Essena O’Neill Reveals the Truth Behind Social Influencer Success in Farewell Treatise to Online Media
Essena O’Neill Reveals the Truth Behind Social Influencer Success
In the following lengthy treatise, former influencer and model Essena O’Neill describes her journey after famously quitting social media. After receiving applause and support following her shocking Instagram revelations about the true nature of social media marketing, paid endorsements, influencer perks, and the vapid nature of the digital celebrity culture, a backlash ensued.
Essena, a vegan advocate for animals, sustainability and other charitable works, was subject to a smear campaign from other social influencers upset over her revelations as well as fans who were upset over her change in direction. Dozens of Instagram images that Essena had re-captioned to reflect the realism of her life as opposed to the paid and sponsored fictions of her depressed teen years were deleted. Many of these illuminating Instagram images have been preserved, and interwoven into this document.
In the newsletter sent to her followers, Essena O’Neill explains at length her decision to quit social media, the horrific cyber bullying, alienation of fellow influencers, distain of friends and family and other important issues facing social media personalities. This letter was published over a year ago, but remains relevant to the industry as it stands today and in the foreseeable future. The issues Essena faced are wide-spread and ever more coming into the public awareness.
Essena O’Neill’s Eye-Opening Farewell to Social Media
From: Essena O’Neill
Subject: Here it goes…
I’ve tried to write this newsletter for weeks… but up until today I just couldn’t find the words.
There is so much I wish to say, more than any email could fill… I guess that’s the point of the book, but even so I’ll try and keep this brief, for the people who heard what I was trying to say.
I’ll start here.
I grew up being a teen idle. I was social media famous at 15. At 12 I saw myself as this huge, solid, too tall, nerdy, awkward majorly unpopular girl. I thought to be social media famous would be the best job ever and if all these people ‘liked’ me I would be happy. At 15 I got what I wished for, I was first Facebook famous – tall, slim, blonde, smiling, straight A student… Then I moved onto Instagram and tumblr, then shortly after – at the request of others – YouTube.
When I broke up with my boyfriend at 18, quit university to peruse social media (I had over 500,000 instagram followers), I became signed with one of Australia’s biggest modelling agencies in a matter of weeks. I instantly started dating another guy and through social media made several online vegan friends that asked all about my break up, how I was doing, what my plans were, if they could do anything to help – I was thrilled. These people were there for me and invited me into their homes. Breaking up with him, quitting uni and moving out of my apartment – I was extremely unstable and unsure of everything.
I had a friend that had been there for me since I was 16, and actually helped me go vegan… she wasn’t as well known on social media as the other people coming into my life… and when the decision presented itself I chose modelling and these new friends over her.
I pushed away all my old friends and anyone who knew me for me (goofy, nerdy Essena – not the teen idle). I talked ill of my old friends and only hung out with social media people… I made that choice.
Social media was my full time job and took up majority of my life. I would spend eight hours a day photographing, styling, editing, filming, scrolling… Finding people with similar passions was incredible – eating out for free, every little moment could be a perfect candid snap or silly vlog, we’d talk about my nonstop boy problems, and bitch about other youtuber’s/instgaramers that I knew personally. That was my life. Constant shoots, photos, editing and an artificial smile. I am not one bit proud of my actions, if that’s not already clear.
I was able to fund travels to Thailand and LA off Youtube payments and paid posts… Of which I deceived and acted like I bought the products of free will.
I made a video saying I was going to travel to these places and thousands of people offered their homes to me. The girl I mentioned above that was less known (of which I pushed asides, spoke ill of and was a completely horrible person to) was travelling to LA at the same time. She was talking to all the same people but she didn’t get any invites, even when some that were originally promised.
I guess I felt entitled with how everything was just handed to me… I had followers and people wanted to be my friend.
Being as caught up and superficial as I was, I chose only the people that were in the same industry as I to stay with – vegan and social media famous. I house hopped for three months. I am firstly extremely grateful for all the hospitality, but the girl they knew was not someone I am proud of, let alone someone I even liked.
During this time I became so caught up in pleasing people, getting more success in my career, becoming thinner (fitter was my excuse), dating countless guys at the same time, meeting with lots of different agencies and having proposals for major modelling and YouTube deals. All I talked about was my social media, getting a new fancy car, getting a fancy flat in LA, new cute clothes, my growing followers, brand deals…. This was everything I did and talked about each day.
I did shoots most days with everyone I stayed with, giving them all my social media tips, bikini photos, brand deals, cute selifes, perfectly arranged smoothie bowls. I gave lighting, caption and editing tips. It was my life and what I did for fun, not to mention my entire career.
This 2D perfect world was my life – it felt like it was my true worth, I somehow convinced myself ‘this is what I owe them for their hospitality… they didn’t host a small instagramer… this is why they want me…’ I know that may sound ridiculous, because it so is.
Is that just how it works?
I couldn’t help wondering, if I had 500 followers not 500,000+ would I be staying here? If I was a size 16 not a size 6, would they still like me as their friend? If I wasn’t this famous, slim blonde – would I be at this party? At this place? With these people?
Would I still walk into a shop and the owner say ‘take everything you want, let’s just do a little shoot out the back for insta yeah?’
I don’t blame anyone for my actions or how much I was absorbed by social media, my appearance and this 2D world. It was me, I was being deceitful, I was lost, I was sick and I needed serious help.But of course I didn’t know that at the time. At the time I thought more money, more of these friends, being thinner.. that would solve this internal misery.
What’s ironic, during all of this struggle I was getting more and more followers, thinner and thinner, better and more visually appealing pictures… online it looked like I had the perfect life… yet I was so completely lonely and miserable inside. I hid it from everyone. I smiled and laughed in pictures and vlogs. No one knew I had what now is described as social anxiety disorder, depression, body dimorphic… whenever I met someone I instantly thought ‘they hate me’ or ‘they make fun of my videos’ ‘they think I’m stupid’… I felt exhausted trying to keep up this bubbly, funny, happy façade.
So at the height of several major proposals with modelling and getting close to signing new agencies in LA I started freaking out – why am I so unhappy? Why do I feel so lonely surrounded by so many people? Why do I hate myself so much? Why do I feel this lost and upset with myself? What is wrong with me?
What I saw in LA, especially at social events and how much I changed to please people… shocked my core. The celebrities I met at events – how they use social media and marketing seriously stunned me. The things I saw and heard and was even apart of – hardly many people know. I believe these things should be made public – hence the book.
So I started seeing myself in others, hearing horrible things and realising that’s what I say… do… I had a kind of epiphany that may be obvious to many, but at the time this freaked someone who had ‘everything’ out- I realised I didn’t know myself without my looks or social media fame… the young aspiring 14 year old writer was dead to me… I hated who I was. I hated everything about myself.
Whilst I was still dating several guys, had heaps of these social media friends and was so fortunate to stay with some generous people who had an amazing guesthouse, I made a video titled ‘I feel so alone.’ This would have been four months ago now. It received 100,000 views at the time. This was the start of everything I guess. I made several more posts and videos about how I never enjoyed modelling or how I was addicted to a 2D version of myself. I made a video saying ‘I’m not who you think I am’ which basically said just that… I’m not this perfect happy, lovely earthy girl… I’ve got serious problems. I’ve lost myself to these superficial ideas of happiness.
People made fun of that, said I was just trying to get views…but it was okay. It was my old friend from primary school who messaged that touched me saying ‘this is the Essena I remember’.
I then made one with a face full of acne explaining ‘I am grateful for my acne’ basically saying how I felt I needed a break for superficial beauty because who I am is someone that needs a lot of time to heal and grow.
Since that video I stopped wearing makeup and using my phone for about 3 days straight. This was insane and huge for me, especially in LA where my entire job was videos and photos… it changed my life.
I realised how I am never present, I don’t really talk to people… but more so how my days had morphed into constant shoots, constant planning to do things to make my life look good on a screen.
I do not respect the person I was in LA, Thailand, or even towards the end of my first semester in uni… I was lost, with serious problems so beautifully hidden… if anything my social media addiction, perfectionist personality and low self esteem made my career. Over-sexualisation, perfect food photos, perfect travel vlogs – it is textbook how I got famous. Sex sells, people listen to pretty blondes, I just happened to talk about veganism a trending thing on YouTube.
I used people, and time after time let people use me.
When I got back from LA I felt ashamed of everything I’d become. I told my family, ‘I can’t do this. I don’t want to model. I don’t want to even be on social media, it’s just not for me anymore.’
Of course they thought I was going crazy. Why give up a preposed $50,000 Youtube deal? Five or six shoots already waiting for me in Sydney?
If you knew what I knew or felt what I felt… I think you might understand.
Placing value on your external appearance and social status will never make you happy, if anything I’d argue it makes you extremely lonely, shallow, lost and anxious… because both those things are determined by others… how you look and appear to others.
For about three weeks when I got back, stayed with my parents, hardly using social media, makeup, my phone… I realised how much of who I am was suppressed… how much my life I ignored and how screwed up I really was in this tiny sparkly 2D world. It was then seeing my younger sister and her friends – how they use social media… how so many go places just to take photos, sit there scrolling for hours, refreshing likes desperately hoping they’ll get more…
Again, could elaborate. This is me trying to be brief aha.
So I told my family and a few close to me that I was going to quit it all – modelling and social media. That instead I would do some ad free videos and posts on a website for the people who followed me and wanted to know more (I thought my experience would maybe help a few see things a little differently). I had seen a lot of musicians and content creators rely on donations for free content, the ‘pay what you think’ method.
I was originally just going to delete all 2000 of my photos on Instagram and leave the bio with a simple link to my site. However when I got to the last few photos I thought ‘hey maybe it will be funny if I edit these with kinda truthful captions’. So I did. I remember that day was a Monday. The people who originally followed me thought it was hilarious. On the Tuesday I released my site, with a couple of posts, heaps of documentaries, music, recipes and basically the place I’d make content part time whilst I wrote. That was the plan.
There even was a forum, that so many used to talk to each other about vegan meet ups, overcoming certain problems and diversities… it was such an amazing positive place.
Then Wednesday afternoon I filmed a very raw, arguably desperate video. I didn’t even watch it through. It was the most unfiltered I could have ever spoken. I was scared. I was throwing away such a big part of my life and I guess realised how much I needed to hear what I knew now at 12… when it was all starting… when I felt like I was nothing.
I made that video for the people that idolised me, I felt I owed them just that. That was all it was meant to be.
The next morning was Thursday, my 19th birthday. I logged into the forum on the site and saw so many posts about my story being on the news, so I went to the video I uploaded last night and blinked rapidly at the 1,000,000+ views in less than 12 hours. I looked at my Instagram and saw 800,000+ followers when only a few hours ago I had 500,000.
This day was immensely positive. I couldn’t believe so many resonated with the message… so many youtubers and Instagrammers saying this shit happens all too often and we should be aware… basically every single news channel and talk show imaginable was emailing, calling my friends, ex’s, school, local library even.
It was insane. A major talk show in Australia said they believed in the message wholeheartedly, I spoke with the producer on the phone for an hour. She said ‘this the story of the year, I can relate so much, thank you for finally saying it’.
I went on her show the next morning, and as she wished, made sure it was the first thing I did. I couldn’t believe the irrelevant questions asked and how different the feel was from the phone conversation with the producer. I felt humiliated and made fun of… as if me crying was a catchy headline for them… they didn’t want to talk about the deeper stuff – deceptive paid posts, doing things just for social approval, or even just growing up a teen idle and realising hey maybe this isn’t the key to happiness?? Maybe fame, a cute bikini selfie and a modelling contract doesn’t equal happiness?
That’s all my message was.
During the next 24 hours I was just shocked and honestly just confused… the way it all turned so negative just numbed me…
As if I was making it all up? For what? Money? Fame? I had that before so that makes sense?
That I was a genius manipulator and knew this would make world news?
I was a hypocrite because I used social media to explain my story to the half a million people that once idolised me?
That I was a fraud, a hoax, a brilliant actor just because I was smiling in the pictures and said those smiles weren’t real?
Seeing people I knew making videos as if my personal life, tears and obvious vulnerability… as if it was some kind of joke to them? I couldn’t believe people couldn’t just call me first, but wanted to make such a public spectrum… it worked, they got views…
But most of all, I couldn’t believe how many people in the industry took my words so personally… YES I WAS THE ONE WITH THE PROBLEM, I WAS THE ONE USING SOCIAL MEDIA BADLY – that was my entire point? I cried about how messed up I was. I was down, bleeding and scared. I made that obvious the world.
I let those superficial things motive my life… that was what the video was about – I had the problem…
The one exaggeration I made was saying ‘everyone in LA was miserable’ – it’s so ironic because at the time I only meant the celebrities I had met and the people at certain events. I meant the people I had met that were ‘superficially successful’ not anyone I stayed with. I never ever intended to hurt anyone personally. I only meant to talk about the culture of a certain society I was apart of – never any one person.
The culture of Instagram fame, sexism in media, the sexual objectification of women, the deception in paid posts, the idea that skinny starving girls get ahead, that if you’re born into the body I have – you get a career out of it, you get an invite into all the parties, everyone wants to take you to lunch, everyone says they love you… I lived that life and felt so alone, shallow and lost… BECAUSE I WAS.
That’s the culture that I believe needs to be talked about. I suffered from it at 12 and at 18.
How the media and arguably a lot of social media works is off sex, scandals, gossip and trending topics.
I guess I became a trending topic. The girl crying saying she thought her whole life wasn’t real – became a laughing stock.
What happened with people I thought were friends hurt me more than any words can say… Hearing what some people thought of me based off one video or headline made me feel things I’d never felt before.
Apparently I was pregnant, apparently I was doing all of this because I broke up with someone (of which I was seeing other people and broke up with guys nonstop for the last 6 months, something that I think explains how much drama fuelled my life). People I didn’t even know and never even met pretending to be ‘one of my close friends’…
I became the trend to talk about, make fun of and put in headlines.
When it was all unfolding I was too overwhelmed with the positive and all the people that supported me and so very generously donated to my creation of more content and more posts of the relevant issues.
I numbed myself to the entire negative and buried myself in the site. I woke up at 5am, worked out, ate breakfast and worked from 7am to 7pm Mon-Friday.
It was fuelled by a mix of ‘holy shit this site had 5 million unique visitors they deserve more content’ and ‘I want to help anyone I can.’
Burying your pain and feelings will never ever work long term. A month ago it all caught up from me. I had refrained from reading much or even watching much with my name when it all happened… but a month ago I started viewing…
I couldn’t explain the feeling of complete loss of control. Of seeing your vulnerable moments plastered on memes, of even hearing so called friends try and defend themselves while wanting to hurt me…
For views? For AdSense money? So they appear relevant?
I couldn’t believe how the message of perfectionism online, deceptive paid posts and living out of screen were buried under my personal life and so called ‘scandal’.
I guess it proved my point about how a lot of mass media and social media work – get views, get likes, don’t worry about the value in what you’re saying let alone the person you are ripping apart through your key board.
I had to say goodbye to a few people I was close to because I simply couldn’t condone what they were saying to their viewers… how they were denying paid posts and how they were twisting truths. It was really hard. I said I love you to them all and explained I just can’t support it, I support you though and only hope you’re happy…
I never in a million years thought these people would turn around and publicly ‘hate’ me.
Having people you shared so much with do that… well it left me crying myself to sleep. It left me sitting in my room never wanting to leave.
I felt like dying.
There I said it.
I know that’s fucking dark and not fun to even talk about but I got to that point. I felt like screaming, ‘DO YOU ALL JUST WANT ME TO KILL MYSELF? TO DIE? AM I THAT HORRIBLE? WHAT HAVE I DONE REALLY DONE TO YOU?’
I received so many death threats, ‘Kill yourself you attention seeking whore that only cares about herself and cuts out all your friends, you deserve to die, so please just do it now and save the world some more embarrassment.’
I had a family member say how much of an embarrassment I was and how I was lying because I was smiling in past pictures… as if one can’t fake a smile.
As if being perfect, smiling and happy online was okay, even if you’re hiding real pain and torment inside – the world loves that girl, celebrates and adores her. But the second you say something out of line, you’re a hoax.
What kind of message is that to anyone wanting to speak out about his or her own struggles? What have we come to where it’s completely okay to make fun of a vulnerable girl who admits she has an addiction and ridicule her for it?
Just reading some things so far from the truth, having absolutely no control… I just felt so much pain and I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t know what to do.
First it was confusion for what was happening, then it was pure hate, then it was a lot of fear and just hurt.
I don’t regret what I said, sure I could have worded things differently, but I didn’t think twice or even edit that viral video. Those edited captions were a bit of a joke, I never ever thought it would get global news attention.
I told my truth and how I felt and the problem I had. Having it backfire like it did, so positive then so immediately negative… burying those feelings then letting myself feel all at once… I just felt like staying in my bed for the rest of my life.
Growing up famous on social media you learn to deal with hate comments and build up a type of shield to them. But I guess I was never so open before so when I was down, crying, saying how messed up I was… and having people throw that in my face (people I knew as well) just made me feel like everything I did was a mistake. I was a mistake. The world doesn’t want real underling problems; the world wants to mock someone who said ‘this superficial life isn’t real’.
I took down the site three weeks ago simply because I just couldn’t be on the Internet. It felt toxic. It got to the point where I just wanted to write, the satire/memoir that I’m currently working on but more so fiction. Sci-fi novels have been my dream since I was 12.
Two weeks ago I donated all the funds raised to three different charities that resonated with me the most. I’m scared even sharing this will make me seem attention seeking all over again (I guess you can never win).
- Animal Foundation of Florida. It was their ‘101 reasons to be vegan’ that changed my life forever, opened my eyes to so many logical concepts and truly impacted beyond words.
2.Megan Meier Foundation. I’m not going to get into it too full on here, but having people on the Internet say things that they wouldn’t dare to in real life… well it hurts more than I ever could have imagined. Being called every name under the sun… lair, slut, whore, fake, manipulator, attention seeking, psycho… that I should kill myself and will forever be a ‘flaky bitch’ … it got to me. It really really got to me. There were some really dark days. And I just can’t imagine what it’s like to not have a family like mine during these times of severe struggle. They got me through this as well as professional therapy… but the millions of young people who deal with cyber bullying everyday and feel they have no one… what about them? What if they too believe the words and think they are underserving of forgiveness or even living?
If that’s you, oh god I just want to beg you to hold on, you’re not alone and no matter what they say about you or even who you think you are, you are worthy of change and acceptance… time and professional help will heal this. The world is a nasty place but believe me there are people out there who understand and will help you get through this.
To anyone: before you send in a hateful anonymous message, a YouTube comment or even make an entire video ripping into someone publicly naming and shaming them… please oh please consider the real pain of your words. Please realise it is a real human you a talking about. Ask yourself… is this person hurt? Do they have feelings? Do I even truly know them? Have I known them for years enough to form a valid opinion of their actions? Most likely you don’t. If you did you would know publicly shaming and ridiculing them is the most destructive thing you could ever do, especially if the person is already vulnerable and exposed.
Cyberbulling is not okay. I am so grateful for organisations like this one, I cried reading Megan’s story. It felt like I could relate wholeheartedly especially having grown adults to similar things to me. The feeling of utter grief, loss of control… I know it now all too well. It’s never okay. And there are people who devote their lives to stoping this pain.
3. The Fred Hollows Foundation. As little as $25 can restore eyesight. That’s fucking incredible.
Again, I never anticipated the response that happened. I was so overwhelmed with everyone’s belief in the site, I can’t begin to thank you and let you know what I’m working on I really really believe in.
So with everyone’s generosity, it only feels right to give to these three organisations that seriously save and change lives.
So as for me? I’m getting a job at a local bar and pursuing writing full time.
That was my childhood dream… and I can’t help but think maybe I might have pursued that if I believed in myself enough beyond what people told me I should do…
I don’t expect people to understand that decision right now, but I personally don’t want to model or use any part of my everyday life to define my career. I had a horrible relationship with social media, how I used it and what I became through it, is something I just simply can’t imagine ever going back on.
I don’t want my body or perfect lifestyle shots to be what I do on earth. Ironically it’s not because I look down on these careers… it’s more so that I simply don’t enjoy them. If someone honestly does, then rock on! You do you! Maybe be transparent about your self-timer and how you make money, but other than that do what you love! I just personally didn’t ever enjoy modelling or constantly editing my ‘perfect online life’. Again, just to be clear – it’s how I used social media, not how everyone else uses it. It’s how I felt online, I have no idea how anyone else feels.
I just want to enjoy my life. That’s all I could ever want… to be content and surrounded by people who get that.
So I’m going to work at a bar and work my ass off at this first book… whilst also planning fantasy novels (extremely nervous, excited and just passionate about that!).
To anyone who personally felt hurt by what I did, I am sorry. For anyone who felt I lied or manipulated people, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I wish I could sit down with you and explain what I know and why I felt and said the things I did about the career I had… but I can’t, hence the book.
It was never ever my intention to talk about any one individual rather the culture of the celebrity status, specifically the social famous and how widely idolised they are. The people that identified themselves as part of that exaggerated ‘everyone’ I said in the viral video, they were not who those words were even intended for.
I wish they came to me personally.
But as a health professional helped me realise, ‘hurt people hurt people.’ And I can’t help but think how dangerous it is if you’re career is based largely on views, headlines, and scandals…
My name was of worth to them, obviously not my wellbeing.
I think what happened to me happens to countless others every single day.
To those who took pleasure in creating videos or articles mocking who you think I am or my intentions, you have every right to have your own opinion. But maybe consider that actively shaming someone online can result in dark things that I know no one would ever want for someone else. I had a strong family and I had a lot of help. Most people aren’t as lucky as I. If I could walk over to a balcony and gaze down… closing my eyes and thinking how easy it would be to just stop all of this pain… imagine all the people who actually do take that next step… all because of what someone foolishly typed on a keyboard.
When I was feeling low I found these stats from cyberbullyinghotline.com
· 42% of teenagers with tech access report being cyberbullied over the past year
· Of the 69% of teens that own their own computer or smart phone, 80% are active on social media
· 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13 years old
· 81% of teens say bullying online is easier to get away with
· 3 million kids per month are absent from school due to bullying
· 20% of kids cyberbullied think about suicide, and 1 in 10 attempt it.
I just want to let you know I’ve struggled a lot the past month. I know no one wants to hear that. It’s not fun, pretty or stylish. It’s not even headline worthy. But it’s real life. And I know I am certainly not alone.
I am thankful for this experience. We all feel this struggle, it just manifests in different situations. I learnt so much about myself and through all the pain and self-exposure, it really did get me to the place I am now and making decisions about who I want to be, regardless of social approval.
To everyone who felt I treated them poorly, I apologise with all my heart. I never ever intended for that to happen. I am so so sorry for anything I’ve done to make someone feel hurt.
So to wrap up, here is the truth – I had a serious problem. I was part of a large culture that celebrates perfectionism and edited life ideals. I did things on social media (paid posts, constant perfectionism, planned shoots most days) that made my life look effortless, when for it’s entirety it was a business.
I had the problem. I was suffering. I shared that. It went viral. I had no control. I became a trend and a way to guarantee views.
For me the internet right now does not feel healthy.
I’m getting a job at a local bar.
I’m writing each day.
I’m seeing a therapist. I’m not ashamed of that and I encourage anyone if they feel down or are stuck in a negative mindset to seek professional help. People used to come to me for life advice… why? Because I was famous online? Slim? Pretty and adored? Spent my days frolicking on a beach or talking about yummy vegan food? If you have a real problem, seek real advice.
I’m rebuilding relationships with my family.
I’m making new friends and trying to reconnect with past others.
I’m trying my best to forgive, move on, make amends and to live a normal life.
I know normal isn’t even a thing, no one life is normal, but growing up social media famous, having everything just handed to me and relying so heavily on my exterior to get me through life… it never made me feel content.
I just want to enjoy my life.
So thank you for reading this, but please if I could say one last thing don’t idolise me. Don’t idolise anyone, especially personalities you view online.
I have got to the point where I’ve realised all I can control is my future actions and who I am in the present moment. I can’t change anyone’s opinion of me (good or bad) or what has happened in the past.
I can choose however how I learn from this.
I can choose to move forward.
I can choose to take responsibility for anything I’ve done to hurt someone. If it’s not clear enough, I am so deeply sorry if I caused you pain. That was never ever my intention. Whether you stalked my photos for three years, bought the clothes I was paid to sell you and felt depressed over my perfectly edited life, I felt so much shame over that façade, that’s why I made the dear 12 year old video… I became the very thing that deceived me as a young teen.
I am so deeply sorry if you invited me into your world and because I was so caught up in my own pain and self obsessed nature that I hurt you through that…
I am sorry to anyone that felt hurt by my changing morals. I don’t condone deceptive advertisement and outright lying about it. I never wanted those morals to make someone believe I had personally thought less of them or who they are, it was just about the action itself.
I am sorry to anyone who felt betrayed when I took down the site. I hit an extremely low point, the past caught up to me and I needed to process how I was feeling. It got really dark. I thought about donating the money as soon as it all went viral, as I never imagined it would turn into such a huge thing… I was scared to share those thoughts. One part of me was ‘use this money to make videos, build the website, to write the book’ and the other part of me said ‘this has turned into something bigger than you ever expected, you don’t want this pressure, you don’t even want to create content you want to write.’
I chose my wellbeing over what other’s wanted from me. It was the first time in my life I did that. It’s scary doing that. You feel selfish… weak even. But I think looking after yourself emotionally is so overlooked. I guess I had to experience the absolute lows to fully understand the importance of understanding and working through human emotion.
I believe that money is now in the hands of those who are going to make real positive change in our society.
Who I was in the past is not the person I wish to be now. We all make mistakes. We all feel lost, hurt, scared and confused. I was extremely open about that. What got me through all of this was thinking about all of the other people who want to speak up about something they believe in but know the backlash is a guarantee…
Once you put themselves out there, especially on the internet, everyone is freely able to poke, pull and stab as they choose. It’s not fun and no one can ever be fully immune.
I see it like this though. If you are given the opportunity to speak about an experience you know would have helped your past self, or your children or even the people you love… do you stand up and speak, regardless of what you think others might say? Or do you sit in the crowd as the viewer, poke fun, taunt and have an awful opinion on those brave enough to stand up?
I stood up. And I fell crashing down. I stayed there cold and curled up on the floor. It felt like I was chained there, defenceless while others watched from above, mocked, laughed, taunted and enjoyed seeing me so exposed.
Through all the time I was down on the ground, I am grateful. It was that pain that allowed me to start to stand up again.
The next time I speak, the next time you hear from me, I’ll be standing stronger than I could have ever stood before.
So thank you.
I only hope you’re okay, and if you’re not that’s okay too. Speak to people, confide in people you trust. Time heals and you are deserving of forgiveness and acceptance.