Annie Segarra is the creator of the popular blog Stop Hating Your Body (SHYB), where thousands of submitters have shared their own journeys toward self-love. From people who already love their bodies, to those still finding peace with their bodies, and even those fighting mental or eating disorders, SHYB is a safe place for anyone with meaningful words or those seeking advice on body acceptance to read others' stories and share their own.
Segarra has been featured in several magazines and news outlets, including Glamour, Refinery 29, and Missfits, and has even been invited to speak at schools around the country about body image issues. This young woman's infectiously upbeat personality is part of the reason why SHYB has been such a rousing success.
I talked to Ms. Segarra about not only the blog itself, but also her own views on the subject of body peace and self-acceptance.
Christine Salek (CS): What was your original motivation for starting SHYB?
Annie Segarra (AS): It was just going to be a blog where I kept body positive posts that inspired me. I welcomed people to tell their stories about body image, and it became quite popular for that; a nice little platform where people could have their moment to tell their stories.
CS: How was the response when you launched the site, and how could you tell it was getting really popular?
AS: The response to it has always, to this day, been split into people who are excited and want to learn to have a positive body image and are looking to be inspired, and then those who respond to it negatively whether it be because of personal circumstances, opposing views, etc.
The numbers of followers kept climbing and more and more stories kept coming in. I believe today there are over 50,000 SHYB followers. It felt weird because I never felt like it was "ready" for the public — I'm just a twenty-something young woman, I'm still learning and growing, my thoughts continuously expanding, and my ability to communicate my thoughts is changing as well. I felt and feel a certain pressure to watch what I say and how I say it. I am humble enough to know that I don't know everything, and as much as I speak, I am listening as well.
CS: What is the overall message you want to convey with SHYB?
AS: That through all adversities we have the strength, and that it is possible to feel positive about the body that you're in, and more importantly the lives we are living. Personally, I think a big part of the problem is how much focus we all put on our appearance and our bodies. The negativity about them affects our self-esteem, our emotions, etc. People are entitled to feel however they want about themselves and their bodies; however, hating their bodies and often themselves is so damaging. My hope is for people to make peace with themselves.
CS: I've always enjoyed your take on perceived "flaws" — can you explain that a little bit?
AS: Our "flaws" are typically only made so from the idea that we must all become a physical "ideal." Everything is "too" something: my boobs are too small, my feet are too big, my nose is too big, but this "too" is meaningless. We were not designed to all look the same. Our differences are what make us unique and I find them all so incredibly beautiful.
CS: What are some of the worst responses to the site or its content have you received?
AS: The worst is the socially political argument that I will have with those who believe I encourage people to live physically unhealthy lifestyles because I believe it's okay to be fat, and it's okay to love your fat body. People still correlate fatness to being unhealthy, when it's not always the case; and even if it were, there is no sense in making an entire community of [fat] people into a second-class group because of such prejudice. Fatphobia roars through our society, our TV shows, movies, advertising, radio stations — it's not okay, and I have to have that argument quite often with people who believe otherwise.
CS: And some of the best responses?
AS: The best is when I get to meet people in person, when I am recognized in public by people who SHYB has touched and inspired. I've been told how life-changing the site has been and about the progress they've made with themselves. I'm able to hug them and it's just the most inspiring feeling; I'm so grateful for it.
CS: What's your #1 message to people who are struggling with self-love?
AS: We often don't see ourselves clearly. Our surroundings typically do not make it very easy. I could try and tell you how beautiful you are to me, but that won't mean anything unless you believed it about yourself first. You don't even have to think you're beautiful if you really don't want to, but at least know that you don't have to be. You don't owe beauty to anyone; you don't need beauty to survive or to be happy or to love yourself. Life is so much bigger than your reflection, than your pants size; there's a whole world of things to do and people to meet and adventures to be had and you do not have to look any particular way to enjoy it. All I ask is that, if you can recognize that your thinking is harmful, if you have great struggles with how you look, to consider that maybe instead of trying to change your body, it's time to change how you think.
CS: What's your response to those who say, "But being this body type/looking like this/weighing this much is unhealthy. Why would you or how could you love that?"
AS: My instinctual response is, "You cannot tell me what I can and cannot love." Actually, the truth is, there is more and more current research (and logic) that says you cannot determine someone's health or lifestyle merely by looking at their body type. There are different reasons for people to have different bodies, and we were not all built to be slender. People come in different shapes and sizes.
However, I'd like to humor the idea for a moment that we are talking about someone is fat and has an unhealthy lifestyle and you are judging them for it. To that I ask, "Why?" Why is it any of your business or concern? Why the judgement, why the bullying? Why are you so afraid of looking like them that you have to put them down, even if just in the privacy of your own mind? It's poisonous to yourself; it's poisonous to your surroundings.
No matter someone's health status or lifestyle, treat people as you would like to be treated, with decency and respect.
CS: Do you have any final words?
AS: I'd just like as many people as possible to fight this social ladder of physical ideas, the consumerism of the beauty industry with harmful messages about our bodies, and whether at the end of their journey they find radical self love, body peace, or no longer give a single flying f*ck about what they look like — I just hope the best for everyone!
CS: Thank you so much for your wonderful replies!