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New Patreon Levels!!

Musings and updates on the intersection of ethical business, personal healing, and cultural liberation.

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I still remember hearing the phrase “make your mess your message for the first time. 

Photo of a desk with papers on it, food, coffee - a mess
Photo by cottonbro studio

I was 26 years old and preparing to launch my first online business when these words stopped me in my tracks. 

I had been spinning my wheels for months, reading business and marketing books written by overly confident white dudes, and trying to come up with a brand, niche, and message that “filled a gap in the market,” offered a “unique value proposition,” and solved or addressed a “major pain point” facing my target demographic.

In other words, I had been trying to figure out how to build a business that offered people something they already knew they wanted and needed— something they would be willing to pay for, because they already understood the value. That’s the key to a profitable business, after all!

The problem was that, after years of experience as a personal trainer, I already knew that what most people thought they wanted and needed wouldn’t actually solve the problem they were trying to solve, or make them feel how they were hoping it would make them feel. 

A new training client might think that she wanted flat abs, for example, when the thing she really wanted was to like and accept herself, or to finally feel “good enough.” Or a person might think losing weight was the key to feeling more confident, when the key was really to unlearn and reject weight stigma and diet culture, and practice self-compassion. 

With this in mind, the idea that I was supposed to build my business around people’s own perceptions of what they wanted and needed just felt… wrong. 

I knew I could build a huge following by promoting quick and easy fitness tips to address the problems people thought they had, like “how to flatten your tummy,” or “steal this celebrity secret for toned arms.” I knew I could make a killing selling programs that promised to help them with the stuff they were googling late at night (during a spiral of insecurity or anxiety), like “Sexy in 6 Weeks,” or “Self-Care Strategies for Busy Moms.” I even knew I could leverage my authority to a kind of guru-status, leverage my charm to persuade people they needed my products, and leverage my audience to get brand deals.

But I didn’t want to do any of that. It would no doubt have been easier, and more profitable, but I couldn’t build a business that contributed to the problems I most wanted to solve in the world:

  • People feeling disempowered and insecure, and searching for the “solution” outside of themselves. 

  • People whose lived experiences of trauma, attachment wounding, and/or oppression have made them believe they’re fundamentally unworthy of respect, belonging, respect, autonomy, kindness, or authentic self-expression.

  • People not trusting themselves (or their bodies), so that they’re more vulnerable to manipulation, exploitation, and coercion. 

So when I heard the phrase “make your mess your message,” I immediately knew what I was going to do. 

My “mess,” after all, came from a lifetime of feeling disempowered, used, frozen, ashamed, anxious, and insecure; a lifetime of being sexualized and objectified, harassed, disrespected, violated, and pressured into sex that I didn’t want, and didn’t enjoy. 

Because of the journey I’d had to go on personally, I knew what it was like to feel numb and disconnected from yourself, because I had been there… but I also knew the power of (and path to) reconnection and embodiment. I knew what it was like to feel scared, insecure, and unworthy… but I also knew how to cultivate self-acceptance, self-worth, and empowerment. I knew the pain of feeling like your authentic self is unsafe or unwelcome, and the stress of feeling like you “need to” look and act a certain way in order to be acceptable… but I also knew how to break free from those rules and restrictions. 

So in a move that went against all the mainstream marketing advice, I decided to build my business around those things instead. I wanted to create the content and offers that I had needed when I was younger, and to educate people about the deeper issues that sat below the surface of what they thought they wanted and needed.

There’s no denying that this was an objectively “poor” business strategy— it doesn’t really make sense to try to sell people a solution to a problem they don’t even know they have— but it was the only way I could do this thing without violating my own integrity. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have shed many tears of grief and frustration over the years, about how much harder it is to foster genuine empowerment in people (by honoring their autonomy and directing them inward toward themselves) than it is to position yourself as an empowerment or self-love “guru” and then leverage that power dynamic—and their feelings of inadequacy—to get them to buy your “quick and easy guide” to empowerment or self-love.

It can be hard to watch other coaches and influencers selling empty promises (and victim-blaming platitudes) to vulnerable people, and it’s even harder to watch them accrue massive popularity, loyal followings, tons of engagement and media attention, best-selling books, and sold out programs. 

Most of the time, I don’t pay too much attention to what other people are doing, because it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit over the last weeks again, as I’ve been launching a new group coaching program to my quiet little corner of the internet, and not getting much in the way of responses or interest. 

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PROJECT UGLY is one of those offers I created from the depths of my soul, to guide people back to themselves. It is the epitome of my mess-turned-message, with a syllabus tackling things like:

  • How to speak up in the face of disrespect.

  • How to set and protect your boundaries.

  • How to use your anger to alchemize your shame.

  • How to employ self-advocacy skills to cultivate more fulfilling and equitable relationships and sex.

  • How to recognize (and resist) signs of exploitation, objectification, and manipulation.

  • How to cultivate a secure attachment relationship with yourself, and center yourself in your own life. 

But the thing I’ve noticed over the last few weeks is that… people just don’t want that. 

Maybe they’re not ready for it, don’t understand it, or feel threatened by it. Maybe they don’t have the money, time, or bandwidth to commit to it right now in this post-Covid era of widespread loneliness, overwhelm, and Zoom fatigue. And maybe they’re afraid of who they would become on the other side of such a major transformation. 

But maybe they just don’t think it applies to them, either because they’re still focused on the superficial “red herring” problem instead of the real deeper problem, or because they still believe they have to fix or change themselves (or their bodies) in order to become worthy of the things they’re seeking.

Either way, I’ve decided to pivot. 

Running an ethical, consent-based, and trauma-informed business means always striving to meet people where they’re at, and right now it seems like an eight week live online group coaching program just isn’t it. 

I still believe in the material (and that this work is the solution most people actually need, to the core problem they don’t necessarily even know they have), but I’m going to try something I’ve never done before mid-launch, and completely shake up the structure. 

So here’s the deal: PROJECT UGLY is no longer going to be run as a live group program. 

Photo of Jessi Kneeland

I’ll be breaking the syllabus up into individual self-study workshops, and offering them piece-meal. This way people can pick and choose the topics, skills, and tools that feel most relevant to them, and tackle them at their own pace, in the privacy of their own home, with no timeline or commitment. 

My hope is that this shift will strip away the pressure, anxiety, and overwhelm people tend to feel when they think about a live group program, and also that making it feel less high-stakes will allow people to explore the material from a place of intuitive curiosity, rather than intellectual certainty. 

To minimize marketing clutter and stress (for both you and me!) I’ll be offering these workshops on Patreon

Until now, my Patreon page has just been a place where people can support my free content if they so choose, but I’m going to start using it as a place to share exclusive course material, as well as hopefully cultivating a more connected sense of community, which we all need right now! My plan is to ensure people have access to the information, resources, and tools they need to identify and address their real underlying problems and pain points, without adding to people’s feelings of stress or overwhelm!

So here’s what I’m offering:

  • If you join my Patreon at the “Curious” level ($5/month), you’ll gain access to a monthly community Zoom call that I’ll be running, focused on a specific topic relevant to body neutrality, self-worth, empowerment, and liberation. You’ll have the option to attend the call live (to ask questions, participate in the conversation, and connect with like-minded people) or to watch the call recording at your own pace after. 

  • Note: I’ll be scheduling the first of these calls for sometime in March, and polling my audience for topic ideas in advance!

  • If you join my Patreon at the “Exploring” level ($10/month), you’ll gain access to the monthly community call, plus be entered into a quarterly book raffle! For every month that you’ve been a Patron at this level, you’ll get one “raffle ticket,” and every three months I’ll do a drawing and send the winner a copy of my book BODY NEUTRAL!

  • If you join my Patreon at the “Learning” level ($25/month), you’ll gain access to everything from the previous levels, plus a monthly workshop (including a webinar and worksheets) from the PROJECT UGLY syllabus. 

  • Note: The first workshop in March is on The Cult of Patriarchy, and how to identify and resist internalized oppression!

  • If you join my Patreon at the “Investing” level ($50/month), you’ll gain access to everything from the previous levels, plus additional content each month— anything from exclusive podcast episodes, videos, book recommendation lists, articles, coaching demonstrations, Q&A opportunities, or course material. You’ll also be invited to submit topics and questions for me to tackle in my podcast or other content, and each month I’ll choose one of them!

  • If you join my Patreon at the “Healing” level ($125/month), you’ll get everything already listed plus a monthly private 30 minute coaching session with me!! This is a killer deal for anyone interested in coaching but not sure about its benefits, or not able to afford a private coaching package– you can use your monthly session to identify your hidden body image purpose, tackle a specific issue coming up for you, develop a plan for reaching your goals, gain clarity around a complex issue, or just gain support. 

  • If you join my Patreon at the “Deep Work” level ($600/month), you’ll get everything already listed, plus ongoing private Voxer-only coaching with me, for as long as you stay at that level!

My plan is to continue developing and adding to the Patreon level benefits as we move forward, with more raffles and bonuses, so stay tuned for more— but right now I’m just excited to offer my work in a way that people can commit to, no matter where they’re at and what kind of support they’re looking for!

Also, because it’s very important to me that money never be a barrier to someone accessing the information and tools they need to heal, liberate, and empower themselves, I spend a ton of time making free content. 

Every single week I write this email, produce a podcast episode, and create content for social media, because I am passionate about spreading my message and helping as many people as possible. With that in mind, I want to ask you directly to support my business.

Image that says, "Support Small Business"
Photo by Eva Bronzini

Even if you’re not interested in any of the benefits listed above, you can still support my business and help me keep putting out free content by becoming a Patron at the “Supporter” level ($2/month), or higher! You can also support my work by buying my book BODY NEUTRAL, or by buying any of the self-study programs, products, or merch on my website

And if you don’t have the means to support my work financially, that’s ok too! There are tons of other ways you can support my business, including:

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel! You can like and comment on any of my youtube videos that you enjoyed to give them a little boost, or just subscribe to help my channel gain traction!

  • Leaving a rating and review for my podcast! More ratings and reviews (on spotify, apple podcasts, or wherever else you listen) help more people find my show, so if you’re a regular listener I would love it if you took the time to tell people what you think!

  • Engaging with my posts on social media! The more engagement my posts gets, the more people will see them, so I always appreciate when people leave comments, like, share, or promote my content on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter! 

  • Review my book. Honest reviews for my book are always incredibly helpful and appreciated! 

  • Share my free content with the people in your life! Think your best friend would love a podcast episode, video, or email? Send it to them! Even in a digital marketing world, “word of mouth” is still the best way for ideas to spread. 

That’s it for today– I so appreciate your support as I navigate this complex intersection of ethical business, personal healing, and cultural liberation. I look forward to connecting with y’all on Patreon and beyond!!

Big hug,


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