Rachel Spencer: My Defining Moment
By Vanessa Palencia
Rachel Spencer is a 27-year old self-love influencer and successful Instagram coach for boss babes. For those of you who know her, you know that she lives in New York City with her boyfriend and you know that she has a profound love for waffles. But above all, it’s her captivating smile and lively voice, an attribute that may be contributed to her past acting career, that makes people feel like they belong. She has an uncanny ability to make a lasting impression on everyone that meets her. That’s why it’s hard to imagine that someone as successful and empowering as Rachel once struggled with low-self esteem, bullies, and an eating disorder.
Take a glimpse at her Instagram profile, and you’ll see that Rachel’s a pretty big advocate for vulnerability. She’s not afraid to talk about her struggles, whether that’s in her career or her body image. She understands that through being vulnerable and sharing her story, she can empower, encourage, and positively impact her audience; she can change the world, even if the world means one person’s entire life. She knows that she’s the voice for those who can’t speak up, and she takes that responsibility seriously. That’s why when I reached out to her, she wholeheartedly accepted to share her story with us on our platform. And this time, she’s getting a little deeper.
As a storyteller, Rachel has shared stories with her audience about her body love journey and how she suffered from low self-esteem at 13 years old. She wrote all about how boys used to make fun of her weight and how she was affected by diet culture and the media. During our interview, she confessed that going through puberty made her so much more aware of her body. “I was always, even in the first and second grade, considered the ‘chubby girl,’ and I was always made fun of. I had acne all over my forehead, and I’m almost legally blind, so I had glasses in the first grade... I was [called] ‘four eyes,’ and I was gaining weight faster than my classmates,” Rachel spilled. “But this was first and second grade, so you start to notice that your body’s different, but you don’t really think anything of it until everybody else starts going through [puberty], whenever they’re around 13, and you notice that some girls go through it differently and [you say], ‘wait a second, she looks better than she did!’”
According to Rachel, it was during this time in her life that she started to see her body as ‘wrong’ and is one of the main reasons why she references her 13-year-old self all the time whenever she talks about overcoming her body image issues. “My puberty journey was not fun,” she admitted, “...it seemed like all the women around me were, like, losing weight...getting taller...getting sexy, and I just felt like, as I was going through it, I had all of these struggles and all of these body image issues.”
But despite all the distressing moments she experienced during the onset of her puberty, Rachel agrees that the bullying she endured as a young girl might have set her up for all her struggles and insecurities to come. She strictly recalls being made fun of constantly by the boys in her 5th or 6th grade class. “I didn’t understand because I barely talked to them...but they made fun of me...and I assumed that it was because of my weight,” she confessed.
“But then I got in the 8th or 9th grade, and one of the boys that used to make fun of me actually asked me out, and it was, like, victory for me to be able to say, ‘No. Absolutely not,’ Rachel laughed, “He had made fun of me so much!” To this day, she still remembers him burping in her face and saying nasty things to her like, “Get your 10,000 pound body off of my paper!”
“I would go home crying, my mom would call his parents because they were in the PTA together, it was just...it was bad,” Rachel grimaced. While it might come across as strange that Rachel was bullied by boys, Rachel’s extremely thankful that the girls in her class maintained their friendship with her. “I guess the boys, like, had crushes on [the girls] and didn’t understand why they hung out with me,” she admitted.
However, being bullied never comes without a price. “I went through a period of just wanting acceptance from men, or back then, boys,” she confided, “because I remember there was this really popular guy in my school, let’s just say he’s “B”...and I remember this guy just started paying attention to me...so I thought, ‘Well, this is nice…’” But this special attention took a turn for the worst when Rachel and B started talking and flirting via MSN Messenger. “He asked me for a risqué photo,” she revealed, “and I was like, ‘I have to send it to him because I bet all the other girls would,’ so 7th or 8th grade me sent him a photograph.” Unfortunately, the humiliation didn’t end there. The boy blackmailed Rachel by demanding that she send him another photo of her ‘private parts’ or else he would share the risqué photo of her with the entire school. “I felt pressured to do it, so I shared it with him...but long story short, everyone saw it anyway,” she shrugged, “It was probably the worst year of my life.”
Looking back, Rachel acknowledges that all those years of being made fun of prompted her to grasp for that acceptance and do something that was completely unlike her. However, Rachel firmly believes that the harassment that she endured in middle school was a defining moment for her. She carried those plights with her as reminders throughout her young adult life, but especially in her relationships. She claims that her middle school dilemma propelled her to make sure that her relationships were sacred and that she felt safe and loved for who she was and not for her body.
However, our progress and path to success is never a straight and narrow road. Before she found the peace and love she now has with her current boyfriend, Rachel had to endure the pain that came with walking in on her ex-boyfriend cheating on her and overcome the negative mindset that emerged from that. “It took that situation and then meeting my new boyfriend to get out of that and cope,” she revealed. “My relationship with my current boyfriend is, especially, continuing to help me along my healing journey. He knows my full story, and he supports what I do, and he makes it very well known that it’s not about my looks for him, and that’s very, very important for me,” she stated.
While Rachel had learned a huge lesson from her blackmailing situation in middle school, it took time for her to grow into the Self Love Queen we know today. “It’s not immediately that I’m like, ‘I’m never doing that again! I am worthy! It’s not about my body!’ No, it’s not that easy,” she asserted. “I knew that that was the mindset that I wanted to get into, but I didn’t know how to get there,” she explained, “So I just kind of pushed it to the back of my mind.” It wasn’t until Rachel went to college and faced the possibility of the Freshman 15 that her body image issues re-surfaced.
“I was actually terrified of the Freshman 15,” she divulged, “It was like a phobia for me!” She went on to illustrate how her friends were able to laugh it off and poke fun at people who were drinking beer, but instead of laughing along with them, Rachel became paralyzed with fear and resorted to obsessive behaviors. “I would binge on unhealthy food that colleges serve, like pizza, nachos, Chick-fil-A, and then I would go to the gym for five hours,” she recalled. “I would only be satisfied if I almost passed out. That was when I was, like, proud of myself,” she said gravely.
During this time in her life, Rachel had believed that health meant skinny. “I was so tiny back then...but if I didn’t look like the instagram models, if I didn’t look like the sorority queens, or get rid of the dimples on my thighs...it didn’t matter, because I saw this airbrushed version of myself and that’s what I wanted to become,” she disclosed. She admitted that even when she lost a bunch of weight and started to see abs, she still never felt good enough because she saw health as perfection and not something that encompassed her overall well-being. Rachel might have silently slipped knee-deep into an eating disorder, but thankfully brighter days were ahead as she discovered Instagram and heard about all about the hidden communities within the respective hashtags.
“I knew from therapy, speaking to my girlfriends, and my sorority that, obviously, I had already started to go through this mindset shift, but I knew that something had to change,” she said. She needed to share her story, so Rachel started exploring the hashtags on Instagram in search for someone that had a story similar to hers, which is how she ended up stumbling on the Self Love community. “I realized that all of these women [within the community] looked different! Their body sizes were different, different colors, different backgrounds. They all struggled with different mental health issues, some of them worse than what I struggled with,” she said. “And I saw all of them sharing openly and showing their tummies,” she exclaimed.
Eager to figure out the secret to the influx of confidence that all these women demonstrated, Rachel had reached out to them for advice. One of the girls she had reached out to responded by saying that sharing her story online became very therapeutic for her, so Rachel decided to give it a try. Thus began Rachel’s healing journey toward body love and acceptance.
After sharing her story on Instagram under a private profile for many years, Rachel decided that she wanted to make a career out of helping other women overcome their own body image issues. “I never wanted another woman to go through what I went through all of those years,” she declared. And it was this exact motive that prompted her to become a life coach for women with body image issues, a huge career move that would soon lead her down the path to becoming the Instagram and Business Expert, but most importantly the Self Love Queen, that she is today.
So amidst her busy schedule balancing her coaching life, her flourishing Facebook group, and her personal life, you’ll find Rachel still sharing her story and encouraging others to love and believe in themselves. “This community is so sacred, and it’s very important to me, and I never want people to think that by growing my following, the purpose was to make money,” Rachel answered. “I love what I’m doing in the Self Love community, and I hope to continue growing my account. Not because I want more followers, but because I want more people to be able to hear my story and know that they’re not alone.” By growing her account, Rachel hopes to also get more opportunities to speak at conferences and spread the message about self love and body image issues. She upholds that “By raising your voice, you’re speaking for all of these people who thought that they were alone.”
She also has high hopes for the community’s future. She desires to see more acceptance within the community similar to the kind of acceptance she saw when she first joined. “Now, it’s so… ‘you’re too skinny,’ or ‘you’re not fat enough,’” Rachel said. She strongly believes that since the body positivity movement is about accepting all bodies, that girls shouldn’t feel like they’re not good enough or that they shouldn’t be in the community. “I hope that everyone is accepted in the community one day,” she said.
And for those of you who are about to embark on your own self-love journey, Rachel encourages you to love and accept yourself exactly as you are. “It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you’re going through, you are worthy and you’re here for a reason,” she asserts. “It’s not always going to be comfortable,” she admits, “but just be gentle with yourself the whole way and try not to judge all those changes that happen.”