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Rianne Atiya Meijer on Self-Love and the Present Moment

Once a model and fashion student in Amsterdam, Dutch Rianne Atiya Meijer is now best known for her Instagram vs. Reality pics, which feel like a breath of fresh air in an ocean of staged perfection online. With over 1.5 million Instagram followers, she stands out with her mix of honesty and humor. Two years ago, Rianne married her long-term boyfriend and recently gave birth to a baby boy named George. She talks to us about surrendering to the present moment and rediscovering self-love.

On showing up as your authentic self
‘My style of communicating online developed instinctively. When I first started sharing my Instagram vs. reality posts, I was hesitant about it, but in a good way. Sharing a more realistic, humorous take on things wasn’t commonly done; Instagram was all about perfection in those early days. While looking at very processed photos was all wonderful, I felt it could use a different narrative, and even wanted to challenge my own contribution to this world of ‘perfection’. Plus, self-deprecation as a means of infusing humor into our daily lives has always been a part of who I am. Even as a teenager, I enjoyed sharing stories about the various ways in which I failed online (my parents still talk about this). I thought that people would appreciate a more realistic take on things, and I was right. Over the years, I’ve learned that in sharing our humanness, we build connections. In my online reach, the most valuable thing is that I can communicate with so many people from all over the world and see that everyone is going through the same thing – and just that makes it all worth it.’

On reality checks of motherhood
‘When it comes to motherhood, I haven’t shared about it online in my typical style. Everything is so new to me, and I feel insecure and vulnerable still. Maybe that will change in the future. For all other things, if there are any negative comments, my feelings aren’t easily hurt because I don’t really care. But what if someone said “How could you” to old bottles of milk lying around the house, and I simply forgot about them? That scares me a little. There are a lot of small things that pile up (like constantly dropping pacifiers), and sleep deprivation doesn’t help. I find myself feeling anxious all the time, aware that my son might start crying at any moment.’

On setting boundaries
‘For many social media influencers, work-life balance is a huge issue that takes its toll. I think my brain could just about handle all the chaos before becoming a mom. But a baby brings an extra dimension to everything. I don’t want to be with him at a playground but think about work the entire time. Because of this, I am now, more than ever, disciplined and structured with my time. When George was born, I first thought that I didn’t want to share any of it because no one has the right to have an opinion on this. It’s just my baby. In the end, I did share and that was both great and weird at the same time. I’m also aware he can’t choose for himself whether he wants to be present online. The idea that he will grow up seeing things of him that people can see later and having had no influence on that… The older he gets, the fewer private things I will probably share. For the first time in my life, I really feel the need to establish clear boundaries.’

On surrendering to the present moment
‘Life is completely different now that I’m a mom. When you reach your late twenties/early thirties, a new stage begins – you let go of ambition and perpetual obsessing over the future. Having my son inspired me to take a step back and be more present. I always strived to live in the moment but struggled. Even when I’m with him, I sometimes notice that my head is elsewhere, focused on all things I still have to do or places to go to. This is the way I operated, and, truth be told, a lot of my happiness has come from achieving certain things and reaching certain milestones. Yet, he taught me that babies only know the present moment, and that, even if it feels uncomfortable and strange, in the end, finding joy in the small things is an approach to life that has much more to offer.’

On advice for women in their motherhood journeys
‘I think a lot of women are afraid that they won’t know what to do; that they might not be made for it. I was somebody who stayed away from babies, never held a baby, never raised a baby. I didn’t even find them particularly cute. But since having a baby, that has changed completely. All babies are super cute to me now. To every woman who feels the same way and who doesn’t have children yet, I would say please don’t worry. Should you want children, you’re going to be fine. Plus, I think in motherhood, if you can completely embrace yourself and have a loving relationship with yourself, then you will radiate that. That’s the best example you can set for your child. If you love yourself, you can also love everyone you see. On a more practical note, I would say, keep moving during pregnancy as much as you can. To still feel like myself, movement helped me a lot when I was pregnant. And finally, if you just gave birth, try not booking your entire first week with maternity visits. Relax! I had a C-section, and it was pretty difficult at first. I couldn’t walk or do anything that first week. A lot of people came to visit, and it was all very nice, but looking back, I could have enjoyed it better if there had been more space between those visits.’

On discovering the true meaning of self-love
‘I have a sort of a spiritual path that brings me a lot of peace. It puts everything in perspective. My practice is reading books about that ‘path’, by Eckhart Tolle, Michael Singer, Seed of the Soul… These mention something I look to as my motto: “The moment in front of you is not bothering you, you are bothering yourself about the moment in front of you.” I also have two wonderful dogs, and I find walking them very relaxing. It’s funny, but when I look at my self-care moments, I see things that forced me to focus on one thing at a time. From walking the dogs and reading books to sitting under the shower or simply driving a car. I also have a small tattoo of the word self-love on my arm. I thought I had self-love when I was in my early twenties, but it took that entire decade to realize I really didn’t have it. I thought it was all about achievement, goals, and success. But if I truly look at what’s been going on in my head the last few years, I see that I can be so unkind to myself. Self-love to me now is about being much milder, much kinder to myself, and becoming aware of that strong inner critic so many of us have.’

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