Allie Duff Gets Vulnerable On Instagram (And We Love It)

April 3, 2024

If you aren’t following Allie Duff on Instagram, go hit that blue button now. The former owner of Pure Balanxed—a community-minded clothing brand that she had to shut down this past winter due to the struggles of running a small business—get real, raw and vulnerable on social media (TikTok, too) in ways that are really speaking to (and, in some cases triggering) millions of people. Curious to get to know the soul behind the social, we chatted with Allie to learn more. —Noa Nichol

Hi Allie! Your Instagram and TikTok accounts are known for their raw and vulnerable content, where you openly share your experiences and emotions. What inspired you to start sharing your journey in such an open and honest way?

I would say it started with my business back in 2018; my brand was so tied into my history with my mental health and my eating disorder that it pushed me to share occasionally about it. As time went on I learned that being vulnerable made more of an impact than I realized and I became more comfortable sharing. In return, I made really great connections doing that. To be honest, though, it really stemmed from me feeling so alone and isolated most of my life to never wanting others to feel that way. If I can create my own safe space on the Internet where people can come and feel less alone, then that makes me happy—because I didn’t have that when I was at my worst.

Can you describe how sharing your struggles, such as shutting down your clothing business and moving back in with your parents, has impacted both you and your audience?

It has been a really interesting time going through closing my business and the way my life has changed, to also sharing it online. When I first announced I was closing PB I instantly started to lose followers—and I won’t lie, I took it negatively and then thought, “Wow, people really don’t like me.” As I got more vulnerable and started to share myself more I kept seeing the follower count go down. But now six months later things have shifted; I started sharing more about the things that I used to feel really ashamed about and it has instead attracted so many new people and has resulted in other people feeling less alone. Something I have been working really hard at is just learning that it is OK to be myself and enjoy the stage of life I am in right now, so I hope other people can feel that too from following me.

With your candid sharing comes both support and criticism. How do you handle negative comments and backlash about your life choices and appearance?

I would say when it first happened it was on TikTok and I was a little shocked at the things that people were saying: thousands of comments of people telling me what I need to do to make myself look younger or why I was single and everything I needed to change about myself so I would be more attractive to a partner. At first I thought it was funny, but it did start to get to me and I did question my skin and how I look; I am human so I feel like that is natural. But now that it’s been a few months of the non-stop comments I am choosing to not let them have any power over how I feel about myself and where I am at in my life. Those people who choose to spend their time and energy commenting mean things about other people—I actually feel sad for them because they must have something going on in their life that they feel the need to escape from and throw negativity at strangers they see online. I have really noticed how bad the negativity online has gotten over the past year; it really doesn’t matter who you are or what you say, someone will always have an opinion and tell you what you are doing wrong. I just tell myself that those people don’t know me, they have no idea what I have been through in my life and everything I have had to overcome, so why should I give them any of my energy and time?

Have there been any moments where negative feedback or criticism has affected you deeply, and how do you work through those feelings?

There have been a few comments that do get to me, and I think if people were to start commenting on my body I would find that really hard. If I find it to be too much I block them as I know they won’t stop; I then know I need to stop reading the comments until I am in a better mindset or I talk to someone about it. I know that a lot of people will say this is what you get for sharing your life on the Internet but, I don’t think that is right. I think people just overall need to act with more kindness and recognize that it’s a human on the other side of the screen and social media isn’t everything in life; people are picking and choosing what they want to share about themselves. You don’t know someone’s whole story just from what you see online.

Your content often challenges societal norms and expectations, particularly around age, relationships and lifestyle. What message do you hope to convey to your audience about embracing who they are, regardless of societal pressures?

I, too, am challenging the societal norms myself and I am just sharing the thoughts I am having about it. I spent so much of my 20s being afraid of turning 30 because of everything I felt like I needed to accomplish before I got there, and now that I am here, nothing has really changed. I didn’t hit those boxes that women are told they need to tick and I am OK—everything is OK. I chose to focus on different things in my 20s like staying healthy, working on my mental health, running a business, etc. Which meant there was less focus on the things such as relationships, buying houses, etc. I just want people to know it’s OK to take a different path than the women before you or your peers; that if your life looks different at whatever your age may be it is OK, and there is nothing wrong with you. We are all so wrapped up in what everyone else is doing that we so easily fall into the trap that we are behind in life. But are we really? Or are we just chasing someone else’s life so we feel like we can fit in? The only way we will feel behind is from comparing.

How do you stay true to yourself and your values in a society that often imposes rigid standards on women, especially in their 30s?

This is a work in progress and I feel like it is something that I will constantly be working on,
because even though I feel like I am good at telling others you are not behind I feel it deeply and I am constantly reminding myself that I am where I am supposed to be right now. I think it is all about perspective and making the choice on what you choose to focus on. I could spend my ndays beating myself up for the path I chose to take over the last decade of my life and focus on the “what ifs,” or I can choose to recognize that this is where I am at in my life right now and work on accepting it and learning to enjoy it. There is no one way to live life and as women we have many timelines attached to us as a child, the age in which we should have children, the age at which we should be married, the professions we have. As women we are told to do it all and to do it all by a certain age, but then what? We become the wife, then the mother, then we work and through that process when do we get the time to just be ourselves and learn who we are without all of that? I think that is where I am at in my life.

You’ve spoken about learning to embrace who you are, even when it feels like you don’t fit into society’s expectations. Can you share some strategies or practices that have helped you cultivate self-acceptance and self-love?

I have really been making an effort to focus on the small things in life and finding joy in
them over the big things in life. I think it is so easy to compare yourself to what you see others doing on social media and to then feel down on yourself and like you are not enough or don’t have enough. But in doing that you will never feel happy in who you are or what you currently have. I have really been trying to shift that perspective mentally and it has helped me a lot. I also think we all just need to give ourselves more kindness and grace. We are all just trying to achieve the next big thing or race from one point in life to another and through that hustle we forget to love ourselves. I have really only experienced this over the last few months after closing my business and letting go of a lot of stress that came with that and really taking time to slow down and heal after years of being chronically stressed and anxious every day.

What advice would you give to others who may be struggling to find their place or feel accepted in a world that often values conformity?

To switch the narrative to this is your life and only your life. You are the only one who is waking up every morning and living your life in your mind and in your body. Don’t let others place expectations on you that you don’t want. While this may be easier said than done I think it is so important to remind yourself of on a daily basis!

Vulnerability can be seen as a weakness by some, but you’ve turned it into a source of strength and connection. How has embracing vulnerability empowered you and helped you connect with your audience?

To me vulnerability is always strength; I truly believe that as humans we are all on this earth at the same time to connect and relate to each other and I think that the cool thing about social media is that you can watch or read what someone shares and in that moment instantly feel connected and less alone. For me it has always stemmed from my early to mid-20s where I just felt like I was the only one experiencing what I was going through with my mental illnesses and my life and I just felt so isolated and alone, and since then I have told myself that I don’t want anyone else to feel that. For me I find it easy to share how I feel and my life online and a lot of people won’t understand that and that’s OK. Sometimes I don’t get it either.

What role do you believe vulnerability plays in fostering genuine connections and relationships, both online and offline?

Everything! I think finding people that you can be vulnerable around IRL is the most important part of relationships for me. I have a really hard time with surface level talk, I want to get vulnerable and talk about emotions and feelings and the hard things in life. That makes me feel connected, and that makes me feel less alone and like I can find people to relate to. The same goes for online: you never know the people who will be able to reach by being yourself and being vulnerable, that to me is the most important part of sharing on social media. It’s not about going viral or hitting so many likes or followers (sure, that is cool too) but it really for me is about reaching people to remind them they aren’t alone!

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for yourself and your journey? How do you envision your platform evolving in the future?

For myself and my life journey right now I am really just figuring out who I am. For my whole life I have had an identity strapped to me from being an athlete, being sick and to then running a business. Now I am just figuring out myself; Allie and who I am. And through that process I am learning what I want out of my life and really working on nourishing the relationship I have with myself. As for my platforms I think they will just evolve as I evolve and I really enjoy sharing my life online so I am just going to keep going and see what happens.

In what ways do you hope to continue inspiring and supporting others through your authentic storytelling and experiences?

I would love to work with brands who have a huge focus on mental health and body image. I
want to continue my podcast and have vulnerable conversations there and I truly just want to keep showing up online and having conversations with people in my DMs. I just want to share my story and remind others they aren’t alone and wherever that takes me I will be so grateful.

Your account has become a safe space for many who resonate with your story. How do you foster a supportive and inclusive community for your followers?

I think it all stems from what I share and how I engage with everyone in my community. I am
truly so grateful for every comment and message and I try my best to get back to everyone.
Every Sunday I do something called Vulnerability Sunday, where I open my stories up to my
community and they can then dump in the question box something they are struggling with and in return I give them some love.


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