My long-time client, friend, and guest author says goodbye
Please enjoy the very last email from my long-time guest author Stefanie Michele, below! Also, I plan to continue with monthly guest articles… so if you are a writer and think your voice/expertise would be a good fit for my emails/blog, please hit reply and let me know! I’d love to check out some writing samples and see if we’re a good fit!
The Ripple Effect
After two years, this will be my last guest installment for Jessi’s Transparent Tuesday blog series. I want to offer this story as a way of saying thank you and goodbye…
I found Jessi via Instagram in early 2018, when I was still operating as a health coach under the guise of “Wellness.” I had only just learned the term “diet culture” and Jessi’s emails hit me like a gut punch each and every week. Until then, I had never read anything like them.
I remember sitting on my couch one Tuesday morning, laptop open, choking down my morning Matcha and settling in to read Jessi’s newest email “The Green-Eyed Monster.” It was about jealousy and insecurity and comparison, and I felt like the words broke me open and terrified me all at once. Someone else in the world had these feelings too? Someone else wasn’t afraid of naming it? Someone else understood, and could paint that rich inner landscape with words and paragraphs?
It wasn’t long before I contacted Jessi about her ABC (Authentic Body Confidence) course, which is now listed a self-study on her website, but at the time also included a group component in addition to ten weekly video modules. I took this course twice. I was 38 years old and it was arguably the most life-changing investment I’d made in all of that time.
There are a lot more people speaking about these concepts now – social media seems to have expanded exponentially around these topics in just the last couple of years – but almost five years ago, Jessi’s exploration of body image was unparalleled. What struck me most was how she didn’t just talk about the body. She talked about authenticity and culture and patriarchy and existential pain and depression. She made me look harder at my life instead of circling around my body as if it was the only issue.
And she delivered it in a manner so compelling and relatable that I felt excited about it. I used to walk around a local park near my house with earbuds in, listening to module after module, each time getting something from it that I’d missed before.
I believe that through these modules, Jessi taught me to think differently. Granted, I put in the work of enrolling, absorbing, and integrating again and again; but Jessi’s words changed the direction of my life that year.
I have never been able to consider my body the same ever since.
I worked with Jessi 1:1 for a while to dive deeper into the body image layers. From the same spot on the couch where I had initially read her Transparent Tuesdays, I remember sitting on a call with her talking about creativity, passion, and “following my North Star.”
Ha. It was one thing to deconstruct body image but it was quite another to build oneself back up again. It was the first time anyone had made me think about what I wanted life to look like if body image distress wasn’t front and center. In truth, this conversation scared me because I didn’t have an answer. I wanted to write, I told her. I wanted to create something, without knowing what. I wanted freedom and flexibility and I wanted to do work that didn’t feel like work. I knew the feeling I was after but had no concept of what that looked like. But through her line of questioning, Jessi planted a seed.
Around this time, I also discovered Caroline Dooner (author of The F*ck It Diet) who changed my relationship with food (and my eating disorder) the same way Jessi had changed my relationship with my body.
By 2020, the 2018 version of me you met at the beginning of this story was almost unrecognizable. I was on the other side of a 25-year journey with an eating disorder and crippling body image, and that seed was starting to germinate.
As luck would have it, Jessi was offering a course entitled “From Feeling Lost to Impacting People” (FFLTIP) that felt like a pretty apropos title for me, as my job as an Occupational Therapist was becoming mundane and the itch to create was brewing. The course was a business mentorship designed to help people who wanted to help people, but didn’t know where to start or who needed support getting there.
My “Wellness Culture Coaching” side hustle had long been abandoned, but coaching still spoke to me. However, I didn’t feel equipped to start a business from scratch – all I had done in the past was coach for other coaches, and it was a pipe-dream to take it full time.
Jessi’s leadership in FFLTIP was aligned with the concepts she’d taught me in ABC. Her videos weren’t fancy. She didn’t dress up or do makeup for the camera. She showed up authentically with her inherent value as a coach, mentor, and human being her most marketable assets. What Jessi taught through how she showed up in her own work, giving the rest of us permission to also show up authentically without bells and whistles, was potentially the most impactful part of the experience, for me.
(The group that I worked with that year, by the way, remains a group of people who feel special to me by virtue of that shared experience. Jessi’s groups are, as you might imagine, full of authentic people with depth of character and integrity, because that’s what Jessi’s work draws forth.)
Through that group, I created @iamstefaniemichele, my current coaching practice. As my business gained traction, FFLTIP ended and Jessi asked me to guest write monthly articles for her Transparent Tuesday blog series, which was an incredible honor to me, for reasons spelled out in this story.
For two years I have been writing for Jessi, as I continue learning from her. My business has become the full-time, creative, non-work work that I couldn’t imagine for myself those three years ago. I have built it with pillars supported by what Jessi taught me, especially authenticity. My work has been directly and indirectly influenced by Jessi Kneeland, and it feels bittersweet to write this final installment.
When Jessi asked me to return for 2023, a part of me wanted to change my mind and go in for another year – but I’m following my inner “HELL YES” and creating space in my calendar to start a book (or at least an outline of a book). My business is growing, and I want to dedicate time to that growth – and to the enjoyment of being more still, of taking it in, of living in the experience of my life with less to-do’s.
I want to thank Jessi for hosting me here for the past two years, and for the years before it. I want to acknowledge the ripple effect of Jessi’s impact on my life. Thank you also to Jessi’s community who have read my words here. I am so grateful.