Being A Role Model or Something

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I’ve been thinking a lot about being a role model lately. It’s odd because I never set out to be one and I still don’t entirely see myself as a role model, however you reach a certain point with a certain size audience and you have to acknowledge what you say and do can have an effect on people. One of the things that has me thinking about being a role model is a few comments I’ve received. For example, awhile back someone wrote “body goals” on one of my Instagrams and it made me feel so uncomfortable. On one hand they mean it as a compliment, but on the other hand I feel like it could be a harmful message. I wanted to reply and say that no body is perfect and I’m walking around in this body and still find issues with it more often than not—I’m full of insecurities! But I also don’t know if that individual needs a whole lecture on “no body’s perfect, learn love yourself!” when they just left a simple two word comment. It feels like an overreaction in some ways. But where do you draw the line? When is it better to be silent and when do you step in and say something? This is where I wish there was a rule book or set of guidelines to being a role model. A manual you can pull out that tells you the perfect response that is encouraging without coming across as too intense; something that expresses your feelings without steamrolling the other person. It’s a hard balance to find, especially when you didn’t set out to be a role model or beacon of body positivity—being seen as a role model is a pure accident.

It’s a little bizarre, because if you think about where I started this blogging journey no one would have anticipated me being a role model to others (least of all myself). I started back in college, typing blog posts late at night and taking pictures of my outfit against the doors of my dorm room closet (eventually I moved outside with my tripod, but honestly not much changed). I didn’t think anyone would read it, I didn’t even know if I wanted anyone to read it—I didn’t tell friends or family about the blog for a long time—it was enough for me that I enjoyed writing it. Processing thoughts through writing, expressing my interest in fashion through posts and outfits, that was enough for me. The focus was on fashion; the editorials and run way shows that inspired me, the clothes I wanted to wear and the clothes I was wearing. I would talk about certain aspects of my personality, but I never tackled major topics—I didn’t preach about accepting myself the way I am or learning to overcome some issue or even focuses on fashion issues specific to my size as a petite person or budget as a college student. So being a role model or someone people looked to for guidance in any area wasn’t something I would have said was in the cards for me!

As you get on an your audience grows however you can't pretend it's only you reading this blog and your posts won't have any outside affects. When I think about being a role model as well I think about young women and wonder how my posts would affect them (I can at least take comfort in the statistics Instagram gives me that less then 3% of my audience is under 18). However, as I said in the beginning there was no thought of how my words or pictures would affect others, let alone be an example to younger people, but I did develop a personal rule for myself early on that I still think is a useful tool for editing my content. One way to think of it is as self-preservation and the fact that I started the blog as a young woman--steps I took to keep myself "safe" are probably useful to apply to creating content that won't harm other young women. My personal rule was quite simple, I asked myself often, “would I be embarrassed if my dad saw/read this?” That question couldn’t save me from a few cringe-worthy outfits over the years or questionable color-editing choices, but it did prevent me from sharing things I would regret on a more serious level. It kept me off precarious topics and away risque photos I wouldn't share with my family, so I definitely shouldn't share with strangers online! And while I've always loved photos that are a step outside of reality, I stayed away from distorting my body into editing into an unrecognizable figure of willowy legs and giant eyes. I don't want it to see that my whole stance has been once of avoidance however--I did make conscious decisions when I would post inspiration content or interviewed other blogs to be inclusive when I could and look for representation beyond the standard. I also wrote about topics I was passionate about even if not everyone agreed with me and responded to comments that made me uncomfortable or disagreed with something I had written. But I never had any huge dramas and have avoided posting things that I regret on a deep level even though I have been blogging for more than ten years. My general rule for avoiding the melee has kept me fairly private and quiet; it also helped me set boundaries with what I shared about other people (would my dad interpret this post as gossipy?), etc. And perhaps that's an important lesson in itself, sometimes it's not about what you do or say, but what you don't say--you might regret things in life you didn't do, but you rarely regret things you don't post. The Internet is an elephant that doesn't forget; things you put out there have a tendency of lingering far longer than you expected--so even if you didn't want your father to see that picture he might end up stumbling across it accidentally one of these days! Looking back I think that approach helped me to share content that hopefully is positive for others to experience as well; content that can improve someone’s day rather than ruin it.

And that I think is my ultimate goal as a “role model.” I don’t have a powerful message of body positivity (still figuring that one out) or using your voice to create change or what-have-you, not because I’m against those messages, but because they don’t come naturally to me. I don't feel like I have enough answers to advise others and do feel that a forced directive is more harmful than otherwise. But I do want to be a positive force in my own way and with my own message (as hard as that message might be for me to vocalize). What I want is that people who see my content feel uplifted by it. I want it to bring them perhaps a moment of calm or quiet and I want them to walk away feeling good. I don’t want to make people feel bad about how they look because I look a different way. I don’t want them to feel bad about their life because my lifestyle is different. Instead, I would hope that my posts are more the equivalent of a cup of tea in the middle of a hectic day. It’s not here to make you want anything or teach you an important lesson, but instead it’s an excuse to pause and relax even if it’s only for a minute. I’m still not sure I’ll ever be the kind of person I think a role model should be, but hopefully my posts can be an affirming experience.

P.S. This posted isn't sponsored, but my Insecure tee shirt is from a recent collaboration I did on Instagram and 100% off the proceeds of every sale goes to the Mix UK--a mental health charity for young people.

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