My Body & Me With Rebecca Flynn

Rebecca, who you may know as @flynnfluencer, was one of the first friends I made through my Instagram account. Way back in March 2017, Rebecca and I met amid the hustle and bustle of hair and make up on a swimwear shoot we were modelling in for The Sunday Independent. The magazine was doing a body positivity feature, and both Rebecca and I agreed to give an interview and pose for a few scantily clad images.

I immediately warmed to Rebecca but found her very intimidating. She was uber knowledgeable on all things bopo, had a following and had done a nude photo shoot for another national mag before. This was my first taste of the media and, nervous as I was, the ease with which she handled it intimidated the hell out of me.

Since that day, Rebecca has become somebody that I’m very proud to call a friend. We keep in touch regularly on Instagram and she’s been as supportive of me and my efforts as I always will be of hers.

I associate Rebecca with knowledge and wisdom. She’s incredibly humble and seems to be totally unaware of just what a positive influence she has on everyone who followers her. Her content has challenged me many times, and I’ve had to really think about the things she says and how they apply to me or my life. I don’t know how else to say it except that without having any idea of it, she keeps me in check.

One of my favorite things about her is her honesty. As a stay at home Mum to two beautiful boyos, Rebecca is brutally honest about how incredibly difficult parenting can be. Rebecca also inspired the absolute fuck out of me, and thousands of others, last year when she spoke so openly and eloquently about experiencing a miscarriage.

She’s a body positivity activist, a feminist, an environmentalist, was a passionate pro-choice activist, and yet somehow she manages to not come across as a smug, preachy arsehole. I’m not sure how, but it works.

Anyway, I could sing her praises all day long (not just because of all of the above but more so because she’s just sound as hell and I like her a lot), but it’s very late and I need sleep. So, without further ado here’s Rebecca on her body.

Sarah x

 

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Can you start off by describing the attitude to beauty in your family home while you were growing up and how you think that affected you?

Beauty was definitely something that was valued in my home growing up. Both my parents are definitely of the generation where value was placed on looking good and being slim. My mum raised us with incredible feminist values but unfortunately body stuff kind of slipped through the net. She was quite critical of her own body and image, as was my father, and while I don’t blame them at all as they lived within the same society that values beauty and thinness as all of us do, it definitely had an affect on me.

During your teens, how did you feel about your body? Did you compare yourself to your friends or family? Do you remember who your role models (for example musicians, actresses, an older cousin etc) were and what, if anything, you did to look like them?

I don’t remember loving or hating my body as a teenager to be honest. By the time I got to about 15 I had an awareness that I was pretty and believed it was the most important thing about me, not in a big headed way by the way, in a very insecure way. That feeling was so damaging in the long run.

I have a cousin who is the same age as me and I did compare myself a lot to her. I also remember days towards the end of secondary school where I wouldn’t eat and would just buy a 2 litre bottle of Diet Coke and only have that and smoke some cigarettes. Jesus! I thought my eating disorder started much later but now that that memory has come back to me I’m like… ohhhh.

Do you remember ever feeling body shame as a child/teenager, or being body shamed by others?

I remember some boys in my class making fun of me for being flat chested, SO MUCH LOL. If they could see me now! In my very late teens my dad remarked a few times. Having someone you love body shame you is incredibly hurtful and you don’t really ever forget sadly. I believe he truly thought he was being helpful over the years. It never had the intended effect of making me skinnier though. I’ve made my peace with it, I’m not angry anymore. I feel sad for people who believe that human worth is tied up in body size.

 

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How, if at all, did your relationship with your body change from childhood through your teen years and into your adult life? How do you think this has affected your mental health?

I went from being very slim in my teens to getting broader and bigger (but still slim) around the age of 20/21. I did not cope with it well. I had horrendous self esteem though I mostly hid it well. I was modeling at the time too. Nobody would have believed the way I saw myself. I believe I had body dysmorphic disorder though have never been diagnosed. I still find it extremely hard to have any sort of realism looking at my body. My mum/family knew I was unhappy though. She offered to go on a diet with me and that’s where things started to really get messed up for me I think. Again, I don’t blame her, I know she thought she was helping. I didn’t stop dieting and engaging in disordered eating for 15 years.

If you’ve had children, how do you think that has affected your relationship with your body?

After having my first son, my body changed again. It got bigger again. I was miserable. I was engaging in really restrictive eating and having this horribly cruel internal dialogue. Then one day after nearly fainting from hunger I had an epiphany of sorts. I had to stop fighting with my body. I’d been really skinny and wasn’t happy then. What was I doing this for? And also, I didn’t want to pass this utter shit way of feeling about myself onto my kid, because seriously, monkey see monkey do.

They pick it all up. No matter how hard you try to hide it, if you hate your body they’re gonna absorb that. The least I could try to do was afford myself the kindness I’ve always extended to others. I could at least be neutral about my body. And you know what? By doing the hard work on myself I can’t protect him from society but I can make sure he’s kind and not fatphobic and I see that in him already.

 

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As you get older, do you feel your attitude to beauty change? And are you concerned about the effect that aging will have on your body?

Yes definitely. It becomes less and less valuable in my eyes. I don’t care and also know that I’m pretty invisible to men. It’s actually so freeing to not give a fuck about the male gaze anymore. I do still enjoy the ritual of makeup and hair and getting dressed up and I feel really nice when I do it. When I’m sleep deprived and fed up with parenting etc though that can kind of all fly out the window and my internal body shaming demons will sneak back in now and then.

I think growing old is a privilege. I’ve stopped dyeing my hair. I have loads of grey and I love it. That all said, I’ve totally drank the skincare koolaid. I mean, it really is just a money racket. I’m not sure the hundreds I spend on lotions and potions makes a blind bit of difference. I reckon it’s the *use a new clean face cloth every day* tip I picked up from Caroline Hirons that’s made the biggest difference!!

Do you think that men and women are equally subjected to unrealistic beauty standards?

I’ll be blasted for saying it but NOPE, sorry dudes, you absolutely don’t have it as bad as women do. So many other things are valued in men before their looks. I mean, yes it’s crap that every young man is expected to look like Conor McGregor these days, and obviously there are pressures and men can have eating disorders and body image issues. But, nah, it’s not on the same level of centuries of misogyny. They’re also not duped by the beauty industrial complex like women are. The day I see men my age regularly dropping €80 on an eye serum, maybe I’ll rethink that

[FUCK YAS]

Do you remember one stand out moment in your life that highlighted to you how you felt about your body, whether positive or negative?

Giving birth. I had two positive birth experiences and I felt like a goddamn warrior. What a joy and a privilege to bring human life into the world. It made me realise women, all women, are magical. That is not to discount the experiences of those who don’t wish to or cannot give birth. There are myriad ways women’s bodies show us we are goddamn warriors.

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If you could give your younger self one piece of advice about your relationship to your body, what would it be?

What you look like is the least important thing about you.

If you could change one thing about society and how it treats women and their bodies, what would that be?

That’s a very broad question and hard to answer but I’ll try my best!! I would maybe just say…. let people live. Can we not just let everyone else live happily however they choose, as long as they are not actively harming other people, why must we stick our oars in so much? I think I’ll finish the questionnaire on a really mature note and say that one of my favorite phrases ever is “BUTT OUT.” So go on society, butt out.

You can catch Rebecca and absorb her wisdom over at her Instagram account.

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