Previously an event coordinator, travel consultant, school teacher, and current card connoisseur, Shauna Ryan has done it all. Launching her platform ‘Strongwoman’ in 2015, it’s more than just another motivational ‘gram, but a community of strong women that was birthed out of a challenge. Recently, Ryan has returned from her three-month long journey across America, where she has been “given a gradual incline of curiosity fulfilling all of [her] curiosities”. Ryan was granted an invitation to be a part of amazing people's lives that she would not otherwise have met in rural NSW. Shauna Ryan is a force of positivity to be reckoned with – without dismissing the hardships that life occasionally swings our way. This is the Strong Woman, Shauna Ryan.
We are very much living in a day and age where everything's posted and curated in a specific way online. What I think is refreshing about yourself and your ‘feed’ is this overall honesty.
I use my platform Strong Woman for what I think that everybody really needs to hear and negated to the fact that I needed it most. It took a lot of courage and soul searching for me to realise that I have been given a very specific set of gifts and confidence. So, I am able to share aspects of my life in a way where I don’t project myself into people lives and feeds in a way where it’s not ok anymore or it’s too much. The beauty of social media is that people can unfollow. I just wanted to create a space where people feel that they see similarities.
I grew up where I didn’t see a lot of people similar to me. Obviously, I am a white woman so there is plenty of representation in the media and everywhere, but I never saw any plus-sized women when I was a teenager. If I did, it was always the funny person or the mean person, and it was always filling that role for a bit of ‘diversity’. They never got the boy and they never got the dream job – it was always the beautiful, pretty ones (although that isn't life). I realized that there was a total lack – and it was a subconscious lack.
In the last twelve months I’ve focussed on utilizing the platform Strong Woman. I want people to realise their emotions, their thoughts, their experiences that they have every day are completely normal. As you said there’s a lot of curation, and although I want to create beautiful content, I want it to be very real and very relatable.
As you're navigating this online space, how did you feel when others started to enter and communicate within that space? Tell me more about what that process looked like and how you found the courage to start?
Ever since I could remember, all I wanted to do is to bring people joy and be a light to people. I searched for that in different workspaces previous to this. I’ve always aspired to be ‘real’ and who makes people feel that they’re not the only ones going through something.
The process wasn’t 100% authentic to me because I still felt insecure. It wasn’t until I had really real conversations with people that challenged me and saw through the facades that I put up. The [facades] weren’t dishonest – I wasn’t a dishonest person. I was just struggling like everybody else was. I was trying to remedy everybody else and patch everybody and ignore the fact that I needed that pep talk as much as them. It was really only in the middle of last year where I started to step into my truth and into the most authentic version of myself.
I was unfiltered, I shared parts of my story. I poked fun at myself - but not in a detrimental way. Just in a helping people realise they’re not the only idiots in the room. I too am a little crazy, and I got such a different response to that. For me to be my truest and most authentic self - that is what people really resonate with.
Transitioning to social media wasn’t super difficult. But I felt I needed to air out myself. I started posting and saying things like: “hey guys, you know, I have had really intense self-confidence issues”. I started to bring things up and people were really surprised, people that have followed me for years. I was fine, I was not depressed. I just felt the need to tell everybody that I have always been confident online, but it hasn’t been the case offline.
Tell me about how this attitude and overarching plan launched into Strongwoman Official?
It started off as a challenge. A friend said I had to take 40 photos in 7 days, and if I could get a certain number of likes, they’d buy me tickets to the opera. Then, three days in I realised it was way more than just winning a challenge for me. It was about connecting with people and tapping into the lives and the hearts of women who I was sharing a community with. I would talk to random people on the street would ask to take their photos, and I realised that most women don’t see themselves as strong. They think they have to have gone through something traumatic and have had to overcome something to be strong.
I had such a desire to tell other women’s stories and help them be seen that I wanted to create a space of compassion online. Social media obviously is filled with a lot of really great stuff but also a lot of crap. I wanted to bring social back to social media. At the end of the day, strength is not just one blanketed label, strength looks different on different people.
A lot of this takes a lot of courage. We all have those times where things aren't quite going our way. How do you find courage on a day to day basis and simultaneously maintain your positivity?
Truthfully, it takes time. It takes breathing. It takes overly communicating sometimes. To be truthful, the month of February for me was very turbulent and very transformative. I had a lot of time to myself. I had to work through how I’m going to be this positive person when I’m not feeling positive.
I guess I always come back to the centre. I’m a spiritual person so whatever you decide to believe in, whether it’s with God or the universe – whatever entity. I think really discussing something other than yourself is a really important way of managing that. If I’m overwhelmed or having a really, really crappy day - I stop what I’m doing. I’ll put it away and do something that I love, that is often very self-indulgent. I like to sit down and eat a bowl of pasta and watch ‘The Nanny’. Or, do a twenty – minute meditation.