"So because you have scars, it means you're suddenly strong? God some people are such a joke lol."
**If you haven't seen my post about the hashtag I started #scarredandstronger, you can find it here. It may help give a bit of context to my blog below.
Those comments above are just a few of the not so nice comments I received after I posted this photo the other day on my Instagram. It got over 4,500 likes which still baffles me, some of the nicest comments and messages from complete strangers, with a few not so nice remarks.
Now, I want to talk about this, because my scars are actually the reason I became a Body Positive Coach. I struggled with them for so many years, in FEAR that people would say things like this to me. Now, this never really happened in my situation. Yes, I did have people stare at them, but no one blatantly came up to me and said something nasty. But when you put yourself out there on social media apparently that's bound to happen.
I ended up blocking both of these guys, just because I didn't want them to be able to contact me at all. Unfortunately comments delete when you block someone. (That may seem incredibly obvious but I've never blocked anyone; I'm new to this!) I was actually upset that those comments deleted. As positive of a page I'm trying to promote, I think it's important to share that when you put yourself out there and show your scars, internal or external, sometimes it might not be such a positive experience.
I would be lying if I said I didn't feel anything when I read those two comments. The "ugly woman" one confused me; he left a few comments after and he was a bit all over the place. The one about how I'm essentially a joke pissed me off. Maybe if the guy read into my story and learned that I fractured my f****** neck, am not only lucky to be alive but lucky to walk, then maybe he wouldn't call me a joke.
I wanted to write about these comments because when you're someone that has an experience anyway similar to mine (and yes I know there are lots of you because I've connected with you!), there is a strong probability something like this may very well happen. But don't let that deter you from putting yourself out there! Don't let those shitty people win.
So here's what I remind myself when comments like this come up. Some people just SUCK. Yes, they suck. Many out there are great and the nicest people ever, but you need to remember that some people are going to intentionally say shitty things that are meant to hurt your feelings. Those people are the reason why many feel shame and embarrassment from scars on their body, scars internally, injuries they've had or trauma they've experienced. I mean hey, it's why I did for years. I was in fear that I would receive some comment like that.
From coaching I've become really intuitive and have a stronger understanding about why people do the things that they do or say the things they say. Those people that say shitty things like that, deep down, are unhappy in some way in their own life. Whether they would admit it or not it's true. When people don't like something about someone, it's because that person is a mirror some way in their own life. For example, that guy that told me I'm a joke, that comment would usually make someone feel shame. I can assure you that guy is experiencing shame in some aspect of his life.(A lot of us do) Or the guy that told me I'm an ugly woman, maybe he feels like he is an ugly person in some way, whether it is physically or internally.
My top tips on how to deal:
1.) Remember that not everyone will be nice
2.) Remind yourself that it has nothing to do with you, and more to do about that person. They are unhappy with their life in some way and they are trying to make themselves feel better, stronger, more secure etc.
3.) Try and talk to someone that will GET what you're going through - this one is HARD. Family and friends are definitely a good outlet, but sometimes they don't always know what to say (unless they have a similar experience too). If possible, try and find people that you can talk to that have experienced something similar in their lives. Finding someone that understands what you're going through will really help. If you ever need me to be that person shoot me an email and let's talk some more.
I'm sure I will touch on this topic again so stay tuned. And remember you're #scarredandSTRONGER!
Next up on my interview is a friend of mine, Joanne (gofitjo). I met Jo over a year ago and immediately was drawn to her I got this mentality. I remember being at Wanderlust with Jo, asking her questions about how she got into her fitness journey. She was totally open and told me the story (you can find in the interview below), which really made me feel more connected to her. We had only met a few times, but I loved that she just laid it all out there. If you follow her on Instagram, you know that Jo is honest and open about the shit she is experiencing. (I've shed a few tears during her Instagram stories!)
I'm so grateful she said yes to being part of my influencer blog series and am so excited to share her interview.
Can you tell us the story of Jo. How has your relationship with your body and with yourself evolved?
The story of Jo can be a long one so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet! I became a mother at 21, which alongside with all the other challenges that motherhood and parenting have, comes the challenges of facing your body changing due to your pregnancy. I was like most women who undergo their first pregnancy. I rubbed all the creams and oils to try to keep my skin elastic through the changes of my body while my first was growing within me. My sister and mother didn’t have stretch marks so I thought I’d probably have the same luck. I remember the first time I saw them, I was in my final weeks of my pregnancy and I saw them after coming out of the shower. “SHIT!” I thought to myself, “I’ve got stretch marks!” My body didn’t concern me in the first year of being a new mom. I was more concerned about keeping my baby alive and making sure I had enough sleep as well as building my clientele as a new hairstylist. But as the years passed I realized my body wasn’t changing. To some degree I felt as if this young youthful body I was supposed to have in my 20s was taken from me because of early motherhood. Don’t get me wrong I’m so grateful for my kids, but having a child at 21 was definitely not in my plans. We made it work and our life is amazing because of it.
My husband and I got married and had our 2nd daughter. Life was grand, I “had it all”. A new career, a home over our head, a new dog, a husband, and two wonderful kids. However I was living in and out of depression for 18 months not understanding why. Until one day my eldest daughter and I were getting ready in her room and she said to me, “Mom, you’re so beautiful.” I quickly answered the same way girlfriends would talk to each other in a dressing room trying on clothes, “No I’m not. I’m ugly and fat.” The look on her face is one I’ll never forget. She turned and left the room. I had robbed every ounce of truth that she knew of this woman that in her eyes was a queen. It was that moment that I had realized I wasn’t happy with the person I was becoming. I was consumed with work, our photography business, and raising a family that I had forgotten to take care of myself, my mental and physical health, and quickly became out of shape. I wasn’t terribly overweight, but I was so out of shape that I couldn’t run after Olivia at the park who was two and a half at the time.
The relationship I have with my body is constantly evolving and growing. When I first started my fitness journey I said to myself that I wanted to become the healthiest version of me in my 30s both mind and body. This was the first time I had committed to a fitness goal that wasn’t defined by a number. In the past I would make goals around events like a vacation, my wedding, or to simply lose the 15lbs post baby weight. Those never seemed to work long term for me because I’d always find myself back and square one minus a few steps. I dedicated a lot of time and energy into my fitness journey the first 12 weeks. I was exhausted but so happy and thrilled that I was finally seeing and feeling results. I felt strong and I felt the best I had felt in a long time. I then went on to compete in several body building competitions because I thought to myself, “If I was able to do accomplish a goal I never thought I could, what would happen if I dedicated more energy into it, where could I go then?” This was pretty crazy for me because what it meant was me being judged by my aesthetics and physique on stage amongst other women while being tanned, glazed, and in an itty bitty bikini. Bikinis since I was 21 was a HARD NO for me because of the stretch marks. But something deep inside me wanted to see if I could overcome the fear and judgement I placed on myself.
In the past 4 years I’ve seen my body go through so many changes. From being heavy and overweight to being 14% body fat and leaner than I’ve been in my entire life. I’ve had to overcome recovery from surgery, shoulder injuries from work and stress, and learning how to break away from exercise addiction. In each stage I’ve had to learn to love my body in that present moment whether I was at my best aesthetically or feeling like I was in a major setback. Finding joy in each part has been the biggest learning lesson.
Could you talk about your stretch marks on your stomach? How did you start to embrace them?
For over 11 years I hated looking at them. Even during my fitness journey I thought to myself, “I’m working so hard in the gym, focusing on my nutrition as much as I can, and I’m still never going to look like some of these BBG moms who have perfect #morningabs.” Even during my competition training my abs were never as defined as others. My youngest daughter Olivia is the curious one. She speaks her mind, her feelings, and just wants to know everything in the world! It’s really quite incredible to be around her. One day as I was getting ready in my bathroom she came up to me and asked “Mommy, what are these marks?” referring to my stretch marks. I replied, “I got them from you and your sister, I call them my strength marks.” She replied, “Will they ever go away?”. I said, “No, baby they wont. They are my reminder to keep going for you and your sister. To never give up on my dreams because you’re watching.” That was when I finally embraced them. As the words came out of my mouth that day, I felt healing beginning to happen in my heart.
In life, we are surrounded by messages from the media and diet culture that we aren’t good enough. How do you navigate your way through those negative messages yourself? Does this impact how you parent?
To be honest, this one is a tough one. Trying to shut out the noise from media and diet culture can be super difficult especially as its shoved in our faces left and right through social media and traditional media outlets. I do feel that the message of body positivity, self love, self acceptance, and beauty standards are changing. You see so many of this movement happening online, in magazines, and even in major apparel brands. It’s such an amazing sight to see. However there are still moments where I don’t feel like I’m enough. They are few and far between but it does happen. When I’m going through something like that I face it head on. I ask myself why am I feeling this in the first place and almost go down a quick checklist of things to ask myself.
How do you combat negative self talk these days?
I try to shut it down as quickly as I can, but most important I refer to 5 self affirmations I wrote earlier this year when I need to lift my self up. In addition to trying to shut it down as quickly as I can, I pull back and do some self-distancing especially from what’s causing it in the first place.
What do you do for self-love?
Almost everything I do is a form of self love to a certain degree. The moment I became a mom I realized that my life was no longer fully mine. I had to share it with others who needed me most, but as I mentioned in earlier I never valued caring for myself until several years ago. I see forms of self love in how I put myself personal needs first. Training, eating whole nutritious foods, journaling, taking a bath, complimenting myself, and spending time with the people I cherish are all forms of self love for me. I always say, if it does not serve your purpose or give you joy it has no place in your daily life. This is a hard practice because I know we as humans want connection and to create a loving space for every single person, experience, or thing that come along our way, but the truth is until we figure out what we need to provide us joy, we can’t take other things in. Other things I do for self-love is daily journaling of my intentions for the day and the things I’m grateful for. I never realized the importance of this until recently. It’s been so nourishing and vital to my mental health.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you would want to share with your daughters?
I would want them to know that fitness is not about the perfect body. It’s about overcoming insecurities, gaining confidence, and inner strength to face our biggest fears. I’d like them to know that their bodies will under go change at every season, learn to love it and learn to befriend it. We are the only ones who can push ourselves to better our lives, other people can be inspirations, but that’s about as much as they can be. Within us is the power to make a change in our lives. YOU GOT THIS!
If you don't follow Jo, go check her out at gofitjo. Thanks so much for being part of this series Jo! Always appreciate your love and support!
"You're strong enough to be scared." - JJ Virgin
In this blog, I want to talk about fear. For someone that has anxiety, fear was something I needed to learn to confront. For Part 1 of this blog, I'm going to go into detail about how I started facing my fears and how you can too.
Fear is a funny thing. A common human emotion that most people experience daily. Fear shows up in different ways. Some examples of my fears are:
My post the other day on my IG (molly_o_shea) discussed how I used to struggle with bad anxiety around my loved ones getting hurt. I've always been a worry wart, but this feeling escalated after my car accident. Who knows, maybe it was because it was a random event and made me realize we can die at any moment in life. So I struggled, badly. My head was clouded with death. I would picture loved ones getting shot randomly, get in a car accident or an earthquake would hit and boom everyone is gone. Daily sobfests started to become tiresome, for me and my fiancé. I finally started to see a therapist to confront this anxiety and these fears. This wasn't a quick fix, this required going down into my roots. I needed to understand my past before I could move forward.
I thought my anxiety was just something that happened from my accident, but after a few sessions, I started to realize that fear has been with me since I was young. Understanding this helped me. I realized that it wasn't just happening because of the trauma I had experienced. Yes, it was definitely heightened, but understanding that slightly put me at ease. This put me on the right track for understanding when my fear was setting in. Without that understanding, you can't lean into fear. We need to learn into fear. If you don't lean into it, it can be debilitating.
I understood that my fears stemmed from random acts. Earthquakes, gun violence, car accidents, getting hit by a car are all random events. They can happen in a flash. It's not like someone getting sick and being given 7 months to live. It's that idea that you wake up, kiss your fiancé goodbye and poof that could be the last you see of him. That was my life. That became my normal way of thinking.
So I understood when my fear was setting in, now I needed to tell myself, you're safe, they're safe. My fiancé used to walk home from work, and I would worry everyday about him getting hurt in the dark. My therapist had me start practicing the idea of being safe.
Let me give you a little example:
Learning what my triggers were was the next step. When did these intense fears set in? This time last year, the election was a big topic on TV. I felt it was important to stay informed, so I would watch the news and keep up with what was going on in the world. I realized that the news was a HUGE trigger for me. Anytime I seemed to watch the news, something bad had just happened. Whether it was seeing a mass shooting, a terrorist attack in France or laws and legislations I did not agree with being talked about, my fear would spike through the roof. As much as I wanted to stay informed, the news was not a good mix with my anxiety. Instead of totally cutting myself off from the world, I subscribed to theSkimm. If you haven't heard of it, subscribe! They send you daily emails of what's going on in the world, but the way they write makes things not feel as daunting and scary.
These are just a few of the steps I started with when dealing with my anxiety. This took me months to master, but my life has completely transformed for the better! In my next blog, I'm going to go deeper, with more steps on how you can start leaning into fear. Until then, remember that you are not alone! If you need to talk more on this topic, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. <3
Next up on my blog is Michelle (mindsetforlifeltd) I found Michelle through Dana, (dothehotpants) and I'm so happy I found her. Michelle's Instagram spoke to me personally because of her campaign Scarred Not Scared. Michelle has had 15 surgeries, and has scars all over her body. This obviously spoke to me because of the scars on my arm, neck and leg. Her campaign is powerful and she's always sharing the amazing people who are part of it. Michelle talks about her campaign, why she started it and more on body positivity in the interview below.
We all have an inner critical voice – what do you do to pick yourself up when you’re feeling down on yourself?
I try to poke holes in whatever my inner voice has said. How I dealt with my inner voice for years has changed over time. I used to say what I was thinking out loud because then you realize how stupid you sound and a lot of the things you’re saying are things that aren't true. In your head, if you’re thinking no one likes you, and you say those words out loud, you can see that’s not true and it’s exaggerated. I don’t know about your inner voice but mine over exaggerates and over emphasizes the negative in everything. So when I say it out loud, I’m like, ok let's go back to reality. One person doesn’t like me in this moment and it doesn't mean that everyone doesn’t like me. So I just break it down by fact checking it with the reality of the situation. For example, there was a point in my life I thought I was an awful writer, which was very much taught to me from school. You would think it ends in school, but it doesn't because now I am a writer and I write everyday on my Instagram. Occasionally when a spelling or grammar mistake comes out, it's really easy to jump back to to that old place and think I’m an awful writer. In that moment I will go back to times when people have specifically complimented me on my writing or the number of times that people have told me my writing has inspired them. I fact check it and prove that what I’m thinking is not right; it’s just one spelling mistake or one grammar mistake and it’s not the end of the world. That’s how I work around it.
The thing that I’ve found that combats the inner voice the most is meditation and just taking the time to breathe and just calm down. I think when I personally get over stressed, I do jump to that place where I over exaggerate everything. When I breathe and take a moment I’m more realistic.
We’re constantly surrounded by messages from the media and our diet culture that we aren’t good enough. How do you navigate your way through these negative messages?
I think it starts with internal work; it starts with your own self-love and self-care. Once you’ve established a basic learning of self-love and self-care, those messages aren’t influencing you as much and don’t have an impact on your day as much as they used to. Obviously it's still frustrating as hell that they’re being thrown in everyone’s faces, especially children. We are teaching children at such a young age all of these messages. I believe that what’s more powerful for children than the messages they’re getting around them is the messages they’re getting at home. If parents work on self-love and self-care, it will help their children not internalize those messages. You can even have conversations around that, saying this might be what you’re seeing but that doesn’t mean it’s true. The reason that you're seeing that is because the company is profiting off of it. Give them the reasons why those adverts are there because children are getting smarter and smarter younger and younger thanks to things like the internet and social media. I think it’s a shame that parents sometimes don't have these conversations with their kids because they don’t think they will understand.
I was actually going back and reading my childhood diaries on my YouTube the other day. Going back to my diaries, even without the internet at 8 years old, I was already getting these messages. I had written a diary entry that said I just went to the gym and lost 7 pounds I’m so happy! I don’t know how the hell I stepped on a scale and weighed myself 7 pounds different before and after but I had already learned that at 8 years old. So it makes you think, what are children learning now, and they’re definitely learning it a lot younger than when I was learning it.
Could you talk about your scars?
I’ve had 15 surgeries. I have scars on my head , my chest, my stomach, on my ankles, all over my body. It’s why I started my campaign Scarred Not Scared. All my scars are hidden; you wouldn’t see them or notice them in day to day life. I went out of my way to hide them. When it came to bikinis those were off limits.
I reached a point where I had to take my top off in front of a boy - the first guy I wanted to take my top off in front of and I got really nervous. I didn’t know how to explain it because I had never had this conversation before. I had never spoken about my scars to a single person ever. My friends that saw my scars would stare at it but them but we would never talk about it. So I was 18 year old trying to figure out how the hell do I tell anyone about my scars. I was about to go to university where no one knew my story. Everyone at school knew my story because I had my operations while at school, and now I would have to explain to a bunch of new people what happened. So I started Googling, how to tell your boyfriend about your scar. Nothing came up! I was so alarmed by that because this was 8 years ago, the internet was fully fledged, yet you couldn’t find advice on it.
I really struggled through university but then, when I became a Life Coach, I was talking to one of my friends about it who said, you want to be a body confidence coach, but you won’t be able to help someone who's struggling with wearing a bikini because you have never worn one. So I made it my decision that summer to wear a bikini for the first time and that’s how Scarred Not Scared started.
Suddenly I started getting all of these stories of people sharing their scar stories with me. I guess I hadn’t quite realized how abnormal my medical history or stomach was until I went viral for it. It was then I realized that apparently my scars do look like a smile! I had no clue because I had never starred in the mirror long enough to notice. It was all of these things and people were like wow that's really unusual you went through all these surgeries. Just because it was my life, I didn’t think it was that abnormal; this was my normal. That’s when I knew we needed to start talking about it.
For all these years I hid it and lived in shame not wanting to talk about it because I didn’t want to draw more attention to them. I felt like it was wrong to be me and that it needed to be fixed or changed. So I wanted to create a community where we could talk about scars and not just scars but the surgeries or accidents that lead to them. I think it’s something very special about my campaign and the stories behind them. I believe body positivity is more than being about your body. Each story that I get is so much more impactful than whatever it could look like. And that to me always matters more than what you look like.
Are there any challenges with being influential on Instagram? Is there any negative self talk that stems from being influential and having lots of followers?
I have had the privilege of not having that many trolls. I’ve grown slower than a lot of the body positive Instagram accounts so I have had time to get used to it and not be thrown into the spotlight instantly. It is something that has been more positive for me, it’s never had a negative impact on my mental health. If it did I would really question if I would do it or not.
What I do feel is that as I’ve grown and hit the 25,000 mark, I feel more pressure to stick to the easier conversations and not the more controversial ones. I find it harder now to have those conversations without having to defend myself constantly. I did a post the other day about if my rise and growth of followers had lead to me losing my voice, then it wouldn’t have been worth it. I’m going to keep talking about what I want to talk about and you’re free to stick around if you want. I’m still going to have these conversations even if they are controversial.
What’s your favorite thing to do to show yourself some self-love?
My way of showing self-love is very much to do with my interval voice. I think there's this thing on social media where self-love has been equated to manicures and baths and to me that isn’t self-love. I will take a bath to just take time out of my life, but the self-love aspect of that will be what I’m saying, doing or thinking in the bath. I will take time to just get away from my hectic lifestyle. You can do this anywhere. I did this today by going to the gym. In that time I was at the gym, I spent that hour thinking about how I want to feel and where I want to be in my life. That means I focus on the now and also on the future, rather than focusing on the past which to me has always been my natural tendency, to just pick apart the things that I have done wrong in the past. Self-love and self-care to me is literally the smallest things, whether it be taking your medication if you need it or taking yourself out of the house. It can be really simple and basic, you don't need to buy nail polish in order to do it! It’s accessible to everyone and even just saying nice inside your head is self-love to me.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you want to share with others?
I would say to start somewhere because it’s going to be a long complex journey. Even just believing it’s possible to get to a place where you’re loving your body is a controversial belief to have. We get brought up a world where insecurity is almost expected. To be even open to the idea of loving and accepting your body exactly as it is now is controversial. So just open yourself up to that idea and that possibility and see where it takes you. Start getting curious about it. I think curiosity is the most beautiful characteristics about being a human. Getting curious about body positivity can lead you to an amazing place and really get you started on a journey to self-love and self acceptance. I’ve never found anyone that’s found body positivity and gone ugh I hate this, because the community is so loving and so supportive. We've been seeing this a lot recently with newbies joining the conversation, and they’re all so overwhelmed by how nice and loving everyone is. The number of comments I get now that they say I didn’t know the internet could be this nice. I’m like well the other internet to just people, it just depends what kind of people you find!
If you don't follow Michelle, go follow her at mindsetforlifeltd! You can also find out more about her on her site which you can find here.
Thanks so much for being part of this series Michelle!
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma, body acceptance and wellness.