Actor. Model. Host. Body positivity activist. Jameela Jamil is a woman who wears many hats, and while she takes every job she has very seriously, it’s the one where she has been unwittingly cast as a role model to many that she holds with the utmost importance.
In an age where celebrity influence wields an enormous amount of power, Jamil isn’t afraid to use her influence for good. The Good Place actress considers herself a “feminist-in-progress”, and regularly uses her platform to champion mental health issues.
She’s no stranger to online spats and isn’t afraid to call out a Kardashian or any other public figure for creating unrealistic — and sometimes downright dangerous —expectations in the products they endorse. She’s also the founder of I Weigh, an inclusive community that started on Instagram where the activist focuses on creating a safe space for individuals to share their truth.
So it seemed befitting that The Body Shop would ask Jamil, alongside Sara Kuburic, an existential psychotherapist, life coach and writer known as @milennial.therapist on Instagram to be the faces of their Rise Up With Self-Love campaign. Led by activists and mental health advocates to address the issue of self-love around the world, The Body Shop is a huge believer in using self-love to create a positive impact on the world.
In conjunction with the launch is The Body Shop’s Global Self Love Index, a 2020 study involving 22,000 people from 21 different countries on the issues they faced when it came to loving themselves. According to the survey, one in two women worldwide feel more self-doubt than self-love and 60 percent of women wish they had more respect for themselves.
To celebrate the campaign, we speak to Jamil and Kubric over a Zoom call on the importance of self-love, muting people on Instagram (Jamil: “It’s the best!”), photoshop and silencing our inner bully.
You’ve always been a strong advocate against photoshop, even as a model. How would you describe what beauty it to you?
Jameela Jamil (JJ): I have no idea what beauty is! Beauty is subjective and it’s not for any one individual, or any group to decide what is beautiful. I don’t want [my images] photoshop[ped], not just because I’m trying to virtue signal. I don’t want airbrushing because it makes me feel bad about myself. And that’s the thing, when we edit our own photographs we’re setting ourselves up for failure [by comparing ourselves to the] impossible standards set by technology.
Women are inherently gorgeous in our own way, and I want us to feel better about things like lines, or a lack of symmetry. Especially as an ethnic minority, I don’t want my skin lightened; I don’t want my nose to be made smaller to look more Eurocentric. I want to look like where I’m from, and I want to look that way with pride. This is just something I’m doing to protect myself because when I was 12 years old, I hate the way I looked. I wanted to be white, and now I understand why. So, I just want to discourage that practice because it can be very damaging.
With so much focus placed on our social media presence, how can we teach young women that their worth and value transcends beyond how they appear online?
JJ: Write down a list — every day if you have to — of everything that you are, everything you contribute to society, everything you have experienced, everything you’ve overcome, everything you like about yourself and what you mean to other people. There’s something about the practice of writing that down that that neurologically seems to settle more in your brain as a belief system. So I think just, first of all, identify the things that are real values, things that you’ll remember at the end of your life. It’s ok, for the way that you look to be in your top 10 of priorities, but it cannot take up your entire 10. So let’s start filling that space slowly but surely, with more meaningful values.
Sarah Kuburic (SK): A quick tip is to focus on the relationship with yourself rather than how other people relate to us. Shifting the focus to how you feel about who you are and just changing the conversation. If we put as much effort into the relationship we have with ourselves as we do in trying to have it with other people, that would have a very massive shift. That would also change the way that we present in social media as well. Because most of that stems from wanting attention, acknowledgement and appreciation. None of these things are wrong, but I think the way that social media is set up, the way that we do it, and the way we try to get [attention] can be quite harmful for us.
As women, we are extraordinarily hard on ourselves, and we tend to be our worst critics. How would you advise a friend or even ourselves to be less critical and calm the voices in our head?
JJ: I listen out for the inner bully in my brain constantly. It’s a smart inner bully that has learned all of the rhetoric from toxic things around us. Once you learn how to listen out for that, you can identify it quicker and learn to stick up for yourself. I interrupt those thoughts and say out loud ” No, you can’t talk to me that way. That’s not true.” And I’m sure I look… quirky when I’m out in public if I do that, but sometimes that’s what it takes to shut this practiced, abuser in my head up.
And not only do we need to be more careful about what we say to ourselves, we need to be very careful about what we say to each other as well. Try to switch your compliments to other about what they’re wearing, or how funny or how smart they are. This will genuinely start to build up not only their value system about results, but your own.
SK: Similar to Jameela’s answer, for me it’s about monitoring the way I speak to myself because that shapes the relationship you have with yourself, just like how the way you communicate with a loved one will ultimately shape the relationship you form with them. And so that’s something I was really cognizant of. Unlike Jameela, who actually says no out loud, what I actually do is tell myself “I didn’t deserve to be spoken to that way” and I make myself apologise.
It’s not just like, “How dare you”, but more like “No, we’re going to take a moment to admit what you did was wrong and give me an apology that I deserve.” And then you’re going to reframe what you were trying to communicate. It’s not that “I suck” or “I’m too fat” or “I’m not smart enough”, but that you’re feeling scared or triggered and we get to the bottom of what you were really trying to communicate. This is something that I’ve been really intentional about that takes a lot of time in my head, but I think it’s so important.
What was the best compliment both of you have ever received?
SK: The compliment that stands out to me is that people feel like they can be themselves around me. That’s one of the biggest gifts I try to offer other people and myself. So if you feel like when you’re talking to me, you can show up as yourself, that to me is a beautiful compliment. I always smile or tear up or when people tell me, ” You know, I can be fully myself [around you] and I feel so seen and understood.”. That to me, means I’m doing something right, and I’m connecting in a genuine, vulnerable way that I think is just so needed.
JJ: Mine is when the tabloids tried to start a smear campaign against me and lie about me. I take that as the greatest compliment because it means that I must be doing something and scaring them because you only work really hard to destroy something that you’re afraid of. I take that as the highest compliment and encouragement that I must carry on.
What’s an activity that is part of your self-love routine?
SK: Protecting my time has been a really huge thing for me during the pandemic — given the work I do — and so I think boundary setting has been one of the biggest ways that I’ve shown myself love. I just think there’s no better way to show myself love than to not do the things I don’t want to do, not spend energy on people I don’t want to spend energy on and not be someone who I’m not. I think having that space to be alone [is important] and choosing the types of conversations that I want to have.
JJ: I like writing down a list of the things that make me a whole human, especially since I’m in an industry where people are constantly scrutinizing the way I look. And the other thing I do for self-care is I sit in my bedroom and I mute and unfollow people. I find that to be very good for my skin. It makes my skin softer and smell better.
SK: You can tell?
JJ: [Laughs] Because I get rid off all the toxins from my timeline.So that’s one of my favourite sports and self-care activities. I have a very strong thumb from all my unfollowing that I do and muting.