Welcome to #RitualInBloom. A space where our community shares wellness rituals that help us connect with our bodies—because many of us here at Superbloom can’t “self-care” away our chronic conditions.
We chatted with Emma about the health experiences that shaped much of her young life and how she has learned to reprogram those negative body image thoughts through healing practices and rituals.
Where do you live and how do you describe yourself to others—not just what you are doing but who you are working on “being”?
I’m originally from Connecticut, but I’ve lived in Miami for almost four years. I’m solutions-oriented and try to see the best in every situation, with a creative spirit and get sh*t done mentality. I’m also a self-appointed hype man. I care deeply about the people close to me and always want everyone around me to be their absolute best selves. I’m committed to growth and learning. I think every single person you meet can teach you something new if you give them the chance. I’m continuously working on being someone who meets people with empathy and understanding.
How has your health experience and understanding of your body changed over the years?
I was diagnosed with scoliosis at age ten and forced into a back brace for 20 hours a day for the next few years. I started to notice small things about myself that I didn’t like and began comparing myself to what I saw on TV (and by TV, I mean the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows). I remember going to my orthopedic appointments at the hospital with Yale students in residency standing in the doorway taking notes and looking over my doctor’s shoulder. Being so young and feeling overwhelmed by the entire experience, it felt like I was their science experiment. But having my appointments scheduled at the hospital opened my eyes to a lot of sick children and put things in perspective at a pretty young age. I think I’m definitely a stronger person because of it.
My back brace felt like such a large portion of my life that even all these years later, I still sometimes feel like I’m forgetting something when I go to bed at night without my brace. As I’ve gotten older, my relationship with my body has fluctuated. The curve in my spine caused small disproportions like one of my legs being slightly shorter than the other and having the slightest lean towards the left side of my body. My biggest source of insecurity from my scoliosis was having one of my hips more prominent than the other. It drove me mad for years and then I finally realized that literally no one noticed it besides me.
How do you connect with your body and how has that changed after being diagnosed with scoliosis?
Exercise has always played a role in how I connect to my body. I loved soccer and played tennis in high school. When I went to college I started going to studio classes. Rowing helped me build that strong core my scoliosis doctors were always encouraging me to do. I’ve also done a lot of boxing over the years. It’s one of my favorite workouts. There’s always something to work towards and it is the best tension release. I started Pilates last year and saw improvement in my posture and core strength. It also alleviated some of the back pain I was experiencing.
What’s your favorite mode of expression?
I made my Instagram when I was 12 years old, and it has always been a great source of creativity. It allowed me to virtually escape my small town and peek into the lives of—and connect with—inspiring and interesting people from around the world who were doing amazing things with their lives. It sounds cheesy, but it instilled a lot of hope in me as a young girl, and I’ve found ways to get creative and connect with others through Instagram. I have multiple accounts, all for my different creative outlets and passions. I didn’t feel like I could be this multifaceted person, but by following and connecting with people who wear many hats, I’ve realized you most certainly can. In fact, it’s so important to me that I be multifaceted. Instagram gave me the space to do that and express myself freely.
What are your wellness rituals?
Living in Miami, the sun and being outside is definitely a wellness ritual. Feeling the warmth of the sun—it’s an instant energy booster. I’m obsessed with the sky in Miami; waking up and watching the sunrise is a good way to ground myself. Seeing the beautiful colors of the sky reminds me that every single day the sun will rise (even if no one’s watching), and so will I and somehow everything will work out just fine. Recently, I also started taking CBD in the morning, which has helped to ease my anxiety. As someone who needs a routine, this whole work/school from home thing isn’t exactly my cup of tea, and the CBD has actually helped me to focus and be more productive, which is an unexpected but great plus of the whole thing.
What’s one wellness issue you’ve struggled with that could help liberate other women going through a similar experience?
I’m hard on myself and hold myself to a much higher standard than I do other people. When I was formally diagnosed with anxiety when I was 16, after experiencing intense migraines and almost debilitating anxiety during my SATs, I don’t remember having any sigh of relief. I felt alone and attached to a label. It sounds dramatic now, but I remember feeling like I would never be able to accomplish anything and that all my dreams were unachievable because of how mental illness was discussed in the media. At that time, it was taboo to talk about mental health and self-care and there weren’t any sort of social media movements or communities for people going through these things. There weren’t all the wonderful resources (like Superbloom!) that have not only normalized, but have encouraged talking about—and taking care of—your mental health. I mean, mental health advocacy has come a long way even in the five years since then, and I definitely have, too.
What rituals have you learned to help support you in navigating that challenge?
When I started seeing therapy and other healthy coping strategies, like meditation, as helpful, instead of a chore, everything in my life shifted. Previously, I had a hard time letting go of that standard I was holding myself to and thought by bottling up my anxiety it would magically disappear. When I decided to let go of that external image of who I thought I was supposed to be and just show up as myself and was finally willing to put in the work, that’s when that shift happened. And of course it wasn’t overnight, I think growth is something you have to continuously work towards. I feel fortunate that I’ve been in a position to be able to utilize therapy and professional guidance as a resource, and I know that isn’t the case for everyone. By talking about things with other people, you realize you’re not the only person that has felt this way, and that’s validating.
If you had to choose one self-care or wellness ritual that has changed your life, what would it be?
Removing myself from the presence of toxic people or situations has proven to be one of the highest forms of self-care. While it’s something I only recently began to honor for myself, doing so has completely changed my life.This might not be a typical wellness ritual, but when I finally chose to be a bit more selfish with who and what I give my energy to, it allowed me to best show up for myself, my personal growth, and the people close to me. I believe that you’re the result of the five people you spend the most time with, so having a strong support group of people who have qualities I admire and who bring out the best in me is so important. I think there’s a lot of power that has come from recognizing my own growth and choosing to only be around people who support that growth and challenge me to be a better human. It’s definitely an ongoing process, but committing myself to me has been the most valuable wellness ritual that all else follows.
You are passionate about building a mentorship program—This is Twenty—for young women. What inspired this and what impact do you hope it has?
I had always been someone who people looked to to be sure of myself and have it all figured out. But the closer I got to age twenty, the less self-assured I felt, and the more daunting figuring life out became for me. It’s still shocking to me every time someone tells me they read my blog or confides in me about their own struggles and how reading one of the interviews helped them. When I launched This is Twenty, I was lost and desperately in need of female mentorship. I knew that if I was feeling that way, that I probably wasn’t alone, so I thought, why not figure it out together. I needed that community, so I decided to create it. I admire every woman I feature on the blog, and I feel so lucky to give them a place to reflect, while my audience is given real, authentic perspective and advice from these women from all walks of life who have defined success on their own terms.
What’s the wellness advice you would give to your younger self?
I think my younger self needs to know that you are not defined by the labels of what you go through—you’re defined by what you do with it. How it makes you a better person, how you carry on, and most importantly, how you use your own experiences to help others—that’s what will define you.