The Internet is simultaneously the most emotionally honest and the least authentic destination a person can find. Armed with anonymity, creative tools, online assets and an audience, people are given immense freedom in regards to how they can represent themselves. Some people understand the emotional responsibility that comes with creating representative online profiles. Others abuse their power to mislead and manipulate. With anyone possessing the ability to build a following, it’s easy to be seduced into ignoring your true colors for that extra like, or that additional more share. Isabella Mente, photographer and blogger at The Beautiful Mind, isn’t so easily tempted.
Mente understands, as someone with tens of thousands of followers, that a commitment to honesty turns her creative channels into an extension of who she is. Her profiles are unabashedly and purposefully not a facade. Amusingly, her website boldly states, “Makeup off. Sweatpants on. Let’s get real.” It’s not always easy to do – so why do it?
“I’m afraid of ending up with a life that I am unfilled by,” she says. “I don’t want to blink my eyes, waking up to find myself uninvolved in my career because I didn’t take the necessary risks to get myself to where I need to be. I want to wake up every day and feel fulfilled by what I’m doing.” Recognizing that parts of the Internet are fake and the threat that comes along with inauthentic product placement to someone’s trustworthiness, Mente deeply considers every post and the perception it will paint. After all, it takes work to be real online.
So, what exactly is Mente doing that requires this kind of radical sincerity to be successful? Her site and Instagram relish in questioning “what it means to be a beautiful mind.” To do that, Mente knows how crucial it is to connect with the people around her. In fact, that’s her main goal as she writes about healthy lifestyles, awareness and responsible living. Starting her blog in college, Mente’s initial intent was to promote genuine conversation on topics that were deeper than her clothes or her makeup.
“[My goal] isn’t necessarily to change the world or to change other people,” she frankly states, “because, to be completely honest, I really don’t think I have my shit together more than the next guy. All humans are imperfectly beautiful and I would never want to strip someone of their idiosyncrasies because they don’t match my version of healthy and beautiful.”
Empowered with that realization, she hopes that people will engage her in a dialogue about what it means to be earnest, empowered, happy and open. The desire to entertain different viewpoints, ideas and passions is what Mente believes makes social media so powerful. She’s disinterested in the perception that “all social media is fake,” instead believing in the power people have to take control of the platform. It’s a belief that recognizes she isn’t the only one staying true to herself online. That optimism turns Isabella’s Instagram and website into a breath of fresh air in an online environment that feels critical and defeatist more often than not.
You see, Mente believes that people are in control of how happy they are. She wants to help people become aware of the their self-involvement when it comes to living happy, fulfilled lives. “I think everyone wants to be happy. Sometimes we subconsciously adopt our friends’ or families’ versions of happiness as our own without actually taking a leap of faith to achieve a version of life that makes us feel fulfilled.” Adopting the philosophies of others and plastering them onto the way you find value in your own life is something Mente vehemently opposes. She feels that it’s the differences we have and how we come together over them that will help us be a happier species.
When asked what her most significant accomplishment has been, Mente gave an answer that exemplified this process of self-discovery: she dropped out of her four year college and decided to attend a community college closer to home. Her initial reaction was fearing what other people would say and think. “I feared failure. When I took the leap of faith and dropped out, I think I hit a place in my life that silenced the voices that didn’t matter. I followed my heart and really questioned if I cared more about people’s opinions of me than my actual happiness. It was a pivotal moment for my personal growth.”
In the future, Mente hopes to write a book that helps people ask the tough questions about themselves, even the ones they’re afraid of, to start understanding who they are. Thanks to her journey of self-discovery and commitment to understanding outside perspectives, she knows her future is bright. She hopes, more than anything, to help women and men “become more comfortable with the skin they have been put in.” A future built on mutual inspiration? Sounds wonderful.
She takes her role humbly, though. “To be completely honest,” she says (albeit unnecessarily), “I never, ever thought I would be posting a rant that I wrote in the notepad of my phone to my Instagram profile and have 20,000 people read it. Every single day I wake up, I am grateful to have such beautiful people connecting to me and to each other.”
Looking to the future, it’s hard to argue that Mente’s emphasis on honesty and authentic sharing isn’t what will keep the Internet valuable. Her site and Instagram personify a commitment to open-mindedness that more of us should adopt. The moments she captures are opportunities for people to come together. Mente has opened that door by making herself emotionally vulnerable. When more people do the same, we all become smarter, kinder and more inspirational. “Basically, I’m becoming vulnerable in the hopes of connecting with people who are also hoping to become less fearful of this big, beautiful world. Through this vulnerability, I have learned just how inspiring the feelings of a genuine connection actually are.”