Anyone who has an interest in body positivity and body confidence has probably come across Michelle before. At only 24 years old, Michelle from London is a body confidence coach, author and activist who is a prominent voice in the body positivity movement. Her social media campaign Scarred Not Scared, which is all about embracing your scars, both emotional and physical, as well as supporting those who have been through surgeries, chronic illness and chronic pain, has amassed over 90,000 followers on Instagram alone and is growing daily.
Michelle has joined the Be Real Ambassador team to use her skills and experience to support us in raising awareness of positive body image, especially with young people.
“I remember the exact moment that I discovered my body was different. I was around the age of 10 years old and I was wearing a bikini for the first time and I walked out and my friends looked at me with shock, horror and pity. It was in that moment I realised that my body was a problem and more specifically, my scars. By that point, I had had seven surgeries and the scars from that were across my stomach. I ran back into the changing room and decided to never wear a bikini again.
“Shortly after wearing that bikini and realising my scars not only made me different, but made me ugly, I went on a mission to try to ‘fix’ them. At 10, I still believed surgery scars could be fixed, so I went searching for every scar-reducing cream in the hope that it would eradicate them. When my parents realised what I was doing, they sat me down and explained that my surgery scars can’t be removed from creams and that’s when my body image took a plummet with the realisation that this was a permanent problem.
“I have scars on my head, neck, ankles but mainly across my stomach. It’s a problem that none of my friends had, or anyone that I knew, so I felt so isolated in the problem. It took until I was 21 years old to see someone else with a scar like mine outside of a hospital setting, and even then, it was only one small appendicitis scar and incomparable to the elaborate piece of art on my stomach.
“I made a decision when I was 15 years old to stop vocalising my negative thoughts about my body. I couldn’t control my thoughts but I could control what I said aloud and I made that decision in a moment when I was walking past a door with a friend and she caught her reflection in the door. She went “Damn, I’m ugly!” For some reason those three words got my attention. I had said them so many times, but for the first time I realised I wasn’t the only one and that since I couldn’t change my body, I just needed to accept it and move on. Years passed and I realised by not commenting on my body in a negative manner, people had assumed that I was confident, I had accidentally done ‘fake it till you make it’.
“I think we need to stop making it acceptable to comment on people’s bodies. A person’s body is their business and no matter how you are related to them, that doesn’t make you entitled to have an opinion about their body. We also need to broaden the idea of beauty and have that demonstrated in the media.
“Most importantly though, we need to start young. We need to be giving young kids practical tools to handle negative body image, rather than just regurgitating the “Be Yourself, You are Beautiful” narrative that unfortunately has become the norm in this sphere. Being told you are beautiful is one thing, being taught how to believe it yourself is another.”
Do you feel inspired by Michelle? Find out how you can become a Be Real Ambassador.