In This Body – Episode #4: A Conversation with Annie Segarra

Hosted by Ashley Bullock, In This Body is a podcast that serves as a wake-up call for greater representation and celebration of body diversity. In each episode, Ashley and her guest speakers shine a light on social inequities, discuss how to address the underlying “isms”, like racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, capitalism and discuss what we can do to radically reform them. In this episode, Ashley’s guest is Annie Segarra.

Annie is a queer disabled latinx Youtuber, Artist, and Activist who uses social media to demand better representation for all and to call out objectification and harmful gender stereotypes. She is such a strong voice for equality and activism and we cover great topics like:

  • What Annie really means when she says that “The Future Is Accessible,” and what led to the creation of this movement
  • How social media impacts our views about our own bodies, and what diversifying her social media feed has done for Annie
  • What she’s doing to manage feelings of anger, shame and disconnection, plus the actual affirmations that she uses regularly to do this
  • Why contribution can be done in so many other ways than just giving money to a cause

Podcast Transcript

Annie: In my experience, find labels and identifiers to be so important when it comes to like finding community and understanding your community and respecting your community. Because let’s take the word disabled – disability, for example, right? There are so many people that live in shame about their disabilities and kind of isolate themselves from the community that they could potentially have.

Ashley: Hello, and welcome to In This Body, a show that serves as a wake up call for greater representation and celebration of body diversity. I’m your host, Ashley Bullock. And together we’re shining light on social inequities and discovering how to address the underlying isms – like racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, capitalism, and what we can do to radically reform them. Today, I’ll be speaking with Annie Segarra. Annie is a queer, disabled Latin ex YouTuber, artist and activist who uses social media to demand better representation for all and to call out objectification and harmful gender stereotypes. She has such a strong voice for equality and activism. And we cover great topics today, like what Annie really means when she says that the future is accessible. And what led to the creation of this movement, how social media impacts our views about our own bodies, and what diversifying her social media feed has done for Annie. And why contribution can be done in so many other ways than just giving money to a cause. Let’s get into it.

Welcome to In This Body, Annie.

Annie: Thank you.

Ashley: So happy to have you here with us because you’re such an embodiment of what In This Body stands for: body positivity, activism, advocacy for a greater representation of diversity, all of it. So, we’re really, excited to have you. So, I was perusing your Instagram all week. And I noticed you rock the phrase, “The future is accessible.” You have shirts and face masks and stuff and started the whole movement. What does “The future is accessible” mean to you?

Annie: Well, “The future is accessible” came out from, I believe it was, the first women’s march in, I want to say 2016. I just saw a lot of lack of accessibility at the Women’s March as well as a lack of visibility for disabled activists. And it wasn’t the first time that I’d seen activism, exclude disability activism, like mainstream activism I’m referring to as well as feminism. So, I basically did kind of an at home protest sign from my own Instagram, which “The future is accessible,” which combines “The future is female,” which was a campaign from the 70’s, and combining it with the word accessible to kind of, what’s the right wording for it, create a call to action about combining or including disability activism in mainstream activism as well as feminism, so including disability in feminist spaces. And from there, it kind of snowballed into having this wider, broader meaning that’s very literal, “The future is accessible,” meaning that we are seeking to make our environments make society create universal accessibility for everyone. So now, the hashtag is used in order to call out accessibility as well as to sound praises for anything that has created accessibility.

Ashley: Love it. And then you talked about or you mentioned, disability culture, and I just was wondering, could you talk about what is disability culture? I guess I read that and I was, like, unclear what, what does disability culture look like? What does it mean? I just had a lot of curiosity there.

Annie: That’s funny to hear that way. Like, what is disability culture? I think if I use these words, it is for that reason. Because a lot of people just don’t consider disability culture to exist. Because I guess people don’t think of disability as a community either. Often people kind of think that disability is just something that happens to you and there’s a lot of language about overcoming disability and things like that, which I also have some push back against – the phrase overcoming disability – because a lot of times it’s misused, people will say things like, “a disability” and then doing a simple action. They’ll call that overcoming disability like, “Oh, this person overcame their disability because they married someone, they overcame their disability because they’re out and about and not ashamed of their body.” So, did we overcome it? Or did we overcome the ableism that would make those things difficult for us? Did we overcome disability? Or did we overcome ableism? And I think that’s the more accurate way to put that. But disability culture, I guess, if I was referencing it earlier this week, is about, you know, the reveling of being among my community and the things that we know and the things that we share, in our experiences, a lot of that includes a lot of language and includes a lot of our experiences. And it kind of creates this culture, like any other culture, where there are inside jokes, where there are things people within our community understand that maybe people outside of it don’t. So. that’s about like, as vague as I can put that, I think.

Ashley: No, that’s perfect. Thank you for that. You talk about language. That’s kind of a perfect segue into my first question that I was going to ask you. What is your take on labels and how would you describe yourself?

Annie: So, everyone’s going to have their own experience with labels. And so, I want to be respectful that like if someone doesn’t want labels for themselves, I have full respect for that. And I almost identify with that. I can see how that would work for someone. However, I, in my experience, find labels and identifiers to be so important when it comes to finding community and understanding your community and respecting your community. Because let’s take the word disabled disability, for example. There’s so many people that live in shame about their disabilities, and kind of isolate themselves from the community that they could potentially have. So, the first step into that is to identify with the word, because if you let’s say have a disability, but you choose to remain isolated from community, and I don’t mean, you don’t even have to really step outside of your house to do it. Like you could just find community through online friendships and social media. Your community, the disability community is still out there doing the work that you benefit from as a disabled person. Those are the activists that are fighting for your health care, that are fighting for your accessibility, fighting for education, equality, etc. That disabled people will benefit from even if they don’t participate or are aware of their community at all. So that’s just one example of the importance of language. If you don’t even identify with the word, how do you find your community? How do you find the people that understand your experiences? Activists may be fighting for you, whether you identify with it or not. So that’s always been something that I guess I want to say I feel respectful of, in regards to identities. When it comes to certain identities, like being non-binary, I spent a lot of time literally just scared for so many reasons to say that’s what I am. There’s a big discovery process of like, is this the right language? Is this the right community? And then you talk to members of those communities? And when you realize, “Oh, yeah, this is this is my truth.” That’s a huge part of it. For me, when you discover your truths about yourself, by being welcoming to those communities and engaging with those communities, diversifying your social circles and diversifying your social media feeds… It’s amazing. You get to learn about other people and in that learn about yourself. So, for me, finding these words, finding these communities it goes hand in hand.

Ashley: Okay, that’s wonderful. So, what are your labels then? Do you have like a few kind of just general things like if someone asks, “Who are you?” or “How do you want to be referred to?”

Annie: I have a list. So, the list always ends with etc. because it’s too much. I am a Latinx, queer, disabled. So, my queerness comes with both my sexuality and my gender. So, under the umbrella of queer I feel a close affinity to the word lesbian. And I’m also gender fluid. So, gender fluid is one of the ways that you can be a non-binary gender. I’m also autistic and have several more other disabilities that kind of go under my umbrella disability, which is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and there’s a lot of co-occurring conditions that go along with that.

Ashley: Okay. Thank you for sharing that. So, what kind of messages did you receive about your body and identity early on?

Annie: I could take that question a few different ways. There are the literal messages that I received from people. And the messages I received through inference, like the ones that I got from mainstream media, and then the messages my mentally ill brain made me believe. I think I can speak for all three when I say that the message was that I took up too much space and that the world would be better if I went unseen and unheard. And that my existence was burdensome. So, I think that goes for all three different message types.

Ashley: Yeah, that’s kind of heavy. What stories did you learn about your body and food growing up from your society or from family? Anyone?

Annie: I don’t know that I consciously received messages about food. I did eventually use that as a way of self harm regarding like, disordered eating, and my body dysmorphic disorder. My body dysmorphic disorder, I think it started really weighing on me heavily around age 12. It kind of made me hallucinate that I looked pretty different than I did in reality. In my mind, I was a lot larger. I basically created this kind of caricature of what it looked like. And it was basically this big, caramel colored rhinoceros with a huge nose. My brain was just exaggerating a lot of features that had already kind of been picked apart by other people. So, I don’t recall necessarily having disordered eating at that age, and just being very depressed because, like I said, the language that I used earlier, I felt like the world would be a better place if I was invisible, because I literally thought at age 12, that when I walked around my school that people were nauseous at the sight of me. I lived with that kind of unquestioned thought for quite a long time. Because I didn’t really talk about it out loud. Again, I wasn’t worthy of being seen or heard. So, why should I voice something like that? Like, I shouldn’t voice anything at all. But like more disordered eating started in my later teens when unfortunately, other people who also had eating disorders were in my social circle. So, they would project their beliefs onto me and would say things like, “Annie, you know, you’re never going to be in a relationship if you don’t lose weight,” or “You know, you’re never going to get a job as an actress if you don’t lose weight.” That messaging from like, more than the mainstream media, which a lot of people I’m sure are influenced by… for me it was my social circle, and even family. I have a Latino family and this is pretty common. In Latino families, there’s a culture of you have to be skinny, but finish your plate. It’s so conflicting. Like your plate better be clean because other people are starving, but also be skinny. Yeah, like, okay, honey, you’re getting a gut now though, so you better fit these very narrow confines that I’ve created for you. So, it was a mixture. It was a mixture of those things.

Ashley: How confusing is that though, geez? When was the first time you were made to feel not okay, or broken, or different? Is there something that some, you know, a particular moment that stands out?

Annie: Yeah, I have a very clear and vivid moment for me, because I think when I was growing up, I really did not have any concept of my body or my appearance at all. I did have struggles in school, I was undiagnosed autistic, and like, I had trouble socially. And I would also have moments where I would “stim.” To “stim” means – it’s a self-stimulatory behavior, or kind of self-soothing behavior, I would call it. So, things like jumping, squealing, running, spinning around, swinging these kind of physical things. They don’t always have to be physical. But for me, it was. Other people might have visual stims. A lot of people use ASMR for visual stims, like watching sand and lava lamps, things like that. But for me, they were physical. So, I would jump around and swing really high. And people would look at me like I was crazy (ablest word). So, for the longest time I thought that people didn’t like me because I was weird. And there wasn’t a lot that I felt like I could do about that anyway. But, it still hurt, of course. But, then when I was 10 years old, and I was graduating elementary school, we had a big ceremony. It was the first time that I was dressed up in a nice dress. And the first time I’d gone to a salon to get my hair done. And so, I was a person that really never thought about what they look like. I was actually feeling myself. I was like, wow, I look really cute. And then I went to a one-on-one dinner with my dad. And I remember being in the restaurant and we were looking at the menu, and he put his menu down for a moment with the most sincere, disappointed face. And he said, “One day when I have enough money, I’m going to get you a nose job,” to a 10 year old. And, and for me, that moment was a huge, glass shattering moment. My brain instantly went, “Oh, I thought people didn’t like me because I was weird. Now I know that it’s because I’m ugly.” And that carried me through the rest of like my teen years like that, that moment of his disgust with my nose. And he was an abusive man. He would also make fun of my body and my weight. He was very verbally emotionally abusive. So, I had a father who every day would tell me how ugly and stupid I was. So, when you are a child that’ll carry with you. Because your parents are supposed to be your protectors and they’re supposed to do what’s best for you. And similar to what I just mentioned, I had a friend group that ended up influencing me in a certain way because they were my friends. So, when I look at people like my friends or my parents, who in my mind are supposed to have your best interests in mind, my thought was “Why would they lie? Why would I not believe what they have to say?” So, I never questioned it. Well, I did eventually but through those years I didn’t.

Ashley: Do you remember if there was a moment when you realized that you needed to kind of break away from those people or your family and seek community? And how did you go about finding community?

Annie: For my dad specifically, I started fighting back when I was a teenager, just because I was able to acknowledge his behavior as cruelty. As a teenager, I was more willing to advocate for myself in that way. Like, you can’t talk to me this way, etc., and set my boundaries. The boundaries went disrespected anyways, but trying to set boundaries anyway. And then, in college, I was very fortunate. I was going through an awful time with my mental health. I had disordered eating. I was binge drinking. I was drinking in the middle of class, like it was my mental health and it was not cute. I was fortunate enough to have a professor who caught that. She called me into her office one day. I went to a conservatory school for acting. What they do is, at the end of each semester, we do this awful thing where all your professors are in a room, and they basically get to like, criticize you for a few minutes. Yeah. Helpful. Oh, I don’t think it is. But that’s another story for another time. But, within this one meeting that I had with all of them, they were picking me apart. They were saying things that were very triggering to me as an undiagnosed autistic person. They were kind of calling out autistic traits within myself as a student. And that was very triggering. And I just started bawling in the middle of the meeting. So, then one of my professors, she asked to see me after the meeting, in private, just the two of us. My face was all swollen. I’m just painting a picture here. Then she, I don’t know, just sat me down in her office, and she asked me, “Can I even look myself in the mirror and tell myself that I’m worth it?” And I don’t know if that question terrified me. And I said, “No freakin’ way. I cannot do that.” So she pulled out a hand mirror from her desk, and said, “Well, you’re not going to leave this office until you do it.” I was shrinking and crying and fighting the whole way. At that point, I could barely look myself in the mirror at all, I couldn’t. She handed it to me. And I was crying. I said, “I don’t want to look this is bad.” My brain was in a horrible spot. And she’s like, “Well, you’re not leaving this office until you do it.” Which is funny, because I look back and at any moment, I had free will. I could have stood up and left the room. But I didn’t. And eventually, through tears, I did it. I looked at myself. And I said, “I’m worth it.” And she’s like, “Okay, do it again.” And so, I had to do it a couple more times, until you know, your skull on your spine kind of relaxes, and you actually, remotely kind of believe what you’re saying. And she told me up front, “I think that perhaps you don’t see yourself clearly. And you don’t see yourself the way other people see you. And I think that you should take some time and figure that out for yourself.” So, that was really just such a big, huge moment where like, for the first time really in my entire life, somebody observed me and had enough capacity to verbalize something like that to me. That’s a huge thing. And that’s kind of an emotional thing. I think about being 12 years old and having so many harmful thoughts about myself, essentially suicidal thoughts about myself, to the to the point, you know, mental illness and children is a dangerous spot because there’s so many hormones and things happening. So, I definitely had very close encounters with suicidal ideation. And even in regards to undiagnosed disabilities that I had as a as a child because I didn’t get diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome until I was 26. And only because I fought for like three years for them to even test me for it. And doctors wouldn’t. I asked them to and they would laugh at me and say, “No, you don’t have that.” Eventually I found a doctor who would test me and I tested positive for it. So, it’s very emotional to think about. It took at least 19 years for someone on the outside, for some adult in my young life because I was 19 at the time to, to say, “Hey, I think you might need some care.” I don’t think anybody had really done that for me before.

Ashley: Oh my goodness, that reminds me, I saw one of your posts about when you’re going to the doctor and like, should you dress up or dress down? You know, if you’re dressed up too much, they might not take you seriously and might not think you’re sick. If you’re, you know, looking a hot mess, then they might say like, “Oh, God, like, you don’t have your sh*t together,” you know? But yeah, that was really insightful for me because I can identify with that doctor anxiety. So, thank you for that acknowledgement and validation.

Annie: That one’s really tough, because it’s a gamble. Either way, I have a good friend who stands by the fact that you get treated better at the hospital if you are dressed like absolutely beautiful. And that didn’t work for me. So, it can go so many different directions. There’s also so many laspects in regards to marginalized identities. Being a woman is already one thing, and then being perceived as a woman is one thing and then your race and your size, sizeism and healthcare is horrible. I am sure you know. Just because you are not thin, that’s another huge thing, because I think that doctors literally are just expecting skin and bones to be the visual cue for illness. And then regards to anyone who is not that way, then their problem is weight and they will pretty much only look at you, only test you for something if you lose weight for them first. We’re just so toxic and fatphobic, and I can’t stand it.

Ashley: What’s your current relationship with your body? At least today?

Annie: Oh, it’s really good. In comparison to like, wow, so many years of darkness in regard to that and just avoiding mirrors, hating myself, thinking that the world will be better off if I didn’t exist, because of my appearance. How sad. Because I wasn’t worthy of being seen. And that’s a a huge conversation just in regards to the fact that people anyone of any gender think that their beauty is the price that they have to pay to exist. How rude. So after that conversation with a professor, actually, I finished my spring semester at that program. And then I left noting that the program was not great for my mental health. Well, there was a bunch of other problems, too, like I wouldn’t be able to afford the next semester, like everything was just kind of like, good timing, like the universe was telling me to leave. So, I spent maybe a year just entirely focused on my mental health entirely focused on the healing process, basically doing my own form of self-therapy, self-rehabilitation, again, because of the barriers of the economic access to professional rehabilitation, professional therapy, and basically looked to the internet to do that for myself. And just through, you know, doing all the work doing the mirror work and daily affirmations while looking yourself doing things that scared me and like pushing myself out of comfort zones, like I’m starting with things like photoshoots with friends. And then like one of the scarier scarier exercises was wearing a two-piece bikini to the beach for the first time, which was terrifying. That day was not one I wouldn’t highlight in my head as one of the fun days. I was still super dysmorphic about my body. And every time any single part of my body would like jiggle, like my arms, or my stomach or my size, it felt like earthquakes. And I felt like everybody was looking at that. I hear that now it’s in some way self-absorbed to think that everyone is staring at every little earthquake that you feel in your body. They are not, they’re not. But, that’s how I felt it. But once I finished that day, I felt very accomplished. And like, you know what? The day’s over. I did that. I accomplished that. And we’re going to try again tomorrow. So, just little exercises like that, bit by bit. And then eventually, I found a really euphoric space and I guess, a big thing, that kind of prequels that is finding this sort of anger and pettiness to the capitalistic plan to make feminine people feel that way in the first place. I saw documentaries, like misrepresentation and things like that. And so, by gaining the knowledge of how like capitalistic it is to make people feel insecure in their bodies, I was like, “No, you’re not. This is not what’s gonna happen with me.”

Ashley: They make so much money off of our insecurity. They make bank.

Annie: Yeah, for sure. So, once I hit that part of my recovery process, then I just became super euphoric. I was like, I’m gonna love my body, in spite of all this programming, of all this messaging, and then it became just super real. I today, looked at myself in the mirror prior to this meeting, and like, I laughed, I was like, holy Heck, I can’t believe how freaking gorgeous I am. Like, yeah, like just disbelief of like, where I used to be and where I am now. And, like, I have to be truthful when it comes to I still have body dysmorphic disorder, and it’s so weird because I feel that proud and beautiful in isolation. And then but also have these triggers when around other people. I still get scared that other people perceive my earthquakes. Whoa, Annie, like, right? But when I’m alone, I feel great. I feel gorgeous. I would date me. I would. I would love on me. But the dysmorphia triggers come from like, other people and this like anxiety, this terrible anxiety about what other people might perceive It’s fluid. It comes in and out. It’s just based on whether I’m triggered or not. And so then when I am triggered comes you know, the healing process, the formation process of getting myself back to a base where I don’t feel that way.

Ashley: Yeah, speaking of other people, do you feel like you saw your body represented growing up?

Annie: I don’t think so. Dysmorphia makes that kind of a question really tough because, yeah, I couldn’t really perceive it. So, I try as an adult and as someone that is very conscious of their dysmorphia, to see the reality of where my body is, and it’s very hard. Even in pictures, I feel like pictures are kind of misleading of what my body actually looks like. I don’t know if that’s the dysmorphia talking or if that’s true, but I guess if I were to try to realistically describe my body I would say that it’s chubby thick. It’s so hard for me to find the real words for it and like a size 18, 20, and pants – like definitely shopping the plus size section. But there’s a lot of things that make people perceive me as smaller when it comes to photos and things. So, it’s hard. And I say all that to say that it’s hard to see if bodies like mine are represented. I for the first time felt remotely seen when I saw a Latin movie about two lesbian teenagers. Gosh, I wish I could remember the title. Anyway, there’s one of the characters, the lead character… Well, I hope that someone remembers. I’m really sad that I don’t. But it’s two names with a e y. And one of the lead characters was a chubby Latina teenager, and I had never, never seen that before – a lead. Like, maybe America Ferrera, but like America is also a bit more fair skinned as well. And this was a brown, chubby, teenage lesbian character at the lead of a film. So, I was like, “Whoa, this is wow.” I cried when I saw it because I was like, I’ve never seen anyone especially younger, right, America for them again. She’s also older, she probably started getting leads as a teenager. And this one looked like she was maybe like, 13, 14. I was like, that’s a kid that I feel like I looked like and that’s a kid that I think so many other kids need to see.

Ashley: I hope you can remember the name of it.

Annie: But isn’t it sad that there’s literally only one movie example that I can think of? And I can barely remember the title. And I’m going to say that it’s probably because of brain fog. I’m going to say that I have a bad memory in general. So, it’s not to be offensive to that film.

Ashley: No, you’re not alone there on the memory. How do you think social media impacts the way we view our bodies? Do you think it has a positive or negative force? And you know, in how we value our bodies?

Annie: Yeah, I mean, I feel like a very common answer you might receive to that question is, right, social media is horrible. For our brains, and for our body image. I don’t know, man. I disagree. Like, because it really depends on how you set yourself up within social media. Comparison is the thief of joy. And it’s the thief of joy and self-esteem. And I don’t recommend practicing it. So, yeah, the easy access, people have to altering their photos. And then showcasing their best moments can definitely mess with people on both sides of the screen, whether you’re posting it, or you’re just viewing it. So again, I don’t particularly like the catch all, “Social media isn’t real” thing that people say, because it implies that every single photo that you see is altered, and that the joyous moments that you see are, I don’t know, not real or over-exaggerated. So, that makes me eye roll. The internet is varied. And if you corner yourself into this toxic and fake side of it, then that’s going to be harmful to you. And then it may be time to seek other communities and diversify your feed. Because for me, that has made the internet an incredibly healing space, diversifying my feed and seeking people from my communities with my same identities, my same identifiers and experiences. It’s been incredible really to find like minds, like experiences, like bodies, right? Yeah, all these things that make somebody feel usually more alone. And then you find out that it’s – not to condescend, but – it’s not such a unique experience. It’s actually a communal experience. And that makes people feel so much better, less alone and stronger because there is a community out there for them.

Ashley: Yeah, definitely.

Annie: When I started finding more people that look like me, like oh my gosh, through my recovery process, that was a huge part of it was to find plus size models. It was tumbler at the time. I use Tumblr very rarely now, but finding plus size models to be in my feed a lot more, and finding chronically ill and disabled communities to put in my social media feeds. Like having chronically ill disabled folks in my feed definitely made me completely clueless to the phrase social media is fake. Because in my community, now there’s like a lot of really hard stuff that we go through, and we’ll write about it, and we’ll talk about it. And there’s definitely times where we participate in showing our joy, too, and that joy is not fake, you know, so I don’t know, again, the internet is a splatter painting. We cannot paint it all with one color, one brush to be like “Social media is fake and everything is altered.” I think that there’s definitely that conversation that happens a lot, which is why I don’t want to spend too much time on it. Right? It happens a lot, that everything is altered, it’s toxic, it’s harmful to our mental health. I won’t speak to that, because I feel like everybody already has. They’ve already said all those things. There is a way though, to make your experience on the internet less like that, though. And that’s through diversifying your feed.

Ashley: Yeah, I agree with you. 100%. I think you nailed it, using that word “experience.” Everybody experiences it differently, you know what I mean? It just kind of depends on how you’re using it as well. So, I think, you know, it can definitely be incredibly healing, social media, and to find those communities that really lift you up. This is one of my favorite questions to ask, don’t ask me why, but how do you manage anger, shame and disconnection?

Annie: It’s a good time to talk about that – full moon in Aries. Ah, shoot, I have been doing quite a bit of therapy work, meditation work. And something that I personally believe has been really helpful has been hypnotic affirmations while I sleep. I use one specifically, a couple that’s are inner child healing affirmations while you sleep and child trauma healing while you sleep. These are videos like on YouTube that anybody can find. And I like wear my headphones and I and I listened to it as I sleep. And I guess a combination of that and therapy and meditation practices has definitely lowered my sensitivity to certain triggers. So, like something that used to happen a lot as I have very impulsive anger. Impulsive, as a defensive response to certain triggers, for example, it stems from child abuse as well. Like, if anyone even remotely makes this small accusation of something I didn’t do, it’s extremely triggering for me. Because as a child, I would pay severe consequences for any accusation. So, it could be something as small as, “Did you leave their refrigerator open?” or the way that it’s said and the way that it’s phrased, the tone of voice or whatever. If it feels accusatory, then my response would be very big right away, very impulsive, like, “How could you accuse me of that? No, I didn’t.” It’s just very big. It’s very emotional, it’s angry and defensive. But through this recovery process, I’m observing that these things are not as triggering anymore. So now, those kind of questions or small accusations happen and I don’t have this impulsive, emotional response to it. But that’s not to say that anger is a feeling that we should get rid of entirely. I just felt compelled to share that once upon a time I did used to have very impulsive anger that I’ve managed to chill out quite a bit. But in general, when there are genuine reasons to feel angry or shame… I don’t feel anger and shame are under the same umbrella really. But I try to let it out of my body physically. If I have to punch a pillow or scream into a pillow. I try to release that energy from inside. But in regards to shame, shame is something really difficult that, because I’m an anxious person, I feel shame about so much for no reason. The therapist says so. I’m just, you know, reverting back to where we were saying about, I basically felt the shame to exists, right. And those feelings often come back in such weird ways. And so, the way to battle that, for me, I found is again, affirmation work and doing those things with mirror work and saying affirmations as you’re looking at yourself. And meditations that are soothing, things like that. And that’s where I’m at with feelings like anger and shame.

Ashley: Could you share any of your affirmations got any good ones?

Annie: Yeah, let me hold on. I’ll share one. I literally, hold on. I love affirmations. I literally have this jar of random affirmations. That’s such a good idea. I’ll pull one out at random. I hope it’s a good one. I hope it isn’t sh*t. Sorry. Let’s see. Oh, my gosh. Okay. So, one affirmation is: I have an attractive mind, body and spirit.

Ashley: Yes, an attractive mind, body and spirit. I love that.

Annie: Another one I found is: I am surrounded and protected by the energy of love.

Ashley: I love that. I love that so much.

Annie: So, there’s a couple for you.

Ashley: I think I found what I’m doing with my weekend. Project. Seriously.

Annie: I love pulling them out at random. Some of them are very cute like that. And some are just literally things that my therapist has told me. There’s this one I just found is: don’t assume what other people are thinking. Right?

Ashley: Yes. Gems that you get in therapy. Now that’s important, right?

Annie: It’s a big one. And with that comes body image, too, right? We put, I think the phrasing about our anxiety and what other people think of our bodies. And we think about what we look like. If they haven’t said it to you, why do you believe that? Is it the truth? That’s just one way to combat it. Something like that would have been so helpful as a 12 year old who thought every single person in the school was nauseous at the side of me. Like if they haven’t said it to you, sweetheart, why do you think that? That’s true? Right? Don’t assume things about other people. That’s my step. Why are you putting that on other people? If you don’t know it to be true? If they didn’t say it to you,

Ashley: Yes. What’s a good resource or a resource that’s been helpful for you on your journey to wholeness.

Annie: Well, in my recovery process, a lot of it was just a lot of educational resources. The big standout was the misrepresentation documentary that was really impactful. But in general, if someone wanted to do Google searches for things that are helpful, I would definitely look up other folks who’ve had whatever it is that you’re dealing with and how they coped with it. If it’s body dysmorphic disorder, or an eating disorder, if it’s just a low self-esteem issue, then there’s definitely so many things on YouTube and Google, like articles or videos, where people will discuss like, what their coping mechanisms were and how they improved those things for themselves. Literally, things like self-esteem, positive affirmations exists and videos again, like I said, that you can listen to while you’re sleeping or during meditation. But for me, as much as that emotional work is so important in regards to self-esteem and healing your mental health. A big thing was learning about how manipulative mainstream culture is in regards to trying to make money off of your insecurities. That was huge for me. And so, I would definitely say look into things like that.

Ashley: Awesome. And this is a long question, but how can we do better? Can you share one step that one of our listeners can take to move from awareness to action? What can people do today to dismantle these kinds of things? Systems of oppression and, and ableism, in particular, since that’s what we’ve been talking about here today.

Annie: I think the first thing I’ll say when it comes to taking action, I’ve mentioned already, which is to diversify your feed, because it is so important to learn about other people’s narratives and the common experiences of other communities. When we brought up disability culture earlier, I think that’s something to be gained from diversifying your feeding, including the disability community in it more, because then you’re going to observe the common experiences that they have. And the jokes that stem from that too, because the internet is the land of jokes and memes, right? So, and it’s kind of how we learn at this point is memes, memes about different communities is kind of like how we come to understand, “Oh, that’s their community thing.” Like, it’s something that they all relate to, right? So, it’s, weird, because you don’t feel like you’re learning, but you are and you’re making connections, and you’re empathizing with people in that way. T hat’s the first and the basic, find people that have different experiences, and include them in your feed.

Ashley: Yeah.

Annie: Include them in your online experience, so then, with that being said, you want to make your feed accessible to diverse people, including like captioning your videos for deaf, hard of hearing and neurodivergent people. And something else that less people know about, or less people may know about, is providing image descriptions for your photos, which is basically just at the end of your photo, describing what it is to someone who may not be able to see it or process it. So, for blind, visually impaired and again, neurodivergent people, perhaps people with dyslexia, or other cognitive disabilities, that have trouble processing, what’s an image, then they need a description of it in order to access it. And even non-disability related, let’s talk about class-related, a lot of people may have an internet or like a low connection to internet depending on where they live or on their income. And pictures will not even load for them. So, that’s important.

Ashley: Thank you for bringing that up. Thank you.

Annie: It’s so basic, there’s so much right now, really vital information, especially in the middle of a pandemic, that is being shared through images and through videos, and it’s not accessible to everyone. And so that’s a big concern for me about creating accessible online content. So that’s, you know, we’re climbing a little staircase now, like diversify your feed. If you want to diversify your feed also make your feed accessible to other people. And then from there, it expands to obviously reaching for your wallets and donating to causes that need your help. As a person that may have some privilege or may have the capacity to donate, whether it’s money or your time, for example, the contributing is not capped at money, right. The contributing can also be volunteering to caption a video for someone or volunteering to add a description in the comments for an image description. There’s so many ways that we can aid in that process. And so yeah, I would say those were the first three steps on the ladder of action regards to oppression.

Ashley: Awesome. And that’s something that I think we could all do today. You know what I mean? Speaking of that, I wanted to say I saw your YouTube video that was the casual ablest language. That was so insightful. I want everybody to see that. I’ve already sent it to a bunch of friends. Super informative. I was thinking, “She needs to make an infographic you know with some of the…” Yeah, that would be really helpful but that was great.

Annie: Thanks so much. The video definitely got rated by some anti-feminist groups. So, there’s a lot of thumbs down on that video accusing me of being too sensitive and some people who don’t know that I’m disabled, saying that I was trying to speak for disabled people and like,

Ashley: Hello, rude.

Annie: Rude. And then, I don’t know, making fun of the pink hair I had at the time. So that video is pretty much I think the one video right now that has that kind of weird response to it where there’s like a lot of thumbs down and things like that. But yeah, I think if I can say one thing about that is like language does impact how we think. If we were perpetually use a certain kind of language, it does no matter how you want to go about it, it impacts what we think and how we feel about other people. So, if we’re so dismissive about it, if we’re using things like words that condemn people of lower intelligence, what the heck does it even mean, right? Then there is a part of ourselves that does believe that because you might be smarter than someone else, that you are better than them. And that makes it ableist because you’re looking down at someone else, and you see them as less worthy and less valid, because of those things. So, these are just things to question within ourselves. I hope I had the same tone in the video that these are just things that we want to take a look at. And I don’t necessarily think that anyone who uses ableist language is a bad person necessarily, but it is something that we should look at within ourselves. Is that something that we want to continue doing? Is that something that we want to perpetuate? Because it is such a huge part of our sight and people use these words so casually. So, I’m just posing a question. Do we want to be using the word so casually? And then do what you want with that.

Ashley: No, I appreciated that so much. I appreciate it so much. So, thank you for that. Yeah, I think we’re pretty much done here. Where can all the listeners stay in touch with you? How can people find you?

Annie: I’m all over the place on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and tik tok as Annie Aleni. And as Annie Segarra, which is my other name on Facebook.

Ashley: Awesome. Thank you so much, Annie, you have a wonderful rest of the day. Thank you so much. Bye. Bye. Thank you for listening to In This Body and being a part of these important conversations. If you want to be on the side of positive change, we’re all bodies and identities are representative and powered. Keep doing your part to speak up against systems of oppression and injustice and stand up for diversity. As the late great Audrey Lord said your silence will not protect you. Your voice matters. Peace and love y’all.