Why Everyone’s Talking About Jameela Jamil & I Weigh

You may have heard Jameela Jamil’s name recently. Maybe you’re already one of the 145,000 followers of @i_weigh, her Instagram post turned social media movement currently sweeping the internet.

In Britain, where the actress, tv presenter, radio presenter, activist and writer is from, she’s been on screens, in magazines, on podcasts and on the radio talking about why and how she wants to change the conversation around how we, as people, define our worth. And it seems that maybe, just maybe, what she’s doing might be working. Things might actually be changing.

It all started in response to a post on her Instagram feed. Jamil saw an image of the Kardashian family, each of whom had their weight in kilograms written over their body. The caption invited followers to comment on the Kardashians’ weight and compare to their own. Scrolling through the thousands of comments underneath from despairing, self-hating young women, Jamil was enraged and incredulous, and decided to post a photo documenting her own ‘weight’:

 

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Jameela Jamil didn’t ask anyone to do anything. She posted the photo simply because she was annoyed and fed up. It turns out that thousands of other people were annoyed and fed up too.

So many people sent Jamil their own version of her photo that she had to create a whole Instagram account to showcase them all. Women, and some men, have sent photos of themselves with all of the things they value and love about themselves written over the top. It is, in Jamil’s words, a “museum of self-love”, a place where people can “feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look beyond the flesh on our bones.”

 

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The speed with which Jamil’s photo has grown into a full-blown body positivity movement is a testament to the intensity of our collective dissatisfaction with the toxicity that surrounds us and dictates how we view ourselves.

Nobody wants to feel awful about their body. Nobody wants to hate themselves.

Nobody wants to see magazine page after tv advert after billboard after Instagram post of female bodies that look nothing like those of any of the human women we know in real life. Nobody wants to feel self-disgust when they eat a chocolate biscuit. Nobody wants to hear a friend say that they’ve already eaten lunch and know that they’re lying.

We don’t want the narrative we’re being served, and yet it has become impossible to reject or avoid. Young people – young women in particular – grow up marinating in toxicity until it has seeped so deeply into our bones and hearts that it can no longer be washed off.

But now there’s Jameela Jamil. She’s appeared like a big breath of air, holding nothing back, refusing to be airbrushed, shouting and swearing and shining her light on the injustice of how women women continue to be represented, valued and treated in our society: “it’s so upsetting, it feels like such a betrayal against women. I will not be part of it and I will not stop calling it out when I see it.”

What she’s offering is a wake up call to the media and to all of us consuming it. What she’s saying is that this is not ok, it’s damaging all of us, and it has to change. What she’s already proven is how many people are ready and desperate for the change.

Want more? As well as @i_weigh, you can follow @jameelajamilofficial on Instagram & @jameelajamil on Twitter (do it, she’s hilarious). You can watch this interview for Channel 4’s Ways to Change the World podcast, and read this interview with Stylist. If you’re in the UK, you can also listen to Jamil’s recent documentary about consent – The New Age of Consent – created for BBC Radio 4. 

Advocacy Burnout is Real

The strict deadlines, tight budgets and high pressure involved in advocacy can be overwhelming, and it comes as no surprise that numerous articles talk about ‘advocacy burnout’ or ‘activist burnout’ as a real and pressing issue.

My Personal Experience

For me, this reality hit home around a year ago. After coming to the end of an exciting and challenging advocacy position, I joined my boyfriend for a few months in Norway. I believed it would be the peaceful break I needed after a fast-paced time in my life.

But it was in our small Norwegian house, overlooking the wonderful natural landscape, where I realised that things weren’t going back to ‘normal’ – at least not in my head. Instead of enjoying the peace and quiet I had been looking forward to, I felt restless and uneasy. My job had become part of me, and now that it had ended, I found myself struggling with my identity and confronted with the question of what my future plans and goals were. I knew I was an advocate, and I knew my passion for advocacy remained, but I didn’t know how that translated into my day-to-day life anymore.

After the first weeks in Norway, I found myself feeling anxious and experienced spells of depression. I was very irritable and I didn’t feel like I was successful. I was starting to forget things (like where I’d left the house-keys, or things off my grocery list) and although I wasn’t doing much, I was always tired.

Initially, I blamed the weather and climate. Being half-Kenyan, I found the short hours of sunlight and cold weather undesirable to say the least. There were also – I should add – other personal circumstances that fed into the way I was feeling.  But after I returned home, I didn’t notice any change and so I visited a psychologist who confirmed that I had been suffering from a burnout for over seven months.

After months of not feeling like myself and being overwhelmed, I felt a wave of relief wash over me when she said that. Since then, I have been working hard to get better and I now feel like I’m nearly my true self again.

Burnout & Young Advocates

The reason I’m sharing this personal and painful experience is because I’ve noticed that in the competitive field of advocacy, the issue of stress and burnout is rarely brought up. I have seen many young advocates work tirelessly during the night or through weekends to achieve wonderful results professionally, and then face repercussions in their personal lives.

The experience of burnout is shared by a wide range of young people working in various fields, not only advocacy. In the Netherlands, attention is being brought to increasing rates of burnout among young people, with the influence of social media and pressure to perform being named as underlying reasons for the trend.

Looking specifically at advocacy, the divide between work and home life can become blurred. Being an advocate is often more than a job – it’s part of your identity. Many young people enter this field due to their empathy, compassion and sense of justice. This makes it hard to clock out at the end of the working day and take enough time to rest and recuperate.

Adding in all of the other pressures on ‘millenials’, I feel that this group in particular needs stronger mental health support. They are particularly vulnerable to stress and burnout, given their drive to achieve results.

It is key that organizations and institutions in the development and advocacy sectors pay attention to the young people working for them. They need to provide all of their employees and volunteers with mental health support and information on how to access relevant services.

By keeping a close eye on the demands placed on young advocates we can help to create a more healthy work-life balance. Opening the dialogue on stress and burnout within organizations can help young employees and volunteers feel free to express their emotions without feeling like a failure, fearing stigma or worrying about future career repercussions.

Taking Action

If you’re a young advocate, how can you recognize if you are at risk of burnout? This article, written by fellow Girls’ Globe Blogger Tariro, highlights a number of points to look out for.

I have also noted the following tips from my own experience and online resources:

  • Don’t be afraid to look for help. This is the first thing I wish I had known. As an advocate you may be used to being in control of things, but when it comes to your mental health, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Start by reaching out to people close to you and then expand by visiting a health professional (this could be your doctor, a psychologist or a therapist).
  • Make time to rest. Whether it’s taking 15 minutes to read a book or taking a ‘mental health’ day from work, it is important to schedule time to do something that grounds you and gives you energy. My personal go-to has been guided-meditation before I go to bed, as I find myself feeling most anxious around this time. I currently use the free app Insight Timer, and I have also heard a lot of positive stories about the Headspace app.
  • Say no. If you are like me, you might find it challenging to say no to new opportunities or requests. In my case, it’s not necessarily that I don’t want to disappoint others, it’s more that I’m easily excited and eager to take on a new challenge. Making sure you look at the time and energy you have in a realistic way can help you pace yourself and say no some of the time.
  • Schedule time for reflection. A tip I received during my treatment was to schedule a specific time every day just to think. This can help you organize your thoughts and reduce overthinking during other times of the day.

There are many more coping and treatment strategies to deal with burnout or stress which mental health professionals can provide, and so it’s important to make services accessible and available to young advocates. A stronger recognition of this issue will help more young people feel free to open up about the realities of their work and the implications it can have on their health.

Give Yourself…You

We’re all taught that if we treat others as we’d like to be treated in return, we’ll live happier lives. But isn’t it about time that we turn that around and focus on providing ourselves the same kind of admiration and love we give to others?

Self love goes beyond the stereotypical pamper sessions. It’s about so much more and a deeper-rooted concern. Too often, we don’t have a big enough inner container for the love we deserve to give ourselves. We are infatuated by the idea of other people giving us love, but it will never work if we can’t even provide ourselves with a small portion of the same kind of love.

Many people associate self love with being selfish, when in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Being able to take time out for yourself and your own needs eventually reflects on the way you act towards others. Constantly being negative and hard on yourself leaves no room for others to give you love.  If you can practice self love around others, it will be a subtle reminder to them to love themselves as well.

Self love is such a vital part of our existence, yet one we ignore – often purposefully – on a daily basis. We can get caught up in the complexities of life while trying to balance the need to achieve, impress and belong. We can forget about the most important part of this complex puzzle – ourselves.

“If you have the ability to love, love yourself first.” Charles Bukowski

I am my own harshest critic. I am always the first to criticise and tear myself apart for the slightest mistake or failure, time after time. It took me a long time to realize that I do not need a green light from the rest of the world to reassure me that I’m on the right path. I’m now learning to trust my instincts instead of my ego.

Listen to your body and ignore all the whispers and dark murmurs in your mind. It’s true that if you talked to others the way the little voices in your mind talk to you, those people may not stay your friends for very long.

Choose yourself first before you let anyone else in. Appreciate yourself for the extraordinary being that you are. If it helps you, thank yourself for getting up in the mornings and then reward yourself for making it through the day. Just as you are a well-functioning, powerful machine put on this earth, there is also a delicacy and fragility within you. You must refuse to seek permission or approval to be yourself. Recognize that you, like everyone else, deserve to take up space on this planet just as you are right now.

As award-winning slam poet Caira Lee says, “I am the most important person in the world to me. I accept that person and I admire that person, and I will do everything in my power to see that person’s dreams come true.”

A Healthy Twist on International Women’s Day

It has been quite a year for women in the world. We have raised the #MeToo movement from a hashtag to a force. We have marched, yet again, for rights that are often agreed upon but still seldom given. We have won seats in government, testified in court, spoken out in interviews. We’ve started organizations, and built families. We have persisted.

SOGH members attend the Women’s March in Stockholm. Credit: Giorgia Dalla Libera Marchiori, Sweden

Despite all of these ‘women’s wins’, there are still glaring disparities in literally all categories from economic gaps, to social treatment, to health. There are global programs, data sets, indexes, and statistics to prove and draw awareness to those discrepancies. Recently, the UN released a report declaring that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gender indicator still leaves “significant gaps to women’s empowerment”, specifically in health areas.

If the big international and governmental organizations struggle to deliver promises for equality, what can we as individuals do?

It can be difficult to know where to begin or which steps to take to create a solution for inequality. The answer is simple: just start somewhere. There is so much each of us can do! At the Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH), we start with health. We join together as individuals with different backgrounds and expertise, and commit to standing together, working in solidarity, and fighting for health equality.

If you’re somewhere other than Sweden (Hej, from Stockholm!), we’ve crafted three ways for you to celebrate International Women’s (Health) Day:

First, understand.

Women face different threats than men do, and still must fight for basic rights and protection to their own bodies. The top threats to women’s health globally include: reproductive health problems, maternal health issues, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, violence (intimate partner, sexual, or gender-based), non-communicable diseases (addictions, accidents, obesity), being young, and ageing. Globally, the health of girls and women often become secondary priorities. Women in the United States make 80% of all health care decisions for their families, and tend to prioritize their own health last. Some women are purposefully kept from care, while others may not be able to obtain the procedures they need. Understanding the threats and the issues women face is the foundation to a healthy future.

Second, practice.

When was the last time you went for a check-up? A breast exam? Have you talked to the girls in your life about self-care, safe-sex, health relationships? What have you been doing to ensure that you and your circle are practicing a healthy lifestyle? From food, to decisions, to difficult conversations, we cannot help to create health in others if we don’t first seek it ourselves. Practice what you preach, click around the Girls’ Globe health posts, make an appointment, quit a habit, have a difficult conversation, and check-in with your loved ones to elevate health in and around you.

Third, unite.

On International Women’s Day, we reflect on the status of health for women. Our work must address the uniqueness of women’s health based on circumstance and environment. Some threats to women are universal no matter the context or place. However, issues like gender equality, access to care, and quality services vary intensely based on income or geography. This added layer means that as activists, we not only have to understand or practice, we have to act. Our action can be in towns nearby, in organizations reaching far away, or in classrooms where future leaders are preparing themselves. Wherever we are and whatever we do, we must unite together for all women.

For more information on International Women’s Day, follow hashtags #IWD2018 or #TimeIsNow, and read about the 2018 UN theme: Rural and Urban Activists, Changing Women’s Lives.