Welcome back to another installment of Meet the Team Thursdays. We love how much you love this segment and can’t wait for you to meet our lovely ladies for today; Ebony Jane, Blythe Schaffer and Nicole Hill. As always, let us know what you think in the comments below and drop us a line with questions you may have for our ambassadors – they’re always happy to respond! Enjoy.
Talk us through your journey of self-love. Were there any stand-out moments? What were they and why?
Ebony Jane: I guess my journey started after starting therapy for depression and anxiety. I had always suffered a negative body image, since I was about 10 years old. I had always thought that I was the fat girl, and that no one would like me. I wasn’t sporty either, and growing up in a community that was all about sports didn’t help. After around 3 months into therapy, talking about my body image issues that came to light. I started to change my thinking about myself. It was small at first, just noticing the thoughts I was having and trying to challenge them. This was a stand out moment for me, the first time I challenged my negative thoughts by myself. From there on, it has been an upwards journey for my body acceptance. I started sharing my message on Instagram, as no one in my area did that sort of thing. And the more I did it, the better I felt about my body. The fact that I am now influencing my classmates, my teachers and my community makes me so so happy. I am continuing to learn about how to love my body even more, self care when I feel at my lowest and how to approach different people’s concerns that they raise to me. I am only very young, so I can not wait to see what my future body positive journey has for me.
Blythe Schaffer: My journey to self-love, like probably the majority of others, has been long, bumpy and not always clear. Reflecting back on my childhood, I was always a “chubby” kid – even when I played touch football, rugby union and swimming (all in grades 11 and 12 in high-school), I was still a little rounder and a little more robust than my teammates. The thing that drove me to be me, was my mother. Although she was an eating disorder sufferer, and put ungodly pressures on herself to look a certain way and BE a certain way, she ALWAYS accepted me as I was. There were times that she would make comments to me that still haunt me to this day (“buddha belly” was one that I still think about), but I know that this wasn’t her speaking, it was the illness. I have always felt a little uncomfortable in the way I look, and I think to a degree everyone feels that way, but the difference for me is that I have never let it dictate what I know I am capable of doing (or wearing!). When the mainstream media is saturated with stereotypically beautiful thin, caucasian, tall, tanned women, I have never felt that looking like them would enable to me be more or do more. I think when I started realising that I am just as capable with my body as they are with theirs, that is when the penny dropped so to speak. I didn’t need to look a certain way to be happy and achieve my goals. To feel and think like that is liberating. Looking at another woman and just knowing that she is completely different to me, and I to her, is empowering to both of us.
Nicole Hill: My journey towards self-love began 2.5 years ago. I struggled with negative body image as a teenager and through most of my early twenties. After years of being bullied for my weight, I thought the key to self acceptance would be to live in a ‘thinner’ body. I struggled with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating in my early twenties. This went on for several years until i found bodybuilding. Lifting is what i believe saved my life because it taught me strength and determination. The one thing it did not teach me was self acceptance. In 2015, I competed in a fitness competition and found myself in another very dark period after my show. I was the thinnest and fittest I had ever been and i still ‘hated’ my body. This was my turning point, more so my wake-up call. This is when I promised myself I would dedicate my journey towards learning to love my body from the inside out, and I would learn to rediscover the beautiful soul that had been hidden for so long.
If there was one thing you could express to all the people currently coping with an eating disorder, what would you say?
EJ: I personally haven’t suffered an eating disorder, but disordered eating that came along with anxiety and depression. I know how it feels to be controlled by your own thoughts, and as scary and horrible as they are. They are just thoughts. And they will continue to be just thoughts unless you act on them. It is the hardest thing in the world to have to face your own mind every day. But every day you continue to seek help and challenge these thoughts. You are going to be one step closer to recovery. Never put a time frame on yourself for recovery, let the ups and downs go through and remember that you will always, always have people that love, care and are here to support you. Kudos to you for reaching out for help, and of you are thinking about getting help. It is the best thing you will ever do. Trust me.
BS: I have never suffered from an eating disorder, so unfortunately I cannot comment. I lived with a mother with an eating disorder (although we never discussed it). Self-harm has such stigma attached to it. It is viewed as a teenage or young adult problem, when really it is more complex than that. It can be viewed as ‘attention seeking behaviour’ which only perpetrates the problem. It is a coping mechanism that is used by people who have trouble regulating their emotions. Someone who is actively self-harming is very secretive. In 2016 I was dealing with self-harm on a daily basis. I would hurt myself, feel guilty for it, and then hurt some more – and so the cycle went. I went to every effort to conceal the issue from everyone around me which is ultimately pointless as you cannot receive help for something that no one knows about. If I could send one message to someone who is actively self-harming, it would be this; you are not your thoughts, you CAN recover from this, and you are not a bad person for not being able to deal with things the same way as most people.
NH: Even on the darkest of days, you are never EVER alone. We are all out there living in this great big world and fighting the same battle day in and out. We get through the dark days together and celebrate any victory no matter how big or small.
Putting yourself out there on social media is no easy feat. What gave you the inspiration to build such a strong presence on platforms such as Instagram?
EJ: I guess Instagram was the only photo sharing website/social media I had heard of when I first started posting photos. But my main motivator is my community. We don’t have another person promoting a positive body image on social media and at school. So, trying to reach out to them is very important, because as I’ve discovered, a lot of people were hiding insecurities. I also do it for me, I love fashion and expressing myself through clothing, and promoting a good body image. So combining two of my passions was a big motivator. I am still learning how to deal with criticism as my following continues to grow, but I always can turn to my fellow ambassadors for help.
BS: When I was in the midst of my mental illness, I would scroll and scroll and scroll searching for someone who has recovered from self-harm. Someone who was living a day to day life with the brunt of their illness on the outside like I was. I found very little. The majority of content that features self-harm on Instagram is graphic and from what I could see, were people still actively self-harming. I didn’t want this to be the only thing that people who were trying to recover could see, so i decided that I would put myself out there, so that in the future if someone like myself was looking for healthy answers, they could find them. I want to show people that it absolutely is possible to recover from self-harm. It is possible to recover from depression and regain your life, and that it is possible to recover from both depression and self-harm and still love yourself and your body even after all it has been through.
NH: When I dedicated my journey towards self love and body acceptance, I started discovering other body positive accounts on social media. These fellow badass boss babes helped me tremendously in the beginning of my journey. I knew i wanted to share my story and give back in the same way that they helped me. I encourage everyone to share their story.
When you’re dealing with thoughts that aren’t body-positive, what do you do?
EJ: *TRIGGER WARNING* When dealing with negative thoughts, I take it back to basic self care. I feel doing normal things helps distract my brain from wandering off or me hurting myself. I have had self harm as my only coping method for around a year when my head gets flooded with negative thoughts. So, nothing like that tumblr bullshit about bath bombs and facials. I like to have a healthy meal, take a warm shower and get a good night’s rest. Another tool I use is going to body positive pages and just scrolling through their feeds and trying to take in what the caption/image is saying to me. Talking about how I am feeling is very important too, as I find a good coping method is to let everything out and not bottle it up.
BS: We all have days that we don’t feel our best, that is a given and it is part of life. The best thing I can do when I’m feeling like this, is feel the emotions, recognise them, and do some reflection to maybe try to understand why I feel this way. Maybe it is too much scrolling through social media? Maybe I saw someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and it made me wonder what they thought about me? These are all common mindsets that I get stuck in. When I recognise these thought patterns, I sit myself down and give myself a wee pep talk, remind myself that I am myself, they are their own person and we are all unique in our own ways and that is what is beautiful. I try to remind myself that I am more than what I look like, and at the end of the day what matters is how I treat myself and how i treat others. Our worlds become so much bigger and brighter once we realise that what we look like isn’t the most important thing.
NH: Honestly, some days are still a struggle. I have learned the single best thing i can do for myself is let myself feel. I try and question my feelings and figure out the root behind those feelings. I am also very open about my feelings and i strive to talk about them versus holding them in.
What is one change you’ve made in your life that has greatly helped you on your journey to body-positivity?
EJ: One change I have made in my life is probably challenging negative thoughts. I learnt how to do this in therapy and I find it can be applied to all aspects of life. When I am feeling down or my thoughts are turning dark, by challenging them, it has enabled me to continue to feel good about my body. Of course, like anything, this doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it has made a huge impact on my life.
BS: I no longer care what size clothes I buy. I buy clothes that fit ME, not try to change myself to fit my clothes. That really opens up a lot of doors to just buy the damn thing that you want. So often I would not buy something because I didn’t want to buy the next size up- how absurd is that?!? Not anymore, not thanks to NAM!
NH: I let go of the concept of ‘numbers’. My entire life was centered around numbers in terms of food and weight. I always thought I needed to hit some ‘number’ to be happy. Since letting go of the scale and counting any sort of calorie, I have truly been able to focus on loving my body for what it is today.
Do you have a body-positive mantra? And if not, what would your mantra be?
EJ: My body positive mantra is probably I am me, and I do not need to apologise for that. For majority of my life, I have felt I need to apologise for my size, for the space I take up. Now I realise that I don’t need to do that.
BS: I have lots of little mantras I tell myself for different things, but the one that I say to myself often is “no one will care what size clothes you wore when they’re at your funeral”.. I know it is kinda grim, but thats me! I have a dark sense of humour and it applies to all aspects of my life. When I die, I KNOW people aren’t going to remember me for what that tiny tag on the back of my shorts said, so why give it any further thought now!? I want to be remembered as someone who was passionate, caring, fun and unique. Wow, I sound like I am writing my own obituary haha! To me that mantra is just about living for now, enjoying the small things in life and not giving too much thought about our physical looks – at the end of the day it is what you say and do and how you are with people that will make life enjoyable and fulfilling.
And there you have it NAM warriors, our ambassadors in all their body-positive, no-f*cks-to-give-glory! To stay up to date with Ebony, Blythe and Nicole, follow them on their social media handles (on Instagram: @ebonyjcoe, @becoming_blythe and @nikkin_25 respectively).
Until next time beauties, stay strong, stay happy and stay hopeful.
Team NAM xx