24-year-old Zoe Stoller said they are who they are because of their experiences. Their life has not always been easy, despite having what they describe as a privileged upbringing and opportunities for success. “I struggled deeply with mental health and abusive relationships, so much so that I almost ended my life five years ago,” they recalled. “Instead of following that instinct, I started going to therapy to change the ways I thought about myself and the world — I’ve come out of that challenging time with a deeper, more complete happiness and sense of self.”
Through this struggle and ultimate victory, Zoe is led by empathy for others. The experience also motivated them to start sharing their message through writing and media. “Despite feeling like I was the only one struggling, I’ve since come to understand that a lot more people share my experiences than I thought,” they said. “This means a lot more people could benefit from hearing the wisdom I’ve learned through therapy and self-discovery.”
"A lot more people could benefit from hearing the wisdom I’ve learned through therapy and self-discovery.”
Zoe started sharing their content through social media this past March, right as quarantine started. They had recently discovered their gender-fluid identity after questioning it for three years. “The journey of this discovery made me realize just how powerful and important personal stories & education about the LGBTQ+ community are,” they said. “I struggled to figure out the language for my identity until I watched hours and hours of YouTube videos by LGBTQ+ creators. Once I saw what an impact this kind of work has, I knew I wanted to do it too, and share about both the LGBTQ+ and mental health communities.”
Zoe is a professional writer and digital marketer based in Philadelphia. They’re passionate about sharing education and motivation about the LGBTQ+ and mental health communities, and their goal is to inspire others to be their most authentic selves. “I do what I do to help people who might be struggling like I was,” they said. “Five years ago, I didn't know I was gay or non-binary, and I was struggling deeply with depression and anxiety. After a lot of inner work, reflection, and research, I recovered and discovered myself -- but not everyone has that same opportunity. So I share my story to spread education and awareness about the LGBTQ+ and mental health spheres, to empower and inspire others in my community.”
"I share my story to spread education and awareness about the LGBTQ+ and mental health spheres, to empower and inspire others in my community.”
As an exceptional Gen Z’er making an impact, Zoe was honored for their work in Media and Journalism through The ConversationaLIST. “I use my voice for good by being open and authentic about both my struggles and successes,” they said. “It's okay not to be okay, and it's completely normal if it takes you time to figure yourself out.”
Zoe said they have struggled to find their voice, mainly due to social anxiety. “My advice would be not to feel discouraged if it’s taking time for you to find your voice, or if you’re scared to share publicly about the things that matter to you,” they said. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I know that in time you will find yourself. I was in the same position, but through working on my confidence and figuring out exactly who I am and what matters to me, I’ve found my voice, and I continue to learn more about it every day.”
Zoe’s ultimate goal is to make content creation their full-time career. “I know that if I’m able to spend even more time on my work, then I can increase my impact, and create more content, and respond to more DMs, and everything else that there is to do,” they said. “I want to be a constant educator and motivator in the world, and I hope that in 5 years or fewer, that can be my life.”
The Conversationalist’s mission resonates with Zoe because they understand the importance of breaking open echo chambers — particularly within the LGBTQ+ community, where there is such an unfortunate divide between TERFS/exclusionists and those who want everyone to feel validated and welcome. “The work I’ve been doing is [aimed at] bridging this gap and trying to enable people to see more perspectives and possibilities than just their own — which aligns so perfectly with The Conversationalist,” they said.
For Zoe, a unified world looks like people using their different experiences and perspectives to come together and understand the world more deeply instead of creating a divide. “We as Gen Z can build a unified world by facilitating the spread of various perspectives and experiences, and encouraging those in all generations to listen, learn, and widen their views and understandings,” they said. “We are paving the way to a unified world by modeling this behavior, and I know that if we keep up our efforts, then the world will become a more accepting, loving, unified place.”
"Gen Z can build a unified world by facilitating the spread of various perspectives and experiences, and encouraging those in all generations to listen, learn, and widen their views and understandings.”
To break open their echo chamber, Zoe tries to understand experiences and thoughts that are different from their own. “In the past year specifically, I’ve tried to widen the types of people I follow on social media, so the stories I see every day don’t just mimic my own,” they said. “In sharing my own educational, echo-chamber-breaking content, I do my best to join in on the conversations in the comments and teach myself new ways of understanding whatever topic I’m discussing.”
Zoe said they are still working on navigating difficult conversations, but they are always open to learning. “When I’m in a conversation with someone with a vastly different opinion, I try to both share my thoughts and listen to the other side of the discussion, without bringing in any hate or negativity or shame,” they said. “We’re all in a continuous process of learning and growing, and getting into fights only hinders that process. It’s a lot easier said than done. Still, one of the biggest ways I’ve found success with this is only participating in a conversation when I feel levelheaded and able to hear both sides of the coin.”
We’ll be rooting for Zoe Stoller as they use their platform to make others feel less alone. Keep up with them on Instagram to learn more about their work.