Jessica Smith, Paralympian, motivational speaker and body image activist, has created a campaign promoting healthy and positive body image. It's called Join the Revolution. I've participated at the end of this post.
She received a 2013 Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars grant to further the Join the Revolution campaign. I've asked her to write her story today. She's such a talented, positive and beautiful young woman - I'm so happy to feature her story here!
"Join The Revolution is a campaign I created with the sole aim of promoting positive body image. It was this campaign and the work I’ve done so far, that got me the Grant with Aim for The Stars.
It's really simple. I wanted a platform in which people could connect when it comes to Body Image – because these days, the opposite is what’s happening and more and more women and men feel isolated and disconnected from society due to their appearance and the societal pressure to conform to particular ideals.
So people get involved simply by holding the Join The Revolution sign (they need to print it) and then sharing their photo on social media.
Its about starting a positive conversation about Body Image – not size, weight, disability or any other ridiculous definition.
Join The Revolution is an awareness campaign aimed at promoting Positive Body Image. Born missing my left arm and then suffering third degree burns to my neck and chest as a toddler, my self esteem in regards to my appearance was always low. I grew up with a host of body image issues and I just felt so isolated and disconnected from family and friends because of the way I looked, I felt as though I didn’t fit in or belong.
Unfortunately the societal pressures to conform to an ‘ideal’ image took their toll and at 15 I was diagnosed with depression, bulimia and later anorexia. I battled with these illnesses for over a decade. I finally hit rock bottom in my early twenties and was hospitalised, however this was my turning point and the start of my recovery journey.
I saw firsthand the lack of services and understanding among society in regards to eating disorders and I knew that something needed to be done. I wanted to make it simple, as Eating Disorders and negative Body Image are extremely complex issues. So I decided to embark on a simple awareness campaign. I want people to start talking about these issues, because the more we talk the more chance we have of reducing the negative stigmas that are associated.
Join The Revolution is a platform in which people all over Australia and the world can unite on an issue that ironically is so isolating.
I began swimming from as young as I can remember. I loved being in the water, it was my sanctuary and form of escape in many ways. I first represented Australia at the age of 13 and my career highlight came in 2004 when I represented Australia in Athens.
Swimming and racing gave me self confidence, it was the one place where I felt ‘connected’ and accepted. I loved who I was when I was training and racing, it was the one thing I lived for – when behind closed doors I was struggling. Swimming gave me hope and when I was in the pool I didn’t think about all the negative crap that was going on in my life.
Ironically though, as I became more successful in the pool the pressures of being an elite athlete began to impact me, and I felt as though, once again, my appearance wasn’t good enough.
I became sicker and sicker, and ultimately my eating disorder cost me my swimming career.
I speak all over Australia at various events, however mainly school students where I conduct workshops focused on encouraging positive body image.
I received this from a girl I mentor just yesterday, so I thought it was appropriate to share:
" I think that above all else Jess has given me hope. Hope that there is life after an eating disorder. That recovery is worth the fight. And that you don't have to be defined by your eating disorder...but you can use it and your experience to help others. That acknowledging your fight is not weakness...but that it can help set you free. "
I have a responsibility to be a voice for all those who are currently struggling with negative body image. I need to be able to share their views and thoughts on a larger platform – with media and government, with the hope and aim that they will listen and things will be put in place for positive changes to occur.
I want Join the Revolution it to be nationally recognised and supported campaign. I know that if we talk more about the issues surrounding body image, we will inevitably help alleviate the stigmas associated, Join The Revolution gives people a reason to instigate such conversation.
(Layne Beachley spreading the positive body image message)