Mia Morrissey: We Are More Than Our Bodies and Should Strive to Be Bigger — Not Smaller

POPSUGAR Australia is dedicating the month of September to featuring the next generation of inspired thinkers and courageous individuals who are building and manifesting a brighter future — because the next gen is unstoppable. We will deliver personal essays from young Australians who are making a name for themselves, as well as inspiring thought pieces and interviews with rising talent across different industries throughout the month. Find all of our pieces here, and if there’s someone you think is missing, email our editor so we can share their story — abardas@valmorgan.com.au.

My name is Mia Morrissey. I am an actor, singer, writer, body positivity/neutrality activist, Endo-warrior and apparently, I am unstoppable.

Don’t worry. The irony of an artist writing about how unstoppable she is is not lost on me because the reality is, we are in an industry-wide state of ‘stop’, and when you’ve dedicated your entire life to something because you believe in its importance; having that thing (and in turn, yourself) be declared ‘non-essential’ hurts like a thousand Joni Mitchell albums, a million Red Weddings and 525,600 gut punches.

So if you’re asking me to tell you why I’m ‘unstoppable’ my answer would be; I’m not.

Like many, I’ve had shows cancelled and birthday’s missed and loved one’s lost and savings totally chewed through during this pandemic. 

Of course I’m stoppable, I stop all the time. But I start all the time, too. And then I stop and start and stop and start again. Forever stalling while eternally learning to drive my manual car.

What we often forget about as we get older is how much growing hurts. The pain catches us off guard because we think we’re ‘all grown up’. But we’re not. We’re still learning. We’re still growing. And growing only hurts because you care.

So my advice? You know that whole ‘give less s*its’ thing? Yeah. Don’t do that. Caring is what makes us human and what we care about is who we are.

I care a lot about a lot of things. I’ll admit, I even care what the elusive “Instagram-people” think. However, I care a lot more about a lot of other things.

I care about performing, creating and the entire arts and entertainment industry. I care about my family, my friends. I care about my health (mental and physical) and I care about honouring my values.

When I post a picture of myself in my period undies (and not a lot else) there is absolutely that voice that tells me to care about what some stranger thinks about the softness of my belly… but that voice is a mere suggestion of a whisper in comparison to the Streisand-esque foghorn belting her tits off that I have a responsibility to embody my values and share what know for sure when I think it could help someone. And the things I know for sure often fall under the category of menstruation or body image…

So. Thing I know for sure, number one!

The word endometriosis was first uttered in an appointment with my gynaecologist about 5 years ago and, honestly, I haven’t shut up about it since. 

The reason being, since then I’ve done my research and learnt exactly two things.

  1. The definition of endometriosis. (Nope. I’m not doing the work for you. Do your homework, you lazy buggers.)
  2. Not enough research has been done on menstruation or reproductive conditions.

A trusted source (my therapist) recently told me that the largest-scale endometriosis research study conducted so far was on the psychological effects of the disease on the cis-male partners of people with the disease — which is just some wildly sexist BS when one in 10 uterus owners of a reproductive age suffer from the chronic condition without a cure in sight OR a method of diagnosis that doesn’t involve surgery OR management options that actually work that aren’t opioid-based painkillers or hormone-altering IUDs. 

I even recently received a call from a med student friend of mine on placement asking for advice as to what non-hormonal period management options there were (other than pads/tampons) because he hadn’t received this information in his training. And don’t even get me started on the total lack of support for menstruating trans/non-binary people.

I believe an increase in menstruation visibility is vital to not only normalise talking about periods and obliterate the shame that still surrounds them but to encourage the medical community to listen to our cries for more information that could bring some light to sufferers of endometriosis, adenomyosis and/or PCOS.

Thing I know for sure, number two! 

I started The Gained Project during our first lockdown last year to celebrate how cool it is to have a body — whatever form that body comes in — because it allows you to experience literally EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED.

The project initially involved myself and my friend, photographer Jasmine Simmons. We captured images of people in their underwear and posted them to the Instagram page along with a caption stating something they had gained, so long as it had nothing to do with their body or their weight (due to this new lockdown we are now accepting self submissions so head to the page if you wanna share some gains!).

The idea for the project came because I felt like all I was hearing and seeing (especially on social media) was people defining their experience in an international freakin’ pandemic with their weight loss or gain.

There had been so much progress in the body positivity and body neutrality movements within the past decade. We saw the evidence on social media of all places. Pre-COVID, my feed was positively stuffed with self-affirming mantras centred around body acceptance which regardless of how ‘cheesy’ they may have seemed were an undeniable step up from the previously preferred “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.

But lockdown had many of us reverting back to toxic body shaming or body-centric habits and language as a coping mechanism in reaction to a mass loss of control.

But the thing is, if you are locked inside for months your body is going to change and adapt to keep you alive. That’s its job. You actually have no control over that. 

What you do have control over, is how you talk to and about your body.

We should all be striving to be bigger, not smaller. To gain, not lose. 

To gain insight, knowledge, skills, experiences and stories. Because we are bigger than our bodies.

I created The Gained Project because I wanted to counter the toxicity with something that reminded people that in an international pandemic, your weight is really, truly not the most interesting thing about you… In fact, it is never the most interesting thing about you.

What is interesting about you?

How you change. 

How you grow.

How you learn.

How you make art.

How you care.

And yep… Even how you stop.

So keep stopping. And starting. And stopping. And starting. 

Because although stalling sucks, it’s badass to drive a manual.

You can follow Mia Morrissey and The Gained Project on Instagram.