I’m at a crossroads of sorts in my brand, and I want your help.
I have built my social media platform on images of me and my body.
At first I did this because I was a personal trainer, I did lots of cool stuff at the gym, and it was fun to film myself.
Then later I did this because I moved into body image work, and sharing photos of my body made the most sense, given what I was writing about. A lot of my photos were naked, which I explained the reasons for here and then again here, but the the biggest reason was that I believe we all need to see more naked bodies of real women who are NOT being edited, sexualized, or performed for the male gaze.
In an effort to normalize my body’s realness, I sometimes post photos of my “imperfections,” like belly bloating and cellulite, aka “fancy fat.” These posts always do really well, because they offer a new perspective on “flaws,” and make people feel less alone.
The thing is though, as my brand and body evolve, I’m wondering if posting images of me or my body might not be such a good idea anymore.
First of all, one of the things I teach in my workshops is that pretty much all body image issues can be boiled down into the following imbalance:
An overdeveloped External Self, and an underdeveloped Internal Self.
The External Self is basically what people see when they look at you, including your face, body, and clothing, as well as what you do and say in front of others.
The Internal Self is basically everything you feel and are from the inside– your physical sensations, emotions, intuition, pleasure, desire, heart, soul, hopes, and dreams.
Most women have grown up with the message that our External Self is the most valuable part of us, or even sometimes the only valuable part.
We’ve been taught that our External Self is what will earn us (or cost us) our place in the world, our shot at love, how people will treat us, and whether or not we will be accepted.
We learn that with the right External Self, a woman can enjoy attention, approval, acceptance, belonging, and love, but that with the wrong External Self, she is nothing.
We humans are wired to need acceptance, approval, long, and belonging. It’s in our DNA. So of course, when we learn that our External Self is the thing that will get us what we need, we naturally set about developing it.
We go about worrying, changing, poking, prodding, dieting, exercising, stressing, and trying to fix our External Selves. We strive to make ourselves beautiful, thin, likeable, and “good.” We hide all the things we think make us ugly or imperfect, and we suffer quietly in our shame that we have anything to hide.
All of this development and attention spent on our External Self comes at a cost. We have finite time and attention, and when we spend so much of it on our External Selves, we have very little leftover to spend on our Internal Selves.
As a body image coach and educator, I am taking a stand for women everywhere that our External Self is NOT where our value lies. I want us all to stop focusing on our External Selves, and start focusing on cultivating and developing our Internal Selves. That is how body image issues are resolved.
This is an oversimplified version of what I teach, and what I believe.
So my current conundrum is: how can I best visually represent my brand?
By using images of me and my body, I continue to represent my External Self, which in some unconscious ways sends the message that my External Self is the most important part of me. Of course, I write about my feelings and experiences with every post, but (especially on instagram) the image is the clear priority.
If not that though, what else can I post? I certainly can’t post images of my Internal Self, lol. I’ve tried coming up with metaphorical/artistic photos to go with my writing, like photos of flowers and clouds and stuff, but I’m not a very artistic or visual person, and honestly those photos just seem really dumb to me.
Plus, a lot of the time I AM writing about bodies and body-related stuff, so including a body photo makes logical sense.
I’ve been going back and forth about this for weeks. I’ve asked all my friends, and journaled about it, and still haven’t come up with a solution.
So, as usual, I’ve decided to come straight to you with the truth. I don’t know what to do, and I want to hear your thoughts and ideas.
Social media is a huge form of free marketing/advertising for me and my brand. I want to reach more people with my message, and social media is key for that. At least on Instagram, every post requires an image or video. (I write stuff every day, and I often don’t share what I write, because I don’t have a good image to accompany it!)
I worry that the majority of my images on social media are of my External Self, and that this sends the wrong message for what I’m trying to say. But I don’t know what other kinds of images would work.
What are your thoughts? Any opinions, gut responses, or suggestions? Maybe you think I’m totally wrong, and body photos are key to this work– or maybe you’ve experienced being turned off to a brand because of all the gratuitous body shots?
If you wouldn’t mind taking this conversation into a public forum, please post your thoughts over in my private Facebook group Women Who Empower Other Women Unite!I’m interested in seeing a respectful discussion develop on this, so the more minds involved, the better!
If you want to keep your comment private, feel free to hit reply and share.
Thank you, as always, for being here.
For reading, for reaching out, and for being you.
Big hug, Jessi
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