I believe we as a community have a responsibility to call people out when they are using their influence in ways that could be potentially harmful to others. Whether that’s celebrities selling weight loss and detox products, or influencers not being transparent about their use of Facetune/Photoshop, we get to hold them accountable for their choices in order to advocate for the young people following them who might not know any better yet
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewingMegan Sherer.
Megan Sherer is a Holistic Nutritionist and Wellness Expert, as well as the founder of the nonprofit organization Be More. Her work exists at the convergence of the wellness and nonprofit spaces. She holds a degree from Pepperdine University, and certifications in Holistic & Sports Nutrition, Exercise Science, Yoga, AcroYoga, meditation, breath-work, eating psychology and emotional transformation training. She runs a health consulting practice and leads many mental health focused wellness initiatives.
As the Executive Director of Be More, a nonprofit dedicated to creating conversations & curriculum about how social media impacts self-esteem and mental health in teenagers, she spearheads many initiatives in the youth empowerment and digital wellness spaces. Her passion ultimately lies in empowering people with the tools to advocate for their own health and strengthen the quality of their lives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Ofcourse! I grew up in a suburb just outside of Seattle with my parents and two older brothers, and later on some step-parents and step-siblings as well. I spent summer wakeboarding on Lake Washington and winters snowboarding in the mountains, with lots of dance and gymnastics in between. So it’s safe to say that I have always had a passion for being active. I also had an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, starting my first business making and selling pet treats to my neighbors at 8-years-old. And as a senior in high school I started a charity kids camp to raise money for Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Gates Foundation. My parents raised me to prioritize philanthropy. One of the most important lessons they ever taught me was that giving back and taking care of others isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s the reason we’re here. We’re all in this together, and looking out for underserved communities or marginalized individuals is one of the best ways to spend your time.
You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Society today places so much value on the body and someone’s physical appearance. At Be More, we envision a society where every person knows that they are so much more than just their body, and their worth is not determined by something so trivial and temporary as weight or size. Our work is to create a culture where young people not only have the tools to look past the lack of diversity and representation in the media but also to advocate for a world where a more universal and holistic image of beauty is projected for all to see.
Beyond body image, social media is playing an increasingly prevalent role in the lives of adolescents. While often a positive tool for growth and learning, excessive use of social technology is also proving to be a detriment to the mental health of children everywhere. Our aim at Be More is to provide these young people with the tools to self-regulate and to set their own healthy boundaries with social media. By teaching them to become more mindful participants with social media, we can put the focus back on building valuable real-life skills like communication, integrity, self-confidence, and self-care.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Be More originally started as a small passion project of mine, and I honestly had no idea what it would evolve into. About 4 years ago I started hosting small community events to have conversations with young girls about positive body image and self-esteem. I was passionate about this topic because it was something that I struggled with quite a bit growing up. After recovering from an eating disorder and unhealthy body image as a teenager, I wanted to give young girls access to the tools and messages I wish I’d had at their age.
Then I began noticing a new challenge these girls were facing that wasn’t present when I was their age: social media. I started thinking about how this 24/7 access to filtered, photo shopped and edited images must be impacting their self-esteem, and I knew that something bigger needed to be done. Social media was the gas being thrown on the already out of control fire of body image issues amongst young girls. I felt that if we were going to provide them with this new digital world, we also had an obligation to provide with the resources and tools to mitigate any potentially harmful effects.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I think one of the biggest triggers for me was that I had several young girls in my life at the time that I was close to, and they acted as a living, breathing reminder for me of what was at stake. A neighbor, a client’s daughter, and a best friend’s daughter…all of them so smart, so precious, and so full of potential. I would see these girls and the common struggles they were facing as teens in the digital age, and all I could think of was how things might have played out differently for me if I’d had someone advocating for my confidence and self-esteem at that age. And how we have a chance for things to play out differently for them if we take action now.
Really what it comes down to is that I just couldn’t ignore this vision anymore. No matter how much time I spent focusing on other projects and passions, this one kept tugging at my heartstrings. Until finally I knew that if I didn’t do everything in my power to make even a small impact, I would regret it.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
This is such a great question. I, like many other people, tend to get overwhelmed by big visions and bogged down by all the details that will be required to bring them to life. As much as my dreams inspire me, they can also overwhelm me at times too. Starting a new organization is a great example of that.
The first place I got started was by getting clear on what my vision for the organization was. I mapped out a short-term and a long-term vision to answer the question, “why should I even start this organization in the first place and what purpose will it serve?”. (Just a heads up, this vision can and likely will evolve over time — but it’s still a crucial first step to get as much detail out as you can). Then, I wrote down everything that I could think of that I might need to do to bring that vision to life. Big tasks, little tasks, all of it.
From there, I did two things that I think made the biggest difference for me. I took a look at my list and got started crossing things off one at a time. I would pick one small task to tackle, and accomplish that before worrying about any of the rest. And lastly, but most important of all, is that I asked for help. I began to seek guidance and counsel from the people I knew who could lend support. The people in my life who had backgrounds in nonprofit management, business development, graphic design, education, and youth empowerment all became my sounding board. When I had questions about applying for 501(c)3 nonprofit status, or how to get new curriculum into schools, or needed a space to host a focus group, I made sure I had people I could turn to. And if you think you don’t know anyone with experience in the area you want to pursue, my advice is to start asking around anyways because you might be surprised. And more often than not, people are willing to help young people achieve their dreams. Mentorship is a huge part of early success and growth.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I can often be a nostalgic and sentimental person, so something I find very interesting is the experience of seeing things come full circle. When I was in college, I took a senior capstone class called Service Leadership. The purpose of this class was to give students hands-on experience working with nonprofit organizations and helping them create business strategies for success and growth. We got to spend an entire semester consulting for a nonprofit and helping them solve a problem related to their mission. I remember being in awe at the work these nonprofits did and the impact they were making.
Fast forward 8 years later, when I had the opportunity to return to Pepperdine’s campus after Be More was invited to participate in this program. We spent the semester working with a group of passionate and service-oriented students who were eager to contribute to the growth of our organization. It was such a surreal moment for me to think back to when I was just a student and had no idea what was in store, and that someday I’d be returning to that very same class as a nonprofit founder. Moments like these make me truly grateful for every step of the journey, even the hard and frustrating ones that make you question what you’re doing. Seeing things come full circle is like a little wink from the universe saying “You’ve got this, you’re on the right path. Keep going.”
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I think the funniest mistake that I made, in the beginning, was thinking that progress was going to happen overnight. At the time it wasn’t funny at all — it was disappointing and frustrating and I would constantly set myself up to feel like I was failing. It’s funny looking back because now I see how much patience is required when starting a business, especially a nonprofit, and that good things really do take time. I also know now that “failing” is part of the process, and is really just an opportunity for learning what works and what doesn’t, and how to become more agile and pivot when you need to.
Another funny mistake and lesson that I learned are to ALWAYS proofread your work multiple times. After sending a pitch email to about 200 different executives on LinkedIn when we were looking for new corporate partnerships, I discovered a silly spelling error in my template that might have cost me some responses (and definitely cost me some peace of mind). Spell check when writing, and then check it again before sending (or printing) just to be safe!
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
There have been many moments over the years when I have questioned what the heck I am doing, and whether I should keep going. There have been moments where it was challenging and frustrating, and I wanted to give up. Having mentors and cheerleaders in my corner is what kept me going.
I have a few people in my life who almost always know exactly what to say when I’m struggling. Sometimes they’d remind me of how far I’ve come and where the mission started, or of the importance of patience and timing. And sometimes they’d show me just the right amount of tough love when I wasn’t doing everything I could to move the organization forward. The truth is that sometimes we are just too close to our projects and passions and we can’t see the forest for the trees. So we need people in our lives who can help give us a little perspective, motivate us when we’re feeling down, and act as an extra set of eyes when we need advice.
I remember one conversation in particular with a family friend, who gave me a dose of reality when I needed it most. I had been caught in the dreaming and visioning for too long, and was finding myself uncertain of what to do next. He was able to give me his unbiased perspective of what concrete steps would be necessary to fulfill my vision, as well as an assessment of how far away I was. In the moment it as a hard pill to swallow, but it turned out to be a pivotal conversation for me to take action on some of the more arduous tasks I had been avoiding.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I love seeing the impact we are able to have on young girls at our in-person community events, and see their faces light up when something clicks and they start to feel more empowered. But I’d have to say that my favorite impact stories actually come from the post-curriculum surveys that we have students fill out at the end of a semester of Be More lessons. These surveys are anonymous, so students tend to be more open and honest about how they feel and what they learned. We’ve received countless responses from students sharing how they learned something valuable about social media literacy.
But one of the responses that has stuck with me the most was from a 6th grade girl in the very first round of our pilot program…when we asked “what was the most important thing you learned from the Be More lessons?”, she shared, “I learned that you don’t have to be and look like everyone else around you because you are your own unique person.” I think that response has stayed with me because it occurred to me how powerful it is to learn a lesson like that at that age, and I hope she carries it with her throughout the rest of her teenage years and into adulthood.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Become more mindful of the way you use social media. The more all of us (individuals, celebrities, brands, companies) acknowledge that how we use social media has the power to affect all the people who see and interact with our content, the more we take responsibility for what we put out there. If everyone started to create content with the intention of empowering, educating and uplifting, then social media would become a much healthier place to spend time.
- Hold celebrities and influencers accountable. See the previous statement…we all have a responsibility. But if you happen to have an audience of millions or even thousands, and there are young people who look up to you, then you have an even greater responsibility. And I believe we as a community have a responsibility to call people out when they are using their influence in ways that could be potentially harmful to others. Whether that’s celebrities selling weight loss and detox products, or influencers not being transparent about their use of Facetune/Photoshop, we get to hold them accountable for their choices in order to advocate for the young people following them who might not know any better yet.
- Mandate that we teach mindfulness-based curriculums in all schools. The world is changing. With more technology, new stressors, and the normal pressure of adolescence, kids everywhere would benefit from more mindfulness curriculum in their schooling. There are simple tools and conversations that would contribute greatly to the wellbeing and healthy development of kids that would be fairly easy to implement in schools if it were mandated. Whether that’s a deep dive on social media literacy and mental health, or just the simple exercise of teaching deep breathing, there is a huge opportunity to equip kids with the tools they need to navigate the evolving challenges and opportunities of the digital age.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It is not going to play out exactly how you want it to. And that’s ok. You probably have a clear vision of how you want things to go. But what you can’t see are all the thousands of ways that things could play out differently than your vision that might actually lead you somewhere better than your original goal. So try to trust the process and be flexible along the journey.
- If you’re not clear on your vision and mission, no one else will be. Even though the journey may look different than you plan for, having clarity about your mission and vision is vital for success. It is really hard to enroll anyone in your vision and get them on board to support you if they don’t know what they’re saying yes to, or if they’re not confident that you know where you’re going. Getting clear on your vision will make you a better storyteller and help you get the support you will need to grow.
- Competition shouldn’t keep you from trying. It can sometimes be disheartening when you see other people doing the things you’re trying to do, especially when they’re further along or have more success than you do. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If anything, it should be an affirmation that there is a demand for what you are creating and an indication that you can be successful too. Try your best to get rid of any thoughts of scarcity — there’s more than enough room for everyone at the table!
- There will be moments when you question everything and want to quit. Don’t. If everyone gave up when things got hard, we wouldn’t have very many inspiring stories to tell or goals to aspire to. I can promise you that you will never regret persevering through difficult times, but you will regret giving up. If someone had told me this early on (and reminded me of it often), it would’ve helped normalize the feelings I was experiencing and made me feel less alone.
- Collaboration is everything. The sooner you start including people in your vision, the sooner you will start to see growth. I was one of those people who thought that to be successful I had to do everything on my own and never ask for help. I mistakenly believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness. When I finally learned that asking for help was actually a strength, I realized that collaboration not only makes things easier, it also opens up the door to possibilities that weren’t there before.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Whether or not you believe we have an obligation to make the world a better place for each other, I can promise you that you feel so much better when you care about more than just yourself. Being connected to a purpose or vision that is bigger than just you gives you a reason for living, and a sense of fulfillment that is unparalleled. Simply put, you will feel better when you help other people feel better.
But more importantly I believe that we do have a responsibility to look out for others and try to leave the world better than we found it. I believe that we have a responsibility to use our life experiences and the lessons we’ve learned as gifts to guide others through their darkest moments. To remind one another that we are not alone in this, no matter how much it feels like we are.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Sara Blakely is someone I deeply admire and respect. From the way that she founded such a successful organization as a self-made entrepreneur, to the way that she is committed to empowering women, she embodies a lot of qualities I hope to emulate. Her tenacity, passion, drive, leadership, and sense of purpose are definitely a guiding light in a lot of the work that I do. Plus she has a way of keeping things light and laughing at herself that I think makes life a lot more fun. Sara, if you’re reading this I would love to have breakfast/lunch with you — and I promise to bring Cheez-Its! 😉
How can our readers follow you online?
You can learn more about Be More at www.bemorecampaign.com or follow us on Instagram @bemoremvmt.
You can also follow my personal Instagram account @megansherer if you have an interest in yoga, nutrition and wellness!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank you so much for your time!