Emily Battaglini is a photographer based in Toronto. She’s also a survivor, an inspiration, and a human. Through her blog and her Instagram feed, she shares (amongst impeccably-curated photos of brunch and self portraits) her day to day struggles with her body image, her womanhood, her recovery, and the terrifying feat of simply growing up.
Below, Emily unpacks her love-hate relationship with social media, and learning to finally use her platform for honest reflection instead of projection. Photos by Olivya Leblanc.
My mother taught me that a lot of how we let others love us comes from how we love ourselves.
This statement didn’t wear on me until I turned twenty, and then it fit into my life in an awkward way. Uncomfortable and stiff, I was in this stagnant place where I found myself bar hopping with strange men in hopes one of them would kiss me at the end of the night. I was unable to view myself in a beautiful way because my mother was sick, and suddenly so was I.
Anyone reading my blog, or looking at my Instagram, thought I was happy and so I was.
When I moved out for the first time is when I started having sex. It gave me a sense of purpose because no one asked about my past and I truly had no intention of sharing it anyways. By day I would sit with semi-cold coffee and write about what’s his name or the other guy from the other night. Words flowing from my lack of self-worth, anyone reading my blog, or looking at my Instagram, thought I was happy and so I was. That’s how it worked in the 21st century, I convinced myself.
“What are you running from”, my mother has asked me as I struggle to make eye contact over dinner. I want to tell her I can’t live alone anymore. Everything feels desolate and my actions reek of desperation as I try to fill those holes. But I keep my mouth shut. Later on Instagram someone tells me they think I look beautiful. For a moment, I feel it. Until I remember the cancer that took my mother’s breast and nothing is but grey and dull.
Once a week I tell my therapist that my body feels heavy. She comments that I haven’t changed since the week prior, so it must be something else. We accept what we think we deserve and I suppose between my first heartbreak and becoming a realist, I decided I deserved nothing.
I wasn’t looking to build a home in someone else, because I was already home in me.
I moved out of my first home into an apartment across from my favourite park. My roommates put photographs of us hugging on the fridge and I always remembered when my almond milk was expiring. I met a boy with kind eyes, and I fell in love again. This time, though, it was different. I wasn’t looking to build a home in someone else, because I was already home in me. My limbs didn’t feel so tense and I began to love my tummy rolls. I wrote things that were real, about feeling everything good and bad and no longer wanting to hide it.
On my good days, I made it to my nine am classes with three minutes to spare. On my bad days, I chose not to leave my bed. It became a healthy balance, of not always being okay and being okay with that, and holding myself accountable for that.
My mom called me and asked when she could meet him, but by this time he had already left. He would come back once more before leaving for good, and more days than not I miss him. But my love was not for him. My love came selfishly, allowing myself to sit comfortably with myself for the first time in forever.
I am beautiful without validation. I am appreciated without a significant other.
Things are different now. I am beautiful without validation. I am appreciated without a significant other. Recognizing this, my world becomes everyone’s, to grow and touch and allow others to feel a sense of compassion in midst of the loneliness of growing up and growing old. Opening up does not mean giving up.
My mother screeches when she finds my blog. She calls me to tell me “self love is not self exploitation”. I have to laugh, because if only she knew.