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.