Actress Emily Shaffer Interview “What I Would Tell My 18 Year Old Self”
I’m Emily Shaffer and I am an actor. What this means is I am a hustler and a gypsy. I work 3 jobs and audition for television. As well as love the crap out of my husband and dog. When the stars align – I get to BE on television. Currently I’m working on writing my own film with my husband. Which is so much fun. I also keep very busy with audiobooks. It’s my favorite side job. Storytelling is the main reason I do what I DO.
The pressure to have a perfect body, is quite honestly, the reason I’m not working more in TV. Jury is out on whether that pressure is more from my own brain or the industry. I have gained 25 pounds in the last 2 years. All in the name of trying to lose 5 as well as letting go of the pressure mixed with life and stress and human things. Yeah – its a major back and forth. The pressure to be perfect has actually made myself less so. I yo-yo back and forth between LOVING MYSELF THE WAY I AM. And just coming to terms with the harsh reality that my industry needs me to be back the way I was.
The fact that I personally am unhappy in my own skin is what gives me the permission to try and take off the weight – I have to work very hard to make it something I am going to do for myself as opposed to the industry. If nothing else, my confidence is directly related to how I feel in my skin and confidence as a human makes an impact – thus booking more jobs. I think that inner confidence has more to do with others perception of body image than meets the eye. More and more often in Hollywood [and in real life] there are lots of shapes and sizes – but you gotta OWN IT.
And figure out where you’re most happy so that YOU shine through the most.
Now, this is not something I’m able to fully wrap my own brain around every day, but I’m trying. My happy place is not in this current body, I’ve given it a go, I’ve tried. But its not my best skin. That’s not because its BIGGER – its just because I’m not my truest self in it. To another person with the same number on the scale or in the tag of their jeans – it could be their BEST SELF – which is SO AWESOME! The judgments from the outward pails in comparison to the battle in my own brain. I’m not sure if that’s because slowly over time I transformed my thoughts to mimic the outward ones? But I’m far more equipped to handle a tough comment from the outside than I used to be – IMPROVEMENT!
I was a chubby kid. Classic round cheeks, bad bangs & glasses. I was cool in my own mind and with my friends but I had my share of being made to feel lesser. I would cry a lot. I would wonder why a lot. I was always super active so the fact that I had a belly and lumpy thighs didn’t seem fair. A boy I liked once wrote FAT on my locker. [spoiler: he had a huge crush on me in high school – i forgave him – you can’t hold people responsible forever for 6th grade antics] – but my favorite people who accepted me got me through all that.
Puberty set in and I shed the weight pretty fast, braces came and went and I bloomed later in high school. The mean stuff went away. I was BLISSFULLY FREE of body image doom until my senior year of college. I became severely anorexic – in retrospect I know this to have formed due to a lack of control on my chaotic schedule and the fact that the REAL WORLD was fast approaching. Within a period of 10 years I went from around 180 to 120 [I’m currently around 155]. My, now husband, boyfriend thought I was perfect – but I couldn’t hear that at the time and I needed to be THIN. That lasted about 3 years then bulimia came. That has stuck around longer but not consistently. Its gross and I hate it but I’m addicted to control over my body and when you feel like you’ve lost all of that sometimes it feels like its the only thing you’ve got in your arsenal. BUT I know this to be very fleeting and the come down is much worse. I’ve been ‘sober’ from that for a long time. BUT such a rich history of UBER self control – burns you out. I went years demanding I eat under 1200 calories, or less.
NEVER TOUCH FRIED FOOD EMILY – so now, when my husband wants McDonalds, I get fries. Sometimes that leads to ice cream because my body revels in the free reign. It’s a very hard addiction/condition to navigate.
I wanted to get involved with MENTAL FITNESS because as much as I struggle with being addicted to self-control and body issues – I LOVE working on myself. I love growing and trying and thinking and feeling and waking up every day with an intention to evolve. I have my share of problems – but those problems are rich with experience and humanity and if shared can possibly help someone else to know they’re not alone.
What I love about Mental Fitness is their drive to take the taboo away from mental and emotional struggles. If we can address and prevent – if we can allow young people to talk about whats going on in their heads, we can save years of their life. Make the new normal about saying “it’s ok! You can feel this way! now lets try and work on that!” Helping people. I am who I am because of what I’ve gone through, and that’s ok. But I would love to have had a program like this to maybe make my journey a little more smooth.
My role models are my friends and my family. Truly. Doesn’t everyone say that? But, seeing and feeling how the people adore you WITNESS your ups and downs and still thing you’re AMAZING – it’s what makes me want to live up to my highest potential. My parents champion me every single day. Never once questioned my decision to embark on the craziest life ever. My husband is EVERYTHING. My best friends deserve medals or trophies or something for just always listening.
I think vulnerability is beautiful. Admission and truth – I think that beauty is when you’re SO uniquely yourself, and everything that encompasses that. Which – IS inner beauty. When people know themselves and hold tight to that, the inner can’t help but to shine through the outside and I LOVE THAT.
I pledge to wake up every day and honor THE REAL DEAL PLEDGE to the best of my abilities. The freedom that these ideas can bring will deeply improve my quality of life.
For stress and the ups and downs of everyday life I exercise – its a layered relationship I have with exercise. It can be a form of purging or it can be a form of RELAXATION. And the more I have let it be the latter, the more I have gotten out of it. I also love just gazing into the eyes of my dog and laughing with my husband. A long coffee date or a stroll around the block with him can do wonders for me. I also LIVE for trips or dates with my best friend – people, find a human [i have more than one, though] that unlocks you , basically is you, but SO NOT you at the same time – and let them IN – it will be the best therapy in the world. I also love my therapist. She’s great.
Find time. For others. It will be the best balance – even if that means you’re staying up later or waking up earlier. A belly laugh or even a good cry with your people just makes your mind more even and able to handle the days.
I would love to talk to 18 year old Emily. I would tell her to breath. To enjoy. To not wish to fill every moment with something productive, or for tomorrow to come. I would tell her to let herself off the hook sometimes. Perfection is fleeting and hard to reach. I would tell her to choose happiness. I would tell her to hold on to her spirit. She doesn’t need to let some of what was to come bring her down. I would tell her to start practicing self love a lot sooner and its what I wish for all of you too.