Self-Love: An Interview With Melissa Gibson

Kentucky-based Instagram user and model Melissa Gibson (@yourstruelymelly) serves as a role model for the body positivity movement with over 72,000 followers on Instagram. Through empowering fellow women of all body types, she strives to spread the notion that all bodies are beautiful. I recently had the chance to ask Melissa a few questions regarding her person journey with self-love, and all it embodies. Interview by Olivia Ferrucci.
Lithium Magazine: How would you describe your journey with self-love from childhood to now?

Melissa: For a long time, I felt out of touch with my body. I felt like it was working against me. In all aspects of my life, I let other people's opinions of me have more weight than my own. I missed out on a lot. I bought into the lie that I wasn't good enough, which kept me from doing so many things I really wanted to do- traveling, wearing a bikini, getting up on stage, demanding that boys treat me better, believing I could be good enough to date the boys I really liked. I was insecure, and that permeated all aspects of my life because I didn't believe in myself. It wasn't until I was 24 that I started noticing other women; women who looked like me, or in one shape or form clearly didn't live up to the beauty standards I was consistently failing at obtaining (or, most likely, just wishing it was easier to obtain them).  They were out there in the world, living unapologetically, smiling, rocking crop tops and bikinis, living loudly, dancing, taking full body pictures in adorable outfits, eating amazing food, and just plain living the life I wanted to live.
  So, I decided to join in.  It wasn't easy at first, but I slowly started to connect to my body. I would challenge myself to just simply feel the strength of my body. I also started looking at other people and, instead of critiquing their bodies and lifestyles, I chose to see their beauty; noticing how they interacted with others and how their body was beautiful and a gift in that moment.

I started to be more daring. Changing the way I saw others, connecting with my body. No longer did I want to hide or fade into the background. As silly as it sounds, I started wearing red lipstick which challenged me to own my look. I started wearing bodycon dresses because I didn't feel a need to hide my rolls anymore. They were a part of me and, not something I was ashamed of.  The more I used fashion to make a statement, the more comfortable I became with my body. I wanted to say that I'm here, I'm happy, I'm beautiful, I'm living my life how I want to live it. That was empowering for me. Today, I live with a perspective that all bodies are deserving of a full life. We shouldn't spend all our time obsessing over them or trying to change them. That is self-love, and it goes beyond ourselves. When we see beauty in ourselves, we also see it in others. That's the most amazing part! I see beauty in everyone and everything. I see hope and potential and strength and magic just as they are now.

Lithium Magazine: What do you love most about yourself?

Melissa: Well, I think I love how I see the world.  I love seeing beauty in everyone and wanting to connect with that. I love that I get to be a part of changing the world, so that more and more people will see that beauty too.

Lithium Magazine: You definitely have a big voice in the body-positive movement currently sweeping social media. What has been the hardest part of having such a vast audience?

Melissa: Honestly, everyone thinks they get to share their opinion about your body. There are plenty of misconceptions out there about fat bodies. There are some people sincerely interested in learning about the body-positive movement who have sincere questions, but there are a lot of people who just feel the need to be negative and I can be an easy target (or so they think). It rarely bothers me more than the frustration that people really feel the need to be mean to other people. Mostly, I feel bad for them. I do think it's amazing that so many people often stand up for me. That’s what I love about the movement; we all support each other.

Lithium Magazine: As a plus-size woman, what has been the toughest obstacle to overcome?

Melissa: Getting over the mentality that you somehow have to impress others or be what they want you to be. As a plus-size girl, I was always trying to make other people happy because I didn't think I could stand up for who I am and still have people want to be my friend. The thing is, more often than not, people love when you embrace who you are and do what you want to do. Confidence is infectious and allows you to not be intimidated by other people’s successes or beauty. You can both be beautiful.

Lithium Magazine: What was the toughest part of learning to love yourself?
Melissa: It's scary. I'm not going to lie. It's a very personal process and one that changes so much about who you are and how you live. Some people will feel like you've 'changed,’ especially those you are closest to.  My family and best friends had to go through this with me. A lot in my life changed, and for a while I hid that from them. The best part was when I finally decided to share it with them all and include them in it. It wasn't something I was ashamed of, although I had lived most of my life being modest and humble in the background. This wasn't about attention, but confidence and possessing enough self-love to believe in myself.  The people I love had to appreciate and understand the new me. We kept the lines of communication open though, and made sure to always love each other through all the tough conversations.

Lithium Magazine: As seen on your Instagram, you tend to rock some pretty flawless looks. What's your go-to killer outfit?

Melissa: Currently, I'm all about black and red. I love caged crop tops and pencil skirts with black tights and boots. Mostly, I adore them because I'm not "supposed" to wear them as a plus-size girl, but I like breaking rules!

Lithium Magazine: If you could say one thing to teenage girls unhappy with their appearance, what would you tell them?

Melissa: You are absolutely lovely and powerful. You are a value to this world! No one looks the way people appear in magazines, or even on Instagram. Beauty comes from our differences, the things we are told are "flaws" actually create this whole new spectrum of beauty. Start noticing the beauty in others, and you will start noticing your own before you know it.  ☆

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