Elyse Myers has a message for the adults scrolling TikTok: Find better ways to address young people about their physical appearance. Or better yet, don’t talk about it at all.
In the TikTok, Myers addresses her followers in a style similar to the rest of her videos: a casual set up in her home, dressed in lounge clothes, and leaning towards the camera with a coffee mug nearby. But the video’s tone is different than her usual #coffeetalks, songs, and funny stories that made the creator
The video is a personal, intensely relatable confession of how she was expected to feel shame about her body as a young girl. “I was made aware of the size of my body long before I was ever taught how to love it,” Myers tells viewers. She recalls a story from seventh grade, when a substitute teacher told her he needed to “save you from yourself” and that she was “better suited” for a sport like wrestling or colorguard, not in a cheer uniform. “I met that man for one hour when I was like 11, and I am 28 still undoing the damage that that one sentence had on my life,” she says.
“I was taught how to perceive my body through the eyes of other people that didn’t love me, that didn’t care about me, that just thought they could make a passing comment and move on with their life, and I carried that forever,” Myers says in the TikTok. “You have to be more careful with your words. We have to teach people how to speak kindly about themselves, how to love themselves, how to see them as beautiful and worthy and more than just what they look like.” The end of the video is more of Myers’ usual style, as she displays images of her young self in a cheer uniform, pom-poms in hand, and dramatically flips off the camera with a kiss. “Bye, Mr. C!” she says, smiling.
Myers is already a pretty established creator, with 3.6 million TikTok followers, an accumulated 70 million likes on her account, and a following that loves her casual, humorous, and very human storytelling. She’s made a point to curate a space that feels real and safe for all viewers to share their embarrassing and impactful experiences, including Myers’ own.
Since posting the video on Dec. 27, it’s accumulated 3 million views, more than 700,000 likes, and over 23,000 comments. A number of people shared their thoughts about the power of words and mirroring positive behavior for children. The comments include personal stories, words of encouragement, even advice. “My mom likes to say ‘you’ve always struggled with your weight.’ Have I? Or have you struggled with my weight, mom?” wrote user @alisseandcats.
The video’s top comment, from user @essajaesee, reads, “I have a strict rule in my household. We don’t talk about the size of other peoples bodies. Big or small, we don’t compliment weight loss either.”
She told Mashable that the video was originally inspired by a harsh comment sent to her by a fellow mom. “Your content’s not great, but I get it. I’m a mom, and I’m drinking seltzer on a Sunday night,” the viewer wrote to her. The comment didn’t initially sting, but as she sat with it, the words reminded her of how adults, even her own mother, unintentionally spoke to her as a child. It made her think of that childhood adage about rubber and glue, and letting someone’s words slide off of your back. “That’s not real. That’s not the way our brains work. We hear things and we latch on to them so, so strongly,” Myers said. “Being able to heal from that place is a really powerful thing. And if I have any part in that for somebody, it’s an honor.”
I was made aware of the size of my body long before I was taught to love it.
The message weaves nicely into Myers’ larger goal. Through her no-gimmick TikTok account which features videos without frills or fancy editing or glam appearances, she hopes to validate normal, relatable struggles, like bad dates, childhood bullies, and embarrassing public moments. And she wants to emphasize with her viewers that they don’t need to change themselves, personalities or appearances, to gain respect or accommodate the expectations of others. “If you want to be a part of my life, this is the way I look 99% of the time. I’m not going to alter the way I look so that you will watch this video,” she said to Mashable. “I think that what I have to say is important and, even if it isn’t important, it’s OK. I’m posting it because I love it.”
Part of her brand is being a messy, imperfect human, a parent just figuring things out, and a person with a whole host of other, more interesting, personality traits. And, from her storytimes about real life moments and (often hilarious) conflicts with others, it all feeds into a lesson about how to treat others with respect and dignity.
When it comes to engaging, and respecting, young people both in your life and online, Myers’ TikTok puts it succinctly, “If you are an adult, if you are around children, if you’re around humans in any way, I need you to understand how powerful your words are. As easily as they can tear someone down, they can build someone right back up.”
Myers expanded on this point in her interview. “That is how I learned how to see myself — how people around me saw themselves and spoke about it,” Myers explained. Instead, she wants to model the behaviors she’s trying to teach her son, and encourage her viewers to do so as well. “I’ve made it such a priority, because it’s important that he hears that I love myself just because I exist, and I’m a work in progress. And that I love him, as much as I love me,” she said. “Kids need adults around them to speak highly of themselves.”
Moving forward, Myers intends to make conversations around body acceptance, recovery, and anti-bullying a main aspect of her platform, including connecting her followers with resources and fellow creators who can speak to diverse experiences. “I think I can make a difference in this space,” she explained. “I feel a responsibility because I have been through so much in my life, and I’ve healed from it. But I know so many people haven’t.”