Thursday, 2 January 2014

Learning To Love Your Body: Guest Post by Body Confidence Campaigner, Leyah Shanks

Cosmopolitan UK have featured an article about a body confidence campaign in their Feb 2014 issue, which has got me thinking about how little I feel about my own body at the moment, and that dieting won't necessarily be the complete answer to my problem. 

The gorgeous Body Confidence Campaigner featured in the article is Leyah Shanks from Scotland. Leyah has kindly agreed to write this guest post, to convey how she battled with her self esteem and body image over the years, and how she then overcame this; 


"There are so many reasons behind why I do what I do. The most prominent one being that when I was growing up I struggled a lot with my own body image mainly because of the bullying I underwent from a very young age. 

I won’t go into all of the details as I don’t want to dredge it all up in my own mind and upset other people. However, the general overview... I was always taller than everyone else – boys included and because I was a very early developer, I was more womanly and therefore had a very different body type than all of the other girls my age. 


I therefore felt incredibly insecure from a rather tender age and did not come out of the cage of doubt and insecurity that bullies and the magazines I turned to for solace (which sadly, at the time, did not have any kind of emphasis on promoting a wider variety of bodies as is emerging now) had created. 

I felt completely out of place. The negative comments the bullies made on a regular basis combined with the unrealistic and unattainable images of ‘perfection’ which I was confronted with in every---single----magazine I read made for one unhappy girl. I remember thinking; ‘’How come every single woman on the planet looks like that when I look like this? What is wrong with me?’’ 

When I hit my teenage years I was so exhausted and drained that I started trying really hard to fit in. I would literally cake my face in makeup to the point where I was almost unrecognisable. People look at pictures of me back then and they honestly don’t recognise me. Thankfully, I am one of the lucky ones. I didn’t develop an eating disorder or begin self harming. Which unfortunately, many young people feel is their only escape from the mental torture that this kind of scenario brings.

How did I overcome being bullied? How did I turn my own body image around and begin to love the very thing I detested whilst growing up? I honestly couldn’t pin point when and how that happened. I am a very observant person. 

As I got older and wiser, I realised that actually, these models don’t always represent reality. Yes, there are women out there who are very tall and naturally slim BUT it doesn’t represent EVERY woman. We come in a delicious array of shapes and sizes. The media is becoming slowly better at representing us in our diverse glory but it is definitely still a work in progress. 

As a Body Confidence Campaigner I feel that it comes with the territory to seek out news stories which are still feeding off of our insecurities. I like to share these stories with my followers and gauge their reactions. Sadly and somewhat infuriatingly, there is still SO much body shame being printed in publications and therefore a message of body negativity is being subliminally planted in our minds. We are still being convinced that no matter what we look like, it is STILL not good enough.

Well, you know what? THAT is just not good enough for me.

As I said before, our bodies come in many different shapes and sizes. Why is it a bad thing to be over a size 10? Equally, why is it a bad thing to be very slim? We need to stop bashing each other and start celebrating one another instead! Telling people that one size is more desirable than another is not helping to eradicate the problem – it is merely adding to it. If you lift one body type up to bash another – you are giving others (probably more people than you will ever know) an insecurity within themselves that may take years to shift.

Our children HAVE to be educated about the fact that most publications photoshop their models. Thus hiding ‘flaws’ that us non-photoshopped-real-people have. Their models stick to a VERY strict diet and work out far more regularly than people who are working jobs in which they are not hired because of how they look do. Photoshop does not emulate reality. 

I would like to see the use of photoshop BANNED from ALL publications and a much more stronger emphasis on using models of all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages and abilities. As we, the readers come in all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages and abilities, models should represent this! Is that really too much to ask?

Instead of focusing on what we hate, let’s focus on what we love. Body positivity over body negativity!"
Find out more about Leyah and the Body Confidence Campaign on Facebook or Twitter.

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