Founded by London-based, Aotearoa-born it-girl Brooklyn Opetaia, Words To Heal You is a project that has expanded to bring smiles to faces at all ends of the globe. You may be familiar with the colourful hoodies gracing the backs of New Zealanders featuring wholesome yet confronting quotes such as “You look absolutely beautiful today”.
Words To Heal You (WTHY) has expanded beyond spreading joy and mental health awareness progressing into selling hoodies featuring heartfelt quotes to be read by the everyday person on their commute to work, school, whatever they’re doing, wherever they're going.
WTHY started as an Instagram to post raw and honest poetry - offloading Brooklyn’s intense thoughts on mental health. It is not the normal “look at me” social media page that we are used to, a refreshing angle for a brand approach. WTHY has now worked alongside organisations such as Lifeline NZ to bring awareness to mental health issues and continues to inspire, encourage and motivate people from all aspects of life.
Brooklyn shared with Remix how she copes with vulnerability and how sharing it with the world has helped others and herself.
Firstly, congratulations on getting married earlier in the year! Every detail down to the wine bottles seemed so well thought out, was WTHY considered in your planning process in any way?
Thank you! Our wedding day was the most magical day ever. And I think contrary to others when planning the wedding, the most thought-out and special moment for me was the vows. There was a sacred and pressured weight to writing a promise to someone who deserves the world.
It was absolutely the most important piece of writing I have ever written. We wrote vows from scratch. We didn’t do the familiar “through sickness and in health” vows. So I suppose my love for writing did play a huge part in our day because the vows and the speech were the part that played the most special role in the day for me.
How would you describe WTHY to a complete stranger?
To me, Words To Heal You is a safe space for people to come and take a breath. I envision it as an ear to those who are hurting as if we are sitting on the couch together, with a cup of tea in hand. And you offload everything on your heart.
A safe place.
When you first created WTHY where did you picture it going?
My only intention for Words To Heal You was for it to be an Instagram page. Like a personal virtual diary where people could come and read about what I’ve been through, or what I’ve felt. I wanted to put words to feelings that I knew a lot of people felt. And I HOPED that I would impact at least one person. I remember praying before I launched that “if I could just make one person feel less alone”. I had no idea it would turn into what it is today.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your writings?
My writing is often my adult self writing to my younger self. I feel inspired to write based on what I’ve been through, or what I’ve seen. And when I write I just write for myself, in hopes that people feel it too… and thankfully that’s worked so far.
I assume having an online presence is frightening enough, would you say you feel like you are sharing your diary entries with the internet?
Yup. It is terrifying. But for the most part, I want Words To Heal You to be everything that social media isn’t… it’s like a light in a dark place. It’s so real. It’s so deep. It’s so vulnerable and it’s got its walls down. Words To Heal You aren’t trying to be something that it isn’t. It’s me, a human, being human, for other humans.
So I’d say yes, in theory, it is terrifying. But it’s also liberating.
Where do you draw the line between a raw and honest write-up and a matter which is “too personal” to share online?
I very rarely share situations on WTHY. Just feelings. Feelings are safe for me to share because I truly believe that no feeling is unique. Someone out there has felt what I feel, and that is such a sweet spot for me.
Personal situations spark deep emotions and I just try and keep my personal situations private and take my learnings and my musings and turn them into poetry, and then share that for people to relate to.
You have accumulated a significant following for both WTHY and your personal social media, how have you balanced both of these?
I think that I never intended scaling WTHY… I mean, I am honoured and humbled and flattered by the people who love and support but I just never really imagined it growing like this. I remember talking to my friend before I launched and told her SPECIFICALLY “I can’t imagine it getting more than 58 followers” because I couldn’t have imagined it to be attractive to people who don’t know me. In fact, I almost wanted it to stay smaller at the beginning because it felt so raw and vulnerable. But now I love that as it grows it still has that exact same heart in it, no matter how big it gets I hope that the heart is always felt the same.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge with WTHY?
Without a doubt, it has been the biggest challenge learning that I can’t be everyone’s superhero. As people started sharing their stories with me and opening up and reciprocating vulnerability, my empathetic self actually felt a responsibility to save people from their pain or their mental health. It has been such a learning for me. Navigating how to practice vulnerability and have a big open space for vulnerability but also free myself from the responsibility of being a saviour. Because I’m not. At all. We’re all just humans doing this thing together.
Do you think moving from a small city like Pōneke to London has made an impact on your writing or business in any way?
Moving abroad has definitely impacted me as a human, which in turn, has impacted Words To Heal You. My heart feels a lot bigger and more passionate. I see such a larger scale of people and spaces every single day and my passion to make an impact in this world has just grown.
I feel so broken by people's brokenness, and so I hope that by living in London we can see WTHY shift from a New Zealand-loved space to a true global movement.