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Self Care & Body Empowerment

Q&A with Emily Durham

Mediaplanet sat down with influencer Emily Durham (AKA Emily the Recruiter), a lifestyle influencer and public speaker, to chat about self-care, body positivity and self-confidence, as well as how to resist societal pressures, and handle criticism.

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As a TikTok influencer, you’ve become a voice for self-care, confidence, and body positivity. What inspired you to use this platform to promote these important messages?

My goal on social media is to help people thrive in their 9 to 5 and beyond; and it can be really challenging to show up as your best self at work when we don’t authentically see the best in ourselves outside of it.

When I started posting on social media in early 2020, I was working as a Senior Recruiter for a large technology company and noticed that many early career candidates were exceptionally nervous for interviews, largely because nobody truly prepared them to sell their experience, ask questions or negotiate their salary. This realization is what inspired the birth of my podcast, The Straight Shooter Recruiter. However, what I found impacted my community the most was not just the career advice but the confidence that comes with investing in and loving yourself.

When I create content, I’m often thinking about what I would have needed to hear as a teenager or in my early 20’s. Whether it was about giving myself permission to ask for more from friends, partners, or jobs. Or learning to love the body I wake up in, without conditions.

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Self-care means different things to different people. What are some self-care practices or rituals that you personally find most beneficial for your mental and emotional well-being?

Although I do have self-care rituals like investing in my physical health and taking time to meditate at least three times a week, I find self-care works best as an ongoing mindset, vs a specific routine. For me, this means I actively listen to my body for signs of stress, burnout, or anxiety, so I can proactively take time to reset and recover. This also means I unapologetically say no to things that don’t make me feel good, even when it’s hard. As much as face masks and reality TV with my mom helps, I find listening to my body and slowing down when I need to tends to sustain me more than a weekly self-care night.

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In a world where societal pressures can affect self-esteem, what advice do you have for individuals, especially women, who struggle with self-confidence and body image issues?

In my teens and early twenties, I had an extremely unhealthy relationship with food and the way I saw my body. Getting to the place of self-love I am in today, has been a long journey full of ups and downs. I’ve learned that most of my downs have come from surrounding myself with people and things that make me question my worth. My advice? Unfollow the people on social media who make you question your beauty and worth and disengage from friends who do the same. Changing the way you speak to yourself will change your life, I mean it.

It helps to be mindful of your words, too. When we eliminate negative self-talk from our vocabulary, we fundamentally rewire our brains. The more we speak love into ourselves, the more we believe it. Trust me. Finally, my unconditional love for my body came from realizing that the least interesting thing about me is how I look. This mindset shift empowered me to spend more time investing in my friendships, my hobbies, and my wellness, instead of worrying about if I looked “good enough.”

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Confidence is a central theme in your content. How do you encourage your followers to cultivate self-confidence, and what steps can they take to boost their own self-assurance?

The best piece of advice I can give someone who is looking to develop more confidence is to reframe your mind and body. It’s amazing how much the way we physically carry ourselves can impact how we see ourselves. Making small changes like standing tall, smiling more, and making eye contact can not only make us come across as more confident, but it actually tricks our brain into thinking we are, too.

The most challenging part of this is reframing your mind. It can be so easy to fall into old habits and mental pathways that tell us we aren’t funny enough, smart enough or attractive enough. Making the conscious decision to stop those negative thoughts in their tracks through distraction will stop those thoughts from popping up as frequently, over time. For me, whenever I look in the mirror and don’t love what I see, instead of pinching and poking at the body looking back at me, I stop myself, open up a book or TikTok or say positive affirmations instead. It will feel inauthentic and fake… because it is. But the more this becomes a habit, the less likely those thoughts are going to resurface, because you no longer feed into them.

One of the biggest pieces of advice for anyone looking to love the life they live and the body they have, is to take an inventory of the people around you both online and in real life. Do they pour love or doubt into you?

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Dealing with negative comments and online criticism can be challenging. How do you handle negativity, and what advice would you offer to others who experience online criticism?

When my first video went viral, I cried for two days straight. The volume of nasty comments that poured under that post threw me for a loop, I didn’t understand how people had the capacity to be so mean. From my body to the way I spoke… nothing was off limits. Today, when I see negative comments, I laugh.

When it comes to internet hate, the only way I have made peace with it is through empathy for the people leaving the comments. It’s much easier to be angry or hurt that they called me a “geriatric whale” at the age of 27, than it is to understand that people who leave comments like that are hurting themselves. My advice is to stop letting other people’s perceptions of you, paint the picture of who you are. Instead, realize that hurt people hurt people, and anyone leaving hate on your page needs a hug.

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What role do you think social media platforms, especially TikTok, play in promoting self-care, confidence, and women’s empowerment, and what changes would you like to see in this regard?

In my mind, the biggest risk with social media is how it can shape young minds. I remember being 14 scrolling on Tumblr and realizing I wasn’t as thin or pretty, as all the models people swooned over. It wasn’t long until I found myself on pages that offered “tips” on how to lose weight and be prettier before the next year of school started. Although one of the beautiful things about social media is how it offers unfiltered perspectives and representation, it can also introduce children to unhealthy habits and mindsets… much like it did for me.

Given how easy social media is to access, it is difficult to put the burden of monitoring social media onto parents. I would love to see some form of additional age restriction or topic control. Like how YouTube is structured on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

But until then, it’s so important that creators always remember the impact of what we say and do online. Be the source of someone’s confidence, not their self-doubt.

Check out Emily’s podcast The Straight Shooter Recruiter, and her merch shop.

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