To me, being real is being honest with others and myself about where I am and what I want to do. It doesn’t necessarily mean being unafraid or confident all the time. I’m insecure about a ton of things! But I purposefully put myself out there to remind myself that I’m enough and to be of support to others who are going through the same things. We are all surrounded by messages of inadequacy and at some level or another we’re all affected by that, whether we realize it or not. As someone who struggles with perfectionism and anxiety, my practice of vulnerability is a reminder and a challenge to myself to embrace imperfection. It’s a challenge to live in a state of not knowing what will happen next but being open to the possibilities of saying yes to adventure and opportunities to grow and connect with others.
For me, being real means acknowledging pain, fear, mistakes, regrets… all the stuff we usually shy away from or are too insecure to talk about. I have always been that girl that cared too much what other people thought. I take things personally even if it has nothing to do with me, I can over-analyze and self-criticize and my anxiety can talk myself out of pretty much anything. So this, this whole being real thing, is a daily practice. Of reminding myself that what I’m doing is enough, and that I am enough. Regardless of how many things on my to-do list got checked off. Regardless of whether I worked out or not. Regardless of whether or not I ate the whole bag of chips even though I warned myself not to do that. It’s all practice.
A big part of what has helped me open up about this stuff is honestly the community I’ve found through Instagram. I started a brand called @iandioutfitters to raise awareness about mental health and the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the more I started to open up and share my story, the more I realized that there were so many others who felt the exact same way, who felt like they didn’t have permission or the space to express their heartache. In storytelling and journaling, I connected with so many beautiful people who have now become friends. I don’t feel as alone in my struggles because of that, and now I encourage others to share their stories. I believe there’s healing in community and in shared experiences. We just have to be willing to take the first step and trust that no matter how we are received, our story, our pain, and our fears are all valid.
Advice to my younger self:
If I could give my younger self advice, I would tell her that your greatest source of strength will come from these dark moments. Your ability to connect with and open up to others is available to you because of the time you have spent in the dark, and in sharing your experiences, you will help so many more heal. Know that you don’t have to rush anything. I know you want to accomplish a lot but just let things take time. Keep showing up from a place of authenticity and gratitude and you will continue to be surrounded by people who love, care for, and support you. You got it girl!
Aurora Myers is the amazing founder of I&I Outfitters
I&I Outfitters aims to inspire conversation around the stigma of mental health and mental illness through fashion. We are getting ready to launch our 'Common Threads Collection' on Kickstarter, which features the world's first "social shirt."
There are a million things I could point out that I'm insecure about. My smile is a little crooked. It doesn't really line up with my teeth. I'm breaking out like crazy for some weird reason. My nose. Let's not even get started on that. My shoulders are too big. On and on and on. We all do it. Obsess over the little things. Get caught up in the superficial.
I share this because I want to point out that you're not the only one. Sometimes I feel like it's just me that's this insecure but that can't be true! For me, writing it out is cathartic. I acknowledge it. I acknowledge where I am in my process and I let it go. And I decide to share it. Online. With thousands of people I've never even met. Because I've realized that this is not just MY story. It's something a lot of us go through and experience collectively. It's the same story experienced by hundreds of thousands of millions around the the world. I'm just one of them who is crazy enough to talk about it! Because when I was in a really negative place, when I was stuck in bed on Instagram for way too many hours, I read the posts of a handful of women who were so inspiring in their authenticity, vulnerability, and courage. I didn't feel as alone because I felt like there was someone else out there who got it, someone who had been through it and was willing to be open about it. It was comforting. I wanted to be surrounded by more of that. So I started doing it myself.