie, #disabledandcute challenges those portrayals. (P.P.S. Keah has an upcoming book entitled The Pretty One, and I can’t wait for it to hit shelves).

At the end of the digital day, social media is what we make of it. If something makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow! But if you, like me, crave images that display diversity in beauty, they are out there. And they deserve a place in your feed.

xoxo

Marie

In the Media—Refinery29’s 67% Project

Hello lovelies,

I came across something awesome happening in Girl World this week, and I wanted to share it here in case you hadn’t heard about it yet. Refinery29—an awesome women’s website that features everything from cultural commentary to nail-art ideas—started an initiative called “The 67% Project.” The idea behind it is this: 67% of women in the U.S. identify as “plus-size,” wearing a size 14 or up in clothing. However, those same women are only represented in 1-2% of images in the media. Here’s how Refinery29 is addressing this problem through the initiative, in their own words:

“During the launch week, 67% of the bodies you see on our site, in our newsletter, and on our Instagram and Snapchat channels will be plus-size. To do this, we’ve made significant changes within Refinery29 to fully represent the 67% this week, and beyond. For the last six months, we’ve been shooting stock photography and redesigning illustrations to more accurately reflect the women who make up the majority of our country. And we’re partnering with Getty Images to make this collection available to other outlets that wish to join us in closing the representation gap.”

Refinery29.png

A sample from Refinery29’s homepage today, 10/2/16.

Browsing the site this week, I realized that every time I saw a photo of a plus-size woman, I immediately assumed that the article was about either plus-size fashion or body positivity, because often, that’s the only time plus-size women appear in women’s publications or media. However, that wasn’t the case on Refinery29 this week; images of plus-size women appeared alongside a variety of articles, from “3 Health Benefits Of Being Nice” (pictured above)to “31 Days Of Halloween Beauty Inspiration.” Refinery29 is treating these women not as a niche but as the norm—because that’s what they are.

Though the launch week of The 67% Project ends today, I’m excited to see where Refinery29 goes from here. Beauty in the real world is incredibly diverse, and having media that reflects that diversity is good for all of us. I am thankful that Refinery29 has taken this big step in the right direction.

Read more about The 67% Project here.

xoxo

Marie

5 Reasons to Check Out Alessia Cara (if You Haven’t Already)

Hey,

One of my goals, when I started this blog, was to not just share Alessia Caramy thoughts and what I’m up to, but also other parts of girl culture—including girls and young women who are creating and doing awesome stuff. With that, I want to highlight a singer I’ve recently become obsessed with: Alessia Cara. You very likely have heard her debut single “Here”—the oh-my-gosh-I-shouldn’t-have-come-to-this-party anthem—on the radio, but if you haven’t listened to the rest of her debut album Know-It-All yet, I implore you to do so. If you need more convincing on why you should get to know this 19-year-old singer-songwriter, here are 5 reasons to check her out:

1.) Her voice is uh-mazingI could try to sell you on it, or you could just here it for yourself. Press play below:

Before writing and performing her own music, Alessia posted acoustic covers on YouTube. They’re still available on her channel and worth a listen!

2.) Her lyrics are unique yet relatable. Alongside her co-writer Sebastian Kole, Alessia began writing her debut album after school, while she was still in high school, and her unique perspective and personality shows through the entire thing. In this awesome interview with Taylor Swift, she explains that the title of the album comes from a line in her song “Seventeen”: “I’m a know-it-all, I don’t know enough.” She explains that the concept—which for me, definitely describes my experience of life—comes up in one way or another in each song on the album. “Four Pink Walls” is one of my favorites, and it describes her experience of growing up and having big dreams, but never really believing they’d come to life outside her mind and bedroom . . . until, one day, they did. “I’m Yours”—one of my favorite songs, period—is the love song of a transforming cynic: “Oh, how rude of you/To ruin my miserable/And tell me I’m beautiful/Cause I wasn’t looking for love, no.”

My favorite thing about writing, in music or print, is when someone can put into words an experience you’ve had (or want to have) in a way that really rings true. Finding songs or books or essays that do that is a really good feeling, and for me, Alessia’s music is one of those finds. I imagine it has been and will be for others, too.

3.) She is confident in her unique self and wants to show that you can be successful by being yourself. 

I love Alessia’s music, and though I haven’t met her, from everything I know I like her as a human, too. In all her performances, Alessia keeps her style laid-back, especially in comparison to other pop singers. When Cosmo asked her if that was important to her, she had this to say:

“All I’m really good at is making music and singing and doing this. I’m not good at fashion, so I don’t see a point in trying to be good at that. It’s important to show that there’s different ways of doing things. Some people like to be glamorous and that’s perfectly fine and that’s amazing. If I were that style, then I would do that. I’d wear heels every day and I’d strut around in a dress, but that’s not me. I’m not saying that anything other than what I do is wrong; I’m just trying to show people that there’s another side of it. It’s not only a one-sided thing. You don’t have to do that to be a star. You can do anything and be a star. You can dress like however you want, and you can do whatever you want. If you wanna wear meat suits like Lady Gaga, good. She’s freaking amazing! She’s doing that and she’s unbelievable. I can wear T-shirts and still be great too. So that’s just what I’m proving to people.” 

I love that, because the concept extends beyond fashion. There’s not one right way to do things; the only “right” is the one you have to live your life, from the clothes you wear to the dreams you pursue, in a way that is comfortable and genuine to you.

4.) She’s funny. 

She wouldn’t have to be—for me to be a fan, I mean—but she is. When Cuddle Buddy, her stuffed animal, “ran away,” she made a Twitter account to help find him. She’s on tour right now, and every week she posts a vlog, each of which includes awesome behind-the-scenes content but also major silliness. Check out her vlog from Week 3 of the tour below to see what I mean:

5.) Her most recent music video stars her and four of her friends. 

And if that isn’t living the dream, I don’t know what is. Watch below:

xoxo

Marie

Celebrities Who Use Their Fame-Power for Good

Caitlyn Jenner Vanity FairToday is a very big day in Pop Culture Land: the Vanity Fair issue with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover hit newsstands.  The cover made the internet rounds last week, so I’m sure by now you’ve seen it, as well as commentary on it from many a source.  Admittedly, I’m pretty selective as far as what comes up in my various feeds (the internet can bring you down, man!), but the vast majority of what I’ve read regarding Caitlyn’s cover story has been supportive.  Many have been cheering her on for not only making the change she felt she needed, but also for being open about her story in the hopes of helping others.  Watching all this unfold sparked me to reflect on some of my other favorite celebrities who attempt to use their fame-power for good.  Today seemed like a great day to acknowledge them.

Instagram: @ddlovato
Instagram: @ddlovato

One of my absolute favorites is Demi Lovato.  Over the past few years she has become an outspoken advocate for mental health.  In a number of interviews – including this beautiful recent on HuffPost Live – she has opened up about her own struggles with bipolar disorder, addiction, and eating disorders.  She often uses her well-followed social media accounts to speak out on relevant cultural issues.  Above and beyond all that, though, she’s teamed up with a few organizations that support mental health:  she created the Lovato Scholarship with CAST to help those who need mental health treatment access it, and she has also partnered with Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health to educate individuals on how to access mental health care for themselves and advance it within the community.  I admire Demi because she goes all out for what she believes in.

Instagram: @taylorswift
Instagram: @taylorswift

Taylor Swift, my favorite musician of all time, has taken the top spot of DoSomething.org’s “Celebs Gone Good” list for the past three years.  Part of what makers her so “good” is her commitment to donating to charity.  She’s even donated her music, so to speak; all the proceeds of “Welcome to New York” go to the NY public school system, and all the proceeds from “Ronan” are donated to cancer charities.  One of the things I enjoy about Taylor most, however, is how far she goes to connect with her fans.  There were the 1989 secret sessions.  Then there was Swiftmas.  Best of all, though, are the times she reaches out to fans on social media that are going through something, be it a bad breakup or even the death of a parent.  Taylor certainly has a knack for returning the adoration to her most devoted fans.

Instagram: @zendaya [Yes, that is her senior portrait, and I love it.]
Instagram: @zendaya [Yes, that is her senior portrait, and I love it.]
Last, but not at all least, one celebrity who has been on my radar lately is Zendaya.  That girl is so smart, and she’s not afraid (or doesn’t appear to be!) to speak her mind.  Most recently, she took to social media to say a few words about makeup (and the right we each have to wear it or not).  But what really struck me was her eloquent and intelligent response to an offensive joke made by the “Fashion Police.”  She could’ve just snapped back, but instead she used the opportunity to educate – and ultimately, forgive.  She seems to be the type of person who turns “bad” things into opportunities, and I admire that.

Here’s the thing:  it’s entirely reasonable to be skeptical of celebrities, even when they’re doing good.  The celebrity world is a very fun one to observe, but it’s also meticulously crafted, and at times, fake.  So it’s healthy to take it in with a proverbial grain of salt.

But beyond that initial side-glance, I have a few thoughts on the matter.  My first is, I get it.  No, I’m not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.  But when I first started writing, I had two driving impulses.  The first one, the initial spark, was that I wanted to write things that would help people the way things I’d read helped me.  The second was, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if my stuff reached lots and lots of people?  If in the process of helping others, I made a name for myself as well?  And that’s the reality.  I don’t think impulse #2 takes away from the good of what I’m trying to do.  If anything, it’s become a good checkpoint:  am I writing this because it’s a message I believe in, or primarily because I think it’s very social-media-sharable?  And I think, or would like to believe, that for celebrities like the ones I’ve mentioned, the sentiment is fundamentally similar.  In fact, Caitlyn Jenner has already addressed potential skeptics head-on:

“I’m not doing it for the money.  I’m doing it to help my soul and help other people.  If I can make a dollar, I certainly am not stupid.  [I have] house payments and all that kind of stuff.  I will never make an excuse for something like that.  Yeah, this is a business.  You don’t go out and change your gender for a television show.  O.K., it ain’t happening.  I don’t care who you are.”

Perhaps I am overly optimistic.  Even if that’s the case, my next thought is this:  doing good is doing good is doing good.  If someone reads Caitlyn’s story, or watches one of Demi’s interview, and feels more educated or prepared to fight their own battles, great!  If a Disney Channel fan follows Zendaya on Instagram, and feels inspired to speak up for themselves the way she does, awesome!  And I have no doubt that tears and happy dances have been the direct result of Taylor reaching out to her fans.  If celebrities get a publicity boost from their do-good endeavors, that’s fine.  We can always use more good in the world, so whatever motivates someone – celebrity or not – to go out there and provide it, well, I’m all for it.

xoxo

Marie

Facebook Removes “Feeling Fat” as a Status Update Option

You guys may already know this, but about a week ago, Facebook removed “feeling fat” from its status update “feeling” emoticon options.  This was sparked by a Change.org petition written by Catherine Weingarten anFacebook feelingsd the local-global initiative Endangered Bodies.  You can view the full petition (and Facebook’s response) here.

Part of the argument for the change was that such a status update makes fun of people who are overweight or have eating disorders, but the more important part, in my opinion, is that fat is not a feeling.  Because it’s not.  I used to think so, until I read Jess Weiner’s amazing book (which I will reference over and over again on this blog, so get used to it!) Do I Look Fat in This?:  Life Doesn’t Begin Five Pounds from NowThe reality is that “feeling fat” is always a cover-up for another feeling.  Perhaps you’re disappointed in yourself for not working out, so you say “I feel fat.”  Maybe you’re sad that someone you care about or admire rejected you, so you say, “I feel fat.”  The underlying emotions are a bit scarier to reveal, because doing so would make us vulnerable.

I know what it’s like to blame problems or negative emotions on feeling/being fat, uncool, or ugly.  The reality is, however, that when I was blaming my problems on surface-level descriptors, I wasn’t facing the real problem:  I was too insecure to believe I deserved happiness, and therefore, I wasn’t seeking it out.

I’m so glad Facebook removed the “feeling fat” emoticon option, but the more important result of this petition is the conversations it has started.  Fat is not a feeling, nor is it as scary as we make it out to be.  (Believe me, I’ve been all over the spectrum, weight-wise, and there is no direct correlation between thinness and Good Things.)  Personally, I’d love to see Facebook remove “feeling stupid” and “feeling ugly,” because I think they are similarly problematic.  Ultimately, however, I hope we become more comfortable with feelings – and fat – so that we don’t need to rely on superficial, problematic correlations.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your opinions on the Facebook change as well as the larger issue of fat as a feeling (or not).

xoxo

Marie