I was recently scrolling through my Facebook feed, browsing pics of friends and posts about wellness, when I came across an article titled “Three Inches Of Sideboob: On Preemptive Body-Shaming, The Phantom Gaze, And ‘A Little Too Much’ ”. I’m not exactly sure what made me decide to click on it. It was not the first time that I had heard of WANT, a project started by Katie Horwitch with the goal of creating positive shift and empowering women to drop negative self-talk. Maybe I had just finally hit that exposure tipping point where I had heard the project name so many times that I needed to find out for myself what the buzz was about. Or maybe the words “ body shaming” pulled me in, because what woman doesn’t struggle with this in one form or another? Whatever my reason for opening the article was, I’m so glad that I did, because Katie’s words struck me all the way to my core.
Her discussion of the catch-22 that women experience around body image, shame, and self-worth stirred up so much inside me and captured so many things that I have experienced, but have never really been able to put into words. I have always felt either too thin or (more often) not thin enough. I have never quite been able to find the right ratio of humility to confidence when it comes to my own appearance. And I have spent way too much of my life worrying about what others think of me. This became most salient for me once I finally decided to join the rest of my generation and create social media profiles.
Up until only a handful of years ago, I had managed to avoid social media entirely. No Facebook profile, no Instagram feed, and Twitter was an absolutely mind-boggling concept to me. But once I started writing for online publications, it became clear that understanding social media was an unavoidable part of the job, and in order to really understand the ever-evolving world of social media, I was going to have to be an active participant. So, I created profiles and began to dabble with posting. Awkwardly unsure of what I was supposed to be sharing on my feeds, I did what I saw other people doing and posted snippets of my life—pictures from hikes or sunset walks, moments from weddings and bachelorette parties, and images from events I was reviewing. But every time I posted a picture of myself, I would have a mini-panic attack. A knot would form in my stomach, I would question whether I should have posted that image of myself or really any image of myself at all, and a thin, little layer of shame would settle on my skin. Eventually, I started phasing my face out of my feeds, save for the occasional image promoting an event or brand I wanted to support. When I did post selfies, my face was often obscured by shadow or over-exposure and I was almost never looking directly into the camera. I look back on those photos now and it’s so clear to me how very scared I was of letting the world see me, of putting myself out there, fully and unapologetically.
I was perfectly happy staying “behind the scenes” of my own social media imagery until I had a coaching session with my friend and totally inspiring spirit, Jacki Carr. We were talking about my goals for my brand and she, in true Jacki Carr form, called me out on my conspicuous absence from my own feeds. As we discussed the possibility of bringing more of “me” into my brand, I realized how much I had been operating out of fear. Fear of being seen. Fear of being judged. Fear of being rejected, laughed at, or misunderstood. It’s really amazing how much inner conflict the simple act of posting a picture of yourself online can bring up, but there it all was. And to be honest, it’s still all there. It’s dissolving little by little, but I still feel uncomfortable when I post pictures of myself online. I still wonder how people view me and if there is someone (or many someones) out there judging me. And the truth is, there almost certainly are. And that’s none of my business.
My business is sharing my message with the world. My business is encouraging people to value their own wellness and make choices in their lives that support their very best selves. It’s to promote the idea of self-love and to do my very best to walk my talk. And sometimes, that means posting a selfie, not so people will like or “like” it, but to send the message to myself and to others that it’s okay to be seen. It’s okay to shine your light and not apologize or, in the words of Katie Horwitch, “dull [your] sparkle just to make someone else comfortable.” In fact, it’s not only okay, it’s 110% what this world needs.