A few weeks ago, I was invited to join the team behind Fearless Femme for lunch at their office in Edinburgh. I jumped at the opportunity and immediately shuffled around other coffee dates to make time to go. Lunch was delicious, the company brilliant, the conversation interesting and fun; but it was only when I’d left that I found myself deep in thought.
At one point during lunch, I was asked which Instagram accounts I turn to for inspiration. At first, I answered that I didn’t. I’ve never been one to seek out inspiration, especially not on social media. Instead, I focus on centring myself and inspiration eventually returns. I listened to everyone else answer the question, answers ranging from Brené Brown to James Blunt, Beyoncé to Style Me Sunday. As soon as I was on the bus heading home, however, I realised that there are actually a handful of people I consider to be inspirational. People that I do make the effort to search for regularly instead of just liking what I see on my newsfeed. A small handful whose words I actually read instead of just looking at the posted photograph.
So, here are my Top 5 Instagram accounts (in no particular order, but starting with the most obvious choice):
Growing up, Oprah was nothing more than a talk show host to me, one I didn’t watch. I knew her as the woman that cameoed on Home Improvement and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who was in The Colour Purple with Whoopi Goldberg (who I adore!) and that she made history by being not only the first African American billionaire, but also the first African American woman to appear on the cover of Vogue. I didn’t grow up watching her show, I knew nothing of her difficult past, I had no time to care about her philanthropic ways. It wasn’t until the start of my twenties that I started paying attention. I suddenly realized that here is a woman who uses her voice to tell people that they are good enough. That they are strong enough and intelligent enough. That they can overcome any obstacle in their path. That living your best, happiest life is as simple simply being grateful for all you have and cherishing the little things. She also happens to be the woman that introduced me to Dr. Maya Angelou – another inspirational woman that needs no introduction or explanation!
Those who know me will probably think this is an unlikely choice for me, I’m sure, but Farhan Akhtar is the most searched for person on my Instagram. I first discovered Farhan Akhtar in a movie called Kartik Calling Kartik, about a man who, when he decides to commit suicide, begins to receive phone calls from himself in an attempt to convince him that he is able to change his life. As someone who pretty much hates everything that comes out of Bollywood that isn’t a classic, cheesy Shahrukh Khan film, me loving this was a big deal! And when I saw Akhtar a few years later in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, he had me hook, line and sinker. So much so, that I even paid to see him talk at the BFI one year. This isn’t just a man who delves deep into method acting, he also directs, writes, produces and sings his own songs! But what really got me was how he wasn’t one to shy away from controversy. He toured with his band, Farhan Live, spreading social awareness about violence against women in India; set up the Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD – the Hindi word for man) campaign that aims to sensitize men about the issues regarding gender equality and violence against females in India; is the first male UN Women Goodwill Ambassador; and he takes to speaking for the less fortunate on all his social media outlets while still reminding his followers not to take life so seriously and enjoy the little things.
If there’s one person who reminds you that the sun is shining even when you can’t see it, it’s Reese Witherspoon. Growing up, everyone I met who openly identified as feminist would be women who thought it was sexist for a man to open the door for them, or who spoke out against women who chose to look after their families as stay-at-home mums instead of following a career path, or who hated men all together! Reese Witherspoon, however, reminds us all that “feminism comes in lots of different packages, and that a woman can be feminine, love fashion and be taken seriously in the world.” While fighting for equal representation of women in film and television, she gives us the inspirational speeches we all ought to be paying more attention to. She reminds us that a lot of things that happen are out of our control and encourages us to learn to deal with it and not to let that negative energy affect our everyday life; that careers shouldn’t dictate every decision in our lives and our aim ought to be to live fulfilled instead; that perfection is an energy, not a target, for there’s always room for evolution and improvement; that confidence is strength and faith is important; and, most importantly, that it’s all about doing our best!
Like practically everyone born in the ‘90s, I grew up watching Will Smith. He wasn’t just The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he was Captain Hiller in Independence Day, Jay in Men in Black, Mike Lowrey in Bad Boys. So, when he joined Instagram at the start of this year, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation in following him. And bloody hell am I glad I did! This is a man who is living his life to the fullest and encouraging everyone else to do it too. Although his feed is often filled with throwback photographs, videos of him parodying his children and random experiments he’s done while he’s bored in a hotel room when he’s not working, he also throws in regular videos that inspire and encourage. He believes that everyone can put a dent in the universe and make a difference in the world because greatness exists within all of us, we just need to lay one brick at a time. He encourages us all to challenge failure, to find the people fanning our flames and drop the people who are pissing in them, he even quotes the likes of Rumi but in terms accessible to everyone (basically, in a typical Will Smith West Philly kinda way!). And the best bit? He never ceases to make us laugh, a spark of comedy always woven through his encouragement!
A few years ago, I was going through an extremely difficult period in my young life. I was becoming depressed, adamant that everyone would be better off without me making their lives more difficult, positive that I wasn’t contributing to society and that my career was a joke. That I was a joke, just not a very funny one. Seeing my moods deteriorate first hand, watching my faith in my career and my talent falter, my sister sent me a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. It didn’t matter if I hadn’t any faith in me, she did, and she had enough of it for both of us. Elizabeth Gilbert’s words reminded me of my sister’s. Gilbert’s social media accounts, I soon discovered, were filled with words of the same calibre. She reminds you that you are capable of overcoming fear, that you don’t need anybody’s permission to live your life, that ideas are constantly coming towards us trying to get our attention and it’s our job to give in to them, that a creative life is an amplified life… And she does it all through personal anecdotes. She doesn’t promise it will be easy, in fact she proves that it’s difficult, but she also shows that when you feel everything, if you take it all in your stride, you’ll come out the other side, and isn’t that what we all want?
And that, readers, is that!
An honourable mention to Fearless Femme who promote the empowerment of women with mental health issues through their website and magazine. I loved them via social media and this trip to Edinburgh I was lucky enough to meet them too. Their encouragement has led me to be more open to discussing my own issues, helping other in the process and, more importantly, think more consciously about the life I lead and the footsteps I leave behind. Check them out on Instagram here: Fearless Femme Magazine
If there are any Instagram profiles you think I ought to be checking out for inspiration, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!