The Rise of Digital Sisterhood
Three inspiring and uplifting voices every young woman needs to hear.
Finding safe spaces in an online world fueled by comparison and competition can feel impossible for today's young women. With the pressures of modern life threatening to throw us off course from embracing our true selves, content which inspires and uplifts is more important than ever.
However, the online space can feel lonely and tricky to navigate at times. Finding and connecting to the people and stories that resonate with us is challenging, particularly if we already feel so lost in the abyss of millennial life. Through writing this article, I hope to shed light on some powerful female voices that have supported me through my early twenties quite simply by being brave enough to share their own stories online. If their words ignited similar inspiration and healing in even one other than myself, then my work here is done.
Podcast: 'ReWilding' by Ella Grace Denton
Ella Grace Denton, a twenty-something singer-songwriter and content creator, is someone who deserves to be celebrated. Through a recommendation from a friend, I had been following Ella’s Instagram for a couple of years, delighting in watching her journey of embracing womanhood, just as I was. I was unable to contain my excitement when Ella announced that she was starting a podcast, ReWilding.
ReWilding is a beautiful and honest journey through, in Ella’s own words, unravelling your conditioning and reconnecting to the wild womxn inside. Whilst each episode brings a fresh topic (sexuality, therapy and astrology just to name a few) complete with new stories and lessons, the underlying theme of Ella being brave enough to share her own experiences in such a relatable way was the medicine I never knew I needed. “Letting Go of Who You Want to Be & Becoming Who You Are” is an episode of ReWilding which was a lightbulb moment during a very confusing and alienating time in my life, empowering me to be introspective in the most productive of ways.
There is something so comforting about Ella’s tone; it’s as if she is sat across the table in a cosy café, speaking directly to you. In this particular episode, she begins with emphasising that this is a “safe space” to be, somewhere which encourages the sharing of stories and wisdom whilst embracing a feeling of togetherness. I remember hearing this and instantly relaxing into my seat; I truly felt as if I was in the presence of a mentor, a confidante, and a friend.
This episode of ReWilding is an account of personal development and the process of coming to one’s own realisations. It is simultaneously a questioning of society and of oneself, alongside an exploration of the interaction between the two. The experience Ella examines here seems achingly familiar, and yet it is one that I have never heard explored in such a transparent way.
She speaks of her younger self feeling a desire to fulfil the archetypes that surround us from birth: the need to be beautiful, cool, liked and famous. It struck me just how crazy it is that society idolises qualities with such loose and subjective definitions. I know from my own experience that there is a quiet sense of shame in admitting that you yearn for the same things as everyone else. After all, what’s the point if you don’t stand out from the crowd? But as Ella says, it’s not hard to see why many of us strive for these things when they are so heavily glorified by the media. If this toxic portrayal of happiness is all we know, then we cannot beat ourselves up for adopting this way of thinking.
Ella describes her experience with “ego deaths” in her youth, whereby people would see through the inflated sense of self that she projected. In other words, when we are so desperate to be liked to the point of insincerity, others can see right through this and reject us for it. It was this experience of rejection that was the wake-up call for Ella, breaking down her illusion of who she thought she was and encouraging her to begin the journey of staying as true to herself as possible.
In the past, I too have “put on an act” for the sake of not only fitting in with others around me, but for craving acceptance of people I barely knew. Ella mentions that this desire to fit in is particularly prominent at university, which was certainly the case for me. Until listening to this episode, I was still processing how lonely that time in my life really was and beating myself up for not having the courage to embrace my own uniqueness.
Critically, Ella notes that a deflated ego is just as damaging as an inflated ego, and that seeking to solidify your identity is no bad thing. She reminds us all that “everyone is at the centre of their own universe”, and that the internal dialogue searching for a concrete sense of self is universal. Hearing this was like a sigh of relief for my soul.
Through this, the real joy came from seeing this time in my life not as wasted years, but as pivotal stages in my personal growth. Ella took care to express love for her former self, which encouraged me to do the same. Her words are as healing as they are inspiring, and have stuck with me in my voyage into the next phase of my twenties. She has a gift in that her listeners are not made to feel dictated to, rather they are provided with gentle encouragement to think by themselves and for themselves. This podcast episode brought me a great sense of relief and understanding that I may never have achieved alone. I am so thankful for Ella’s honesty.
Social Media Account: Africa Brooke (@africabrooke)
Africa Brooke is a mindset coach, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, speaking on topics such as self-sabotage, sobriety and sexual wellness. It is no exaggeration when I say that stumbling across Africa's Instagram account just over a year ago helped to shape the course of my life in the most beautiful of ways.
Last year I made the decision to quit drinking, a decision which was the accumulation of over three years of chaos. It seemed as though the very moment I set foot in my university halls of residence at eighteen, alcohol was both metaphorically and physically being shoved in my face from all angles. As someone who had never even mixed her own drink, I found myself conjuring up all sorts of abhorrent concoctions with people I barely knew, desperately trying to keep up with the pace of this frenzied new lifestyle. As the years went by, the effects of drinking on both my physical and mental health really began to show. “I’m never drinking again”, I had joked with my friends, countless times before. But after one particularly petrifying panic attack, that was it. I’d well and truly had enough.
The prospect of a sober life as a student felt alien. In my eyes, ditching the booze was a new year's resolution for the middle-aged, not a lifestyle choice for a 21-year-old. Desperate to find someone, anyone, who had made a similar decision, I turned to Instagram in search for solidarity. This is when I found Africa, who at 24 had embraced the sober life and was advocating for the idea that #SobrietyIsRebellious, a delightfully fresh perspective that made the prospect sound exciting, as opposed to a one-way ticket to being rendered a bore.
I came for the sobriety advice, but stayed for the sheer wisdom of Africa’s words on an abundance of topics, not to mention the love and grace that she extends to her followers. I remember commenting on one of her posts about sobriety, thanking her for her impact in my journey so far. I was shocked when she responded, letting me know that her DMs were open anytime. To have someone extend a hand through the online void (despite having hundreds of comments to read through) was a true blessing, a blessing which has resulted in a friendship that I treasure dearly.
Her account is a sacred space, filled with words that inspire and transform. One thing that I find particularly admirable is that Africa makes no secret of the fact that she is always learning. She does not promote her work as a finished product, rather she takes us on her learning journey with her, sharing various resources with us along the way, such as a book she’s currently reading. It is clear to see how much time, care and effort she puts into generating content for her followers. In fact, often I find myself reading one of her captions and thinking about it for the rest of the day. She asks the real mindset-shifting questions, providing alternative views to problems that we all face in life.
I struggled on many occasions with my sobriety journey; the fear of missing out coupled with often being the only sober friend in the group felt extremely isolating. During these times when I was questioning my decision, being able to open Instagram and see that someone had lived through the same experience and emerged stronger than ever was extremely reassuring.
Africa's work is one of the reasons that I remain hopeful for social media, despite its flaws. In a sea of weight loss adverts and heavily filtered selfies, people like Africa offer a lifeline to young women searching for genuine inspiration that comes from the heart. As she says, “transformation is f*cking messy”, but what a beautiful process it can be with inspirational woman like her to empower us.
Losing all of my grandparents at a very young age left a significant part of my heart always wondering what advice they would have had for me now, in my twenties. As a child, I simply lacked the words to ask them the questions that will always remain unanswered.
“What helped you get through the hardest times?”
“If you could go back and give your younger self some advice, what would you say?”
It is difficult not to regret exploring these things with them, but I cannot berate myself for being unable to see beyond my childhood. Perhaps it is for this reason that I always seek the wisdom of the older generation.
Volunteering for many years as well as working in the health service has enabled me to share some of the most interesting, emotional and downright hilarious conversations with older people. I adore listening to their stories and sharing some of my own, as in many ways we are able to learn from one another. I often found myself wishing that the kind, wise words of these people could be shared with the wider world, especially for those who have also lost their grandparents.
To my delight, I saw that a trend was emerging on social media through which older people were able to do exactly this. I came across one particular photo by @selfloveliv, a mental health and body confidence Instagrammer whose account I had found during my own struggles with mental health. In this post, Liv had shared a picture of her 94-year-old-grandma holding up a sign which read: “I am 94. My best advice? Enjoy your day”.
The photo brought both tears to my eyes as well as a smile to my face. There is something so beautifully simple about that message. As much as I am grateful for the plethora of information about personal development now available to us, often these take the form of long books or YouTube videos containing complex information that is hard to readily apply to daily life.
There is something so comforting about the perspective being shared in this photo. This advice, at a mere three words, is something that everyone can remember as they go about their day. Whether through setting reminders on your phone or leaving sticky notes around the house, Liv’s grandma’s words are accessible to everyone. The beautiful thing is that they can be interpreted according to the individual who reads them. The way I interpret this message is by reminding myself not to sweat the small stuff. If I have a goal of always finding ways to enjoy my day, then I am already putting my best foot forward. Since seeing this photo, I’ve been able to use these words to reorient myself during stressful days, remembering that they have come from a woman who has essentially been there, done that, and got the T-Shirt.
I believe it is of utmost importance to give a voice to the older generation. I am so grateful to Liv and indeed many others who have shared the wisdom of their older friends or relatives in this way, simultaneously connecting older people to modern technology and connecting young people to the life lessons from those who have come before us.
The underlying theme to the three pieces of joy that I have shared is clear. Each woman has, in her own beautiful way, given me the courage to love more: to love myself, my journey and my every day. I am infinitely grateful that they have chosen to share their wisdom with the digital world, casting some much-needed light into a space that often feels shrouded in negativity.
It is with a very hopeful heart that I wish for these three voices to reach other women who may need some more love in life, in whatever way, shape or form that takes for them. This is the rise of digital sisterhood.