THE BLOG

Stop Hating Your Body

18/07/2014 16:03 BST | Updated 17/09/2014 10:59 BST

I don't know about you but I have had enough of the negativity that exists in society when it comes to the issue of 'Body Image'.

The obsession to compete and compare ourselves to each other has become rampant. Negative body image is an issue that has been amplified in recent years ... technology advances such as social media gave us the opportunity to explore body image, health and wellness, but instead "we" as a society, used this opportunity to cultivate negative body image.

Every single day we are bombarded with images and messages from society and the media which tell us how we should look, what we should eat, how we should act and how we can change or enhance our appearance. We see in excess of 500 images daily; glorifying unrealistic ideals of beauty, health and perfection.

Whether consciously or subconsciously this constant barrage leads so many of us comparing our lives and our appearance to others, and we convince ourselves that conforming to these societal ideals will lead to happiness. The sad reality is that so many of us are afraid to reveal our true selves, because this potentially leads to feeling exposed and vulnerable, and opens us up to being judged or ridiculed.

But now is the time for the body shaming and the body hatred to stop, and for a revolution of positive change to emerge.

I've struggled with negative body image my entire life. Born missing my left arm and then at 18 months of age suffering third degree burns to 14% of my body after knocking boiling water on myself while struggling to get used to a prosthetic arm. I grew up looking and feeling different - in a society where so much emphasis is placed on physical appearance and the desire for perfection - I felt isolated and alone. I starved myself thinking it was the only way to feel accepted. I believed that if I could just have a body like the models I saw on television and in the magazines then maybe people would see past my obvious 'imperfections'. At 15 I was diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia and depression.

The shame and guilt that accompanies an eating disorder meant that I literally lived a double life. To the outside world I had emerged as a promising athlete, representing Australia in the sport of swimming since the age of 13. But behind closed doors the anguish, despair and self hatred I felt on a daily basis was all consuming and self destructive, most days I wished I had never woken from my sleep. I hated myself on every level, but I loved swimming.

Winning my first race resulted in many positive emotions; I felt accepted for the first time and I wanted to hang onto that positivity for as long as I could. Whether that was a good enough reason to embark on an international swimming career I'm not sure, but it worked for me.

At 19 I was selected to compete at Paralympic Games in Athens, but the experience was bitter-sweet. I wish I could say that it was the most amazing experience of my life and how happy and excited I was to be there, but that would be lying. The Paralympics was the event I'd been training towards for years, it should have been the most exciting time of my life, however, I performed well below expectation. My disappointment wasn't just due to my underachievement, finally the sorrow had mounted after years of deceit, personal abuse and self-loathing. My body betrayed me when I needed it the most - or maybe I had betrayed it for the final time. My eating disorder had conquered my body and mind, whilst destroying my Paralympic dream in one fell swoop.

Today I'm in recovery and when I'm asked what would have helped me most during those dark times, the answer is simple: Communication. I worked with a multidisciplinary team of professionals and I had a supportive family but what was lacking was open and honest discussion about Body Image and Eating Disorders among friends and within the community. NO ONE wanted to talk about it, which only made it more difficult for me to speak up when I needed help.

I survived - I am one of the lucky ones. So now I have a responsibility to be a voice for all those who feel debilitated by the negative stigma that exists.

I created the social media campaign titled 'Join The Revolution' which aims to encourage the use of social media as a positive platform for communicating. People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to simply take a photo holding the 'Join The Revolution' sign and upload to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #jointherevolution & #stophatingyourbody

People power is the best power, so, I am asking you all to join me, because ultimately we ALL have a responsibility to join in a revolution of positive change and give ourselves and each other the opportunity to work collectively to reverse the insidious negative cycle that has become the way we approach body image. Surely we all want to do what we can to ensure that future generations are more accepting of themselves and each other?

Join The Revolution ... Stop Hating Your Body

Instagram: @jessicasmith27

www.facebook.com/jessicasmith27

You read more about the campaign here

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