Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil on Self-Love and Creating Genuine Authenticity Online

"When you can learn to see your body as a vessel that carries your beautiful mind and spirit, then you can really start to respect it."

“I don’t follow anyone who makes me feel bad about myself,” says Jameela Jamil. The actress and activist — who is best known for her scene-stealing turn on the sitcom The Good Place — has become an outspoken voice on social media, calling out celebs and influencers for sharing misleading posts and spearheading the I Weigh movement, which advocates for radical inclusivity and body positivity. It makes sense, then, when it comes to curating her own feeds, Jamil has prioritized her own well-being. “I’m a big advocate of cutting people out. There’s enough bad to see out in the world — especially as a woman, and especially as a Brown woman. I have enough negativity coming at me. I’m not going to deliberately bring it in front of me.”

Next up for Jamil is teaming up with The Body Shop for the Self-Love Uprising campaign, launching today just in time for International Women’s Day. In a new study conducted by the brand and market research firm Ipsos — in which over 22,000 people around the world were interviewed — a “crisis of self-love” has been discovered. One in two women admitted to feeling more self-doubt than self-love, while 60 percent of participants also wished they had more respect for themselves.

Using interviewees’ answers, the report scores and ranks levels of self-love across various demographics and countries. Canada scored a 51 on the index, falling in the middle of the pack. South Korea was the lowest, scoring an average of 43, while Denmark’s 63 score earned them the top rank.

Among the other insights revealed in the report: 64 percent of Canadian women say the pandemic has not changed how they feel about themselves; those who use social media more frequently are more likely to have lower levels of self-love; racialized women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities are all likelier to have lower self-love scores; and Canadians under 35 rank lower on the self-love index than older Canadians.

“This messaging of self-love just falls so in line with everything I stand for,” Jamil explains over a Zoom roundtable, during which she was joined by Canadian Sara Kuburic, The Millennial Therapist and fellow brand partner for the Self -Love Uprising campaign. “The timing of this is hugely important as the world is coming out of lockdown and back into the open where predatory messaging, and diet, detox and beauty companies are about to start doubling down on everyone about their appearance. This is an opportunity to remind people about what matters and to hold onto the progress we’ve made around our self-esteem.”

We joined Jamil and Kuburic for the roundtable to chat about boosting self-love and what true authenticity looks like.

On using social media to stay connected without sacrificing your mental health

Jamil: “Social media is incredibly important. We’ve been witnessing the progress of Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter and my own movement, I Weigh, on it. Without social media, none of these things would have travelled the way they did. It’s helped people feel less isolated and gaslit. It’s also important to remember we can curate what we see on social media and we should make more of an effort to protect ourselves. You can mute or block people who might trigger feelings of [low] self-esteem. If you’re a person who makes me feel bad — either online or face-to-face — you’re gone. And you’re gone until you do better. I’m very ruthless about that because my mental health and my journey to self-love is my priority.”

Kuburic: “We have to understand that we do have some power and responsibility over what we see online. I’m a therapist and I mostly just follow other therapists. It’s so wonderful when you can have your feed look exactly how you want it to look. It’s important for us to have those boundaries with who we follow and how much time we spend online. The Body Shop Index talked about this — spending more than two hours on social media generally reflects lower self-esteem. And don’t confuse Instagram for a pure connection. Sometimes you really need to do a FaceTime call, write letters, or find other ways to connect with people without social media.”

On the responsibility of content creators in fostering real authenticity

Jamil: “I would like more accountability from celebrities and influencers who sell products online. I would like to see less editing of photographs, less editing of people’s lifestyles. I’d like to see more authenticity — I want to see body hair, nipples, I want to see it all. I want a realistic perception of human beings. I don’t want to constantly compare myself to digitally altered images. And a lot of these filters are racist — I don’t want my face, my skin colour, my features to be turned into a Eurocentric fantasy online.”

Kuburic: “We need more authenticity. And not just in the way we present our bodies, but who we are. It’s damaging to believe that other people have perfect lives, have it all together, are in perfect relationships and have perfect careers. It puts unrealistic pressure on this person to keep the mask on, to keep up the facade, and it puts pressure on us to try and emulate that. We need to see more genuine self-love — like ‘I am striving to love myself’ self-love.”

Jamil: “Not ‘I put on a sheet mask’ self-love. Actual, sustainable self-love.”

Kuburic: “Yeah. Like ‘I put up a boundary today.’”

On making mistakes and doing better

Jamil: “I make mistakes publicly online sometimes, and I don’t shy away from those mistakes because I feel we need role models who will show that they’ll work things out, like, ‘Okay, I made a mistake. I didn’t know this. Now I do. This is the better way to do this or to say this. Now I’ve made the mistake so you don’t have to.’ I don’t ever want to be aspirational. I want to be inspirational. I don’t want you to want to be like me. I want to inspire you to be the best version of yourself.”

Kuburic: “I love that. Even as a therapist, I’ve put posts up where I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m taking that down. That was not articulated in the way it probably should have been and there are people who are triggered and I need to understand that.’ There have been several instances where I’ve taken content down because I made a mistake very publicly and I would try to remedy that.”

On finding the beauty in self-confidence and eschewing beauty standards

Jamil: “It’s an ongoing process, an ongoing affirmation to respect the body you’ve got and that gets you from point A to B, that gets you to your job, to the fun you’re going to have, to the sex you might have. You [have to view] your body as this incredible product of engineering; it’s a machine that is always working for you. It’s your best friend, your ride or die. When you can learn to see your body as a vessel that carries your beautiful mind and spirit, then you can really start to respect it. I hope that after the last year, when we have seen that we can’t take our bodies for granted anymore, that we have grown our respect for survival and how much our bodies work to protect us.”

On learning self-love with age

Jamil: “I love getting older. The further I get away from my teens the happier I am. I love my stretch marks, I love my little white hairs that are coming through. For a lot of my life, I have been very sick, so I consider getting old to be a big privilege. You develop more perspective. Your values change as you get older. Other things become more important. You, hopefully, start to have better role models and are around better people who understand the world better; people who don’t put emphasis on how they look or how you look so excessively. I just want everyone to get old fast.”

Kuburic: “[Youth] is a time of necessary confusion. It’s when we build our sense of identity and autonomy. It’s incredibly hard to love someone when you are unsure of who they are. Once you start to come into your own and start surrounding yourself with people who genuinely nurture you and support you, like Jameela said, your priorities shift and the way you see yourself shifts, which allows you to have a bit more acceptance, respect and love for your journey.”