Seeing and Loving Your Body (and Yourself) With No Shame: Jessamyn Stanley

Episode 04

We’re back with maybe the most foundational episode in our Being Seen and Heard series–and it’s all about how we see ourselves. Were you taught how to love yourself when you were growing up? Many of us never grew up hearing anything about embodiment, and maybe we’ve treated our bodies as “the enemy” for most of our years. Maybe you grew up in a time where you didn’t see people that looked like you, or had your body type represented in magazines, on TV or in movies. Perhaps you even had shame about your body (or still do), and you bought into diet culture and were constantly worried about your size and the number on the scale. It’s hard to see ourselves as beautiful when we’re looking outside ourselves for what that standard of beauty is. Our guest today is doing the good work of helping people see themselves differently, and it’s giving them freedom to love themselves for who they are today. Jessamyn Stanley has become a powerful voice for wellness and body acceptance (she also dubs herself the “Beyonce’ of yoga” – I mean who can’t get behind that?). After attending yoga classes with a friend, Jessamyn fell in love with it, but she noticed that she didn’t see anyone who looked like her or had a body like hers–and when she moved to a different city and wasn’t attending yoga classes anymore—she craved a community to share her practice–except she wanted all kinds of people and body types to be a part of it. She began sharing her yoga practice on Instagram back in 2012 and was amazed by the overwhelming response from many who had never done yoga before because they had felt just like Jessamyn had–that maybe it wasn’t for “people like them.” Her fledgling Insta-yoga classes grew into an organization called The Underbelly, a unique and inclusive digital wellness experience that now draws thousands of people into its safe and accepting space.

Jen and Jessamyn touch on these topics:

• Jessamyn’s experience with being ashamed of her body as a middle schooler and also being bullied for being different, and how she looks at those years of bullying as a revelation that everyone is self conscious about their bodies–bullies included

• The realization we all have at the end of the day; all we have is ourselves–and if we can accept ourselves as we are right now–not who we thought we should be, or who we might be–we’ll enjoy the ability to be fully present and authentic in all of our encounters

• Debunking the long held notion that many people have about black women (and also that black women have been taught to believe)–that they are “stronger” and “superwomen,” and what it means to allow themselves moments of rest and self-care

• Key changes that could be made to empower everyone to have their own agency toward self care, by making it possible for anyone–no matter how much money you make, or where you live–to participate in wellness practices like yoga

If we can face the truth about ourselves, and not turn away from the fullness of who we are–including the ugly and complex things, we can begin a journey to a shame-free life that will change the fabric of who we are and what we bring to the world.


Episode Transcript

Hey everybody. Jen Hatmaker here. Welcome to the show, you guys, we are back for another episode in our for the Love of Being Seen and Heard series, and I am loving it, just loving it. Every single episode to me has been fire. We’re basically hearing from women who are simply paving the way for us in a million spaces. They’re bringing things to light that maybe are not the popular or privileged ways in which to think, or they’re giving us permission to claim our space in the world without shame and hesitation. They’re advocates, they’re leading the charge in all kinds of areas, normalizing mental health issues, giving us permission to live out our grief, showing a path forward in the face of racism or gender bias. Advocating for people. Just incredible, incredible women in this series. I’m so in awe of them and I’m learning from them and I’m proud of their work. And I want you to know who they are.

So our guest this week couldn’t come at a better time for me. I mean that, I really mean that. Like the area in which she works, I would say, if I’m just being honest, is probably the area that just personally in the privacy of my own brain, takes up the most real estate–the most negative real estate, I should say.  I know, because this is a conversation that we host in our community frequently, that a ton of you feel the exact same way. First of all, we have been groomed to feel that way. We have been conditioned to feel this way, and it’s gonna take concerted effort to push back against it.

One of the things I mentioned recently, if you follow me on socials, is that there are some things I wanted this summer intentionally to do more of and less of. I wanted to treat summer with intention. So one of the things that I wanted to do more of is just move my body, like in any way that I like to, not in the old yucky way. I can feel it physically. I have not really moved this entire calendar year. And so I’m achy and I’m stiff, I have no flexibility.

But really for me, the biggest thing is that I can just feel this stress and anxiety that has just built up in my body, from life. And I’ve given it nowhere to go. So I’ve just metabolized it and I know it, I feel it internally. So movement is a processing tool for me. I’ve been doing Pilates and I can talk about that later. But I tell myself regularly in the middle of a class, this is good for your mind. ‘Cause even if I’m struggling with a pose or with a movement, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting this exactly right. This is good for your mind. 

Additionally, one of the things I want to do less of is obsess about bad body stuff.  You know what I mean when I say bad body stuff—like the mean voice in our head, this exhausting mental energy spent on sizes and scales and self-hatred and ugh, it’s so exhausting. It’s so exhausting and I just wanna be free of it. I’ve never been free of it. That’s a fact. Never. I don’t feel like I could tell you a stretch of time in my whole adult life that I have felt free here. I know that a lot of us haven’t. So when I tell you that our guest could not be visiting us at a better time, I mean it personally, like I hope this is useful for you, but for me it’s incredibly useful. 

So she is the queen when it comes not only to moving in a healthy way, (by the way, her bio and Insta says, she’s the Beyonce of yoga), but she is entirely about kicking the bad body stuff completely out of the conversation.

She started teaching yoga on Instagram back in 2012 because, well, I’m not gonna steal her thunder ‘cause she walks us into that, but she didn’t see anybody who looked like her–teaching yoga–who had a body like hers, who was black like her, who was queer like her. She has become this powerful voice really for wellness and body acceptance. This is her work in the world.This self-love, no matter our size or shape. Today we have Jessamyn Stanley. You guys are going to love Jess by the way. All of our episodes we always obviously have in an audio feature, but we video all of our interviews. It’s over on my YouTube channel, so if you ever wanna watch a conversation, this is one that I recommend watching.

So you can see Jess talk about her work. I mean, of course that’s how I experience all of our shows and I think it’s premier. So if you just feel like watching them hop over. Jess co-founded The Underbelly, which is this really unique and highly inclusive digital wellness experience. It features a lot of stuff including yoga classes that she teaches. Her first book was called Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat. Love Your Body. If that isn’t indicative of her personality energy, I don’t know what is. Her second book is called Yoke: My Yoga of Self Acceptance and she talks a little bit about both and it’s just this honest, very funny book based on stories from her life and she tackles imposter syndrome and the American yoga industry, which she says prefers to debate the merits of cotton versus poly blend leggings over owning up to how non-inclusive it is.

She’s just really vulnerable about her own ever-evolving path to self-acceptance. I walked away from this conversation feeling–I don’t know if this is gonna translate, you’ll have to just listen to it to see what I mean–but just kind of settled. I just felt a little bit settled. I felt like I kind of exhaled a little bit. She has this way of being in the world–it was really calming and hopeful. Jess just reminds us that if we love ourselves first, then we’re able to love one another. It’s a beautiful conversation and I think you’re gonna love her and I’m excited to introduce this community to her work, which I hope you will immediately onboard to as soon as you finish this episode. So without any further ado, welcome the vibrant and honest and inspiring Jessamyn Stanley.




Leslie Kinzel – Body acceptance writer

Maryanne Kirby – Body acceptance writer

Nicolette Mason – Fat fashion blogger

Dianne Bondi – Yoga practitioner

Bikram Yoga

CONNECT WITH Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn’s People Magazine feature 

Yoke: My Yoga Of Self Acceptance – book by Jessamyn Stanley

Every Body Yoga – book by Jessamyn Stanley

@theBabySharkClub – Jessamyn’s dog on Instagram

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