“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

Writing for BuzzFeed: “5 Books to Guide You on Your Body Image Journey”

Hello, my digital cuties!

I wanted to share my most recent publication with you. I wrote an article for BuzzFeed entitled “5 Books to Guide You on Your Body Image Journey.” It’s mostly exactly what it sounds like! But it’s also about why books are so important to me, and how they helped me find my way in life at a very critical juncture. 5 Body Image BooksWriting this article was a test in perseverance. I actually started working on it months ago. Granted, I got a little bit distracted by life for a while. I don’t like that I do that, but sometimes I do. When I came back to working on it, I found myself struggling to move forward. I liked the introduction I had originally written—that stayed mostly intact for the final version—but I got stuck on the descriptions of the books. I found myself delaying writing them, and then when I did write a couple of them, I didn’t feel anymore confident about where the piece was headed.

But I kept showing up, and I finally realized what wasn’t working for me: the book blurbs I had written were kind of boring. I felt so passionate about the books I chose and the authors who wrote them, but that was not coming across on the page. I had written the book descriptions the way I thought I “should”—in second person,  focusing solely on the subject matter of the book. Basically, my own miniaturized version of Amazon summaries. It hadn’t occured to me to do them differently. In part, I was just going off the many other book lists I’ve read. I also wanted to let the books stand on their own, and for readers to get a clear sense of what they’re about, so they could decide if they wanted to read them.

But realizing what wasn’t working for me opened up room for new idea. Since my introduction was so personal, more than usual when I write an article like this—it actually made all the sense in the world to be more personal in the descriptions as well, and share how each book impacted me in the moment they came into my life. Once I figured that out, I suddenly had all this momentum. I was able to finish up the article pretty quickly, and I was proud of how it turned out.

Which is all to say that this experience is a good reminder of what I have learned to be true over the course of my writing career: you just have to keep showing up. When you’re working towards a goal, sometimes progress feels slow, or the solution to a problem might not be immediately apparent. But if you meet that resistance with persistence, you will get where you’re trying to go. I wholeheartedly believe that.

If you’re looking for a new read or interested in becoming more educated on body image and related issues, check out the article. And if you’re moving, climbing, (sometimes) trudging towards a goal, just know that I’m right there with you.

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

“Never Leave Yourself”: Western Media and Body Image in Fiji and San Andrés, Belize

Hello, Internet darlings!

Palm Trees
Photo by Sang Huynh on Unsplash

I apologize for my digital absence in recent months. I have been devoting my writing time to putting together a book proposal (!!!) for a book I would like to write and have published someday. Along the way, I have come across some really interesting research, and I wanted to share what I found with you.

One of the topics I have been investigating is body image. Each person’s body image (how you see yourself and how you feel in and about your body) is influenced by a variety of factors, and each person’s experience with body image is unique. However, media is often cited as having a powerful—and negative—influence on an individual’s body image.

A commonly referenced study, when discussing the negative influence of media on body image, is one that occurred on the island of Fiji. In 1995, television was introduced to the island, and with it came Western television shows, like “Beverly Hills 90210.” Fijian culture had traditionally valued and encouraged hearty appetites and “robust” body shapes.  Dieting was considered to be rare. However, three years after television had been introduced, 69% of the teen girls in the study had reported dieting to lose weight at some point, and 74% reported they felt “too big or fat” at least sometimes. This was perceived to be a major change, and Western television seemed to be part of the cause. You can read more about that research here and here.

My interest in the Fiji research led to to a related study that occurred in San Andrés, Belize. Similar to Fiji, San Andrés newly had an influx of U.S.-made media at the time of the study. What’s more, female beauty was highly valued in the culture; beauty pageants played a central role in the community. However, eating disordered behavior and attitudes were relatively rare. Why was that?

The researcher believed that part of the reasons girls in San Andrés were able to take in the media without being negatively impacted by it was a concept passed down by the older generation of women that in English translates to “Never Leave Yourself.” What that means is you protect and look out for yourself; you do not “leave yourself” by doing something—or letting someone do something to you—that is not good for you. While the concept was likely originally used in regards to unwanted sexual contact, the younger generation of girls had broadened it to include general self-care and protection. The researcher explained that in regards to food and body, “Not leaving—and further caring for—the self required eating when hungry, stopping when full, sleeping when tired, and not over-exerting oneself in exercise . . . These criteria for protecting and caring for the self were notably monitored by internal experience, not external measurements.” Meaning, the girls generally listened to their own bodies regarding what they needed, as opposed to being guided outside sources, such as diet advice or media imagery. In fact, since most girls were so in touch with their bodies’ needs, they tended to find the concept of eating disorders “almost incomprehensible.” You can read more about this research, including direct quotes from the girls, here.

This is not to say that the girls of San Andrés were without any challenges, including in the arena of body image. Unfortunately, at the time of the study there was a developing expectation of thinness among employees in the tourism industry, and its possible that such a standard could have an increasingly negative impact on girls’ attitudes and behaviors regarding their bodies as the industry grows. However, it appears that their guiding philosophy, of never leaving yourself, had generally protected them from the potential negative impact of Western media.

it’s so, so valuable to learn about other cultures, including how people in those cultures handle issues we all deal with. I think we sometimes take for granted that media is going to have a negative impact on the way we feel about our bodies until drastic changes in what is presented to us are made (if they are made). But these girls have shown that there is another possibility, for which I am incredibly grateful.

xoxo

Marie

12 Quotes to Guide You on Your Body Image Journey

We all have bodies. Me, you, that person over there reading that other blog. That much is clear-cut. But for at least some of us, that’s about as straightforward as it gets. Having a body, and living life in said body, can be weirdly complicated.

Kari Shea Flower Reflection.jpg
Photo by Kari Shea

My struggles with having a body have revolved around weight and appearance, or rather, my beliefs about those things. Starting around the time I left elementary school, I became convinced that I needed to be thinner to be popular to be happy. Unsurprisingly, that belief had a negative impact on how I treated and felt about myself, body included.

Thankfully, I now know how very wrong I was, about all of it. But still, living in a world where we’re bombarded with images of women’s bodies and messages about them (often not from the woman herself), it’s hard not to feel, at the very least, a little weird about being in your own living, breathing, changing, 3D body. I am at a place where I want to develop a healthy relationship with mine. Where it no longer feels like a strange, sometimes annoying attachment to my brain, and just . . . . feels good. And like me. At least most of the time.

The best thing I have figured out so far is to simply commit, over and over again, to the exploration of what makes me feel whole, good, and like myself. As part of this process, I decided to seek out (and share with you) wonderful words from wise women on beauty and having a body. Some of these quotes are long and can be referred back to as needed, and some are short, so you can repeat them back to yourself in a moment where you need them. To change the soundtrack, if you will. Hopefully, at least one will resonate with you and help you on your own journey.

“People often say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” – Salma Hayek

“I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her skin.” – Sandra Cisneros

“I felt free once I realized I was never going to fit the narrow mold that society wanted me to fit in.”– Ashley Graham

“You’re a human being—you live once and life is wonderful, so eat the damn red velvet cupcake.” – Emma Stone

“Everybody has a part of her body that she doesn’t like, but I’ve stopped complaining about mine because I don’t want to critique nature’s handiwork . . . My job is simply to allow the light to shine out of the masterpiece.” – Alfre Woodard

“I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story. I will.” – Amy Schumer

“Someone recently asked if I had any dieting tips for other teenage girls. Try and reverse that. ‘Do you have any dieting tips for other teenage boys?’ . . . I mean, come on. I don’t diet! I’m thirteen! Nobody my age should be dieting or trying to change themselves because society says so. And seriously, I’m thirteen!” – Rowan Blanchard

“Body acceptance means, as much as possible, approving of and loving your body, despite its ‘imperfections,’ real or perceived. That means accepting that your body is fatter than some others, or thinner than some others, that your eyes are a little crooked, that you have a disability that makes walking difficult, that you have health concerns that you have to deal with — but that all of that doesn’t mean that you need to be ashamed of your body or try to change it. Body acceptance allows for the fact that there is a diversity of bodies in the world, and that there’s no wrong way to have one.” – Golda Poretsky

“I’m not going to sacrifice my mental health to have the perfect body.” – Demi Lovato

“. . . my mother again would say to me, ‘You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.’ And these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What does sustain us . . . what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.” – Lupita Nyong’o

“If I wasn’t five-foot, I wouldn’t be who I am! My size is a huge part of me. You just have to appreciate those kinds of things. So I wasn’t born with long legs—who cares. You just have to embrace it. Being body positive is really important to your overall happiness.”– Sabrina Carpenter

“It’s important with all of the messages that might tell you otherwise that you have that in yourself to say that ‘I am beautiful. I am smart and I’m amazing.’” – Laverne Cox

If you have any favorite quotes—on body image or anything else!—please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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