By guest contributor Gigi Robinson, Photographer, TikTok Creator & Creative Consultant.
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders, Mental Health and Body Image.
Creating a dialogue with people in your life about areas that you struggle with can be difficult, especially since we have different generational experiences with body image. You put yourself at the forefront of scrutiny by others based on your insecurities. For example, my mother grew up during the 80s, where looking like a bronzed, beach babe with a flat tummy was promoted; therefore that was her concept of how bodies should look. I was told I needed to be skinny and lose a pound here and there, because of how a different generation was raised, which is why I am so passionate about encouraging and educating within the body image space.
How to deconstruct body image:
Remember that everything we consume will trigger some form of self reflection. That's the entire goal of marketing. At the end of the day, we are sucked into a cycle of capitalism where we consume, purchase, use, throw out and reflect, and repeat. Too often we fall victim to this repeated action because of the first step in this cycle where we interpret an advertisement that is far off from reality. A common example of this is the way that celebrities are morphed into supermodels by editors for major publications, billboards and brands. That said, we are taught that edited versions of ourselves are superior over the reality of who we see in mirrors and unedited photos. That is the fundamental problem with the way that we consume digital media and is why I am so passionate about exposing the tricks of the trade.
Self actualization and Healing through Creating.
So how did I get so confident in combining my love for photography with body image, eating disorder, mental health and chronic illness advocacy? That is the question that most people ask me and the answer is simple. A tremendous amount of personal development and acknowledgement of my thoughts.
In the fall of 2019, I began to have a series of flare ups with my chronic illness (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) that led me down the path of binge eating disorder. Was it the medication I was on or was it a choice I made to psychologically feel better while destroying my body on the inside? It was all of the above. I was unaware of my self inflicted actions at the time and was unwilling to recognize it. Amidst this, I did my best to stay positive until I faced burnout.
I vividly remember the day where I went in to my faculty advisors for my senior thesis at the pinnacle of my flare up. I hadn’t eaten anything the morning of, only a large cold brew and a mint. I walked into the office and they could immediately tell something was not right and so could I. I sat down and couldn’t even begin to explain the flood of emotion I experienced other than a flood of tears as it was the moment that I recognized I needed help. It was a moment of raw emotion and energy that was unstoppable, as if it had to manifest for me in such a momentous (and perhaps embarrassing as this breakdown was in front of two collegiate level professors) way to force me to pay attention to the situation.
As a photographer and digital artist, I have always been inclined to create work that is meaningful and hopefully will have a positive impact on the world. Like many other artists, I chose a route of self reflection and conversation with the work that I committed to create. My thesis is not about body confidence, it's about my chronic conditions and the day to day experience of living with a cup that is ¾ full. During the time it took me to curate my book, I began to realize the power of imagery, words and the connection they have to the creator and I simultaneously began to understand how to heal using art.
If creating a book about chronic illness helped me through my worst flare to date, creating artwork across my social media platforms about body image could sure as hell help others dealing with something similar. I found that if you honor your struggle, and view it as a lesson you can begin your own journey in healing. This is what ultimately led me to begin sharing my story across social media platforms in short form video and photography.
Figure out ways to have conversations about struggle, and advocate for yourself.
Realizing that you struggle with something and begin to seek help, is one of the most courageous things that you can do for yourself. There is beauty in conversation, where there is conversation there is education and with education comes perspective, with perspective comes creativity and innovation, and from there you can proceed amicably. If you have ever questioned the way that you advocate for yourself, it's important to continue to research and discuss what you need out of the situation. Self advocacy is not always easy and the journey to figuring out how to get what you need to move forward amicably, can be difficult to navigate.
If you are having a difficult time figuring out if you have an eating disorder, low self confidence or mental health condition, the best thing that you could do is consider reflecting on your own personal encounters with struggle. It is not always easy to willingly talk about the struggle that we experience, but it can become easier to find the lesson that will help you persist in a positive way. If you are comfortable, begin to write them down so that you have a log of your behavioral patterns and thoughts, and when you are ready, consider talking about it with family or friends to see if they have gone through something similar or could offer you support. Below, I will take you through my personal journey of struggle in overcoming eating disorders, image making and building self confidence.
Creating content for the first time about your experience with my body.
I didn’t always think that I would be sharing my body image issues across my social media platforms, I only wanted to showcase my art. As a Gen Z’er, I practically grew up consuming media alongside my digital personality, making me naive to the unrealistic media that is plastered in every corner of the internet and media. I became aware of the psychological implications false images (anything that is photoshopped or altered from its true form) have on people. After my book was complete, I had time to finally focus on the issues that mattered most to me… making sure that I could expose the way that social media contorts beauty and can lead to eating disorders.
As mentioned above, I knew I had to combine my creativity with conversation about my struggle to help educate and be a source of positivity to those that I surround myself with. Healing isn’t necessarily going to cure or fix the issue at hand, but more so will help you recognize how to manage it. I began sharing my ideas across instagram in form of photo and tiktok in form of video in hopes of helping others dealing with similar things. Since I was comfortable with my body image, I knew, even if someone was not confident with theirs I would be able to create content to serve others in a positive way.
Of course there were times where I would read comments that said, “why would you promote obesity” or “girls aren’t supposed to look like that”. I just thought to myself… how insecure and sad must a person be to tear others down based on how they physically look.The negativity and ignorance was doused by an influx of positivity that would eventually fuel the fire within me to continue spreading my message of self love.
From there, I knew there was only one way to proceed, and it was to continue exposing myself so I could help others. I took to instagram to curate images and words that were intrinsically linked together to give my thoughts on the matters of editing, body image standards and eating disorders. TikTok became the place where I could showcase my body and deconstruct reality from what we are fed by media.
So if you take anything from this article, please know that you do not need to create to heal from an eating disorder, insecurities or any body image issues, but rather focus on what you are consuming. Are you following content creators that are not retouching their photos or are you willingly believing everything you see on the internet? Are you reading books that are going to benefit your lifestyle? Are you nourishing your body with food that is going to make you feel good, after the moment that you eat it? Think about setting intentions with your mindset to allow yourself to gain your subconscious trust back.
Luckily, more and more people have begun their own journeys in speaking about the issues they have faced which in turn, helps inspire others in their journey. I knew that I had to use my knowledge of photography and social media to talk about the psychological issues that occur relating to body image. Again, I want to emphasize that you do not need to put your life all over social media to begin sharing a message; it's just what I have personally done… it's my job.
It’s my honor to share resources across my social media pages about body image and resources to credible websites such as NEDA. The journey to healing can be closer than you may think; and if you even question whether or not you may be struggling, do not hesitate to reach out to someone you love for help.
Choose who you surround yourself with in relation to body image.
Oftentimes, I ask myself, how can I be a source of support and positivity to those I surround myself with in person and online. In person, I am able to use the gift of image making and video production to create with intention to make my clients feel confident and comfortable. However, through the digital screen, I think about the ways that I can use my knowledge, image making skills and platform to provide resources and inspiration to those who may not have had it before.
If you ever doubt yourself, know that everything you need is within.
In the United States, you can visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for information about Eating Disorders and Body Image.
About the author
Gigi is a USC Graduate and current Masters student whose passion is creating content with an intention of making a positive impact on as many young people as possible through imagery and videography. Gigi often speaks about the ways that she can expose false imagery in media, posing tips, behind the scenes of image making, philanthropy and advocacy work across her social media platforms (@itsgigirobinson), as a guest on several podcasts and other articles.
Gigi is the creator of a recent Instagram Live, IGTV series called “Everything You Need is Within” which you can view on her Instagram page @itsgigirobinson. This series was inspired by a conversation led by Gigi and Julia Michaels about mental health and body image. Gigi has always been very passionate about debunking editing, posing and lighting tactics often used in mainstream media to help others gain body confidence of their own. In the past, Robinson has shared her experience living with and recovering from several different eating disorders in addition to her chronic illnesses, which she writes “is the reason why I have to speak about body image issues and stigmas even more”. To connect with Gigi you can email her or reach her through IG Dm.