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From Bullying to Body Confidence

Posted by Lisa Meade

I recently had a chance to interview an inspiring twenty-one year old positive body image campaigner from Scotland, Leyah Shanks. Leyah set up a blog called The Body Confidence Revolution about a year and a half ago and uses social media to help spread a message of body love. She also hosts a Twitter chat called #BodyConfidenceHour. Her work has landed her several features in Scottish newspapers and magazines such as Cosmopolitan UK.

When asked what was her inspiration for beginning her Body Confidence Revolution Leyah shared of a past in which she dealt with bullying. "I myself had a long battle with body image issues. This started from bullying which lead me into the arms of magazines. When I was growing up there was absolutely no focus on models of varying dress sizes or varying anything. Every single model I saw in every single magazine I read was extremely slim and without flaws. I wanted to create a place that displays real life versatility. Which demonstrates how amazing our bodies are, not just through how they look, but what they help us achieve. Which shows that people of all kinds should be represented in mainstream media, fashion, advertising etc and that they look pretty damn good too."

Having begun this Revolution, Leyah has played a very big role in inspiring so many people. As expected, she has heard from many and learned so much through the process. "So many people have reached out to me since I started campaigning which is so flattering. It really tugs at my heart strings that people actually take the time to get in touch with me and/or tell me their story. A lot of the stories people have told me are very personal and I don’t want to go against anyone’s confidence. But I will say, that everything that’s been shared with me reminds me just how wonderfully diverse we are. Everyone has a story and each one is inspiring in many different ways."

In the #Stopthebeautymadness campaign we have noticed that often beauty of any larger woman is often challenged by peoples' beliefs over health. We are trying to support the conversation that these are two very different topics and do not go hand in hand. We asked Leyah what she has noticed in regards to her work with this aspect of beauty and we could not agree more. She shared, "I notice this a lot too. The fact is, not everyone who is super fit looks how we stereotypically assume that super fit people look. Someone who could put an athlete through their paces doesn’t necessarily have a six pack and absolutely no cellulite, you know? Healthy bodies come in all different kinds and do not look the same. What is healthy for one person is not healthy for someone else. We’re all different when it comes to being healthy within our own body. And also, whether someone is ‘healthy’ or not, that doesn’t give someone the right to actively shame that person for how they look."

As with most women Leyah has had her times of struggle with body image and acceptance. But with time and learning more about her body's truth she has an appreciation that she shared. "I understand how things work now. And I understand that no matter what ‘shape’ my body is in, without it, I wouldn’t be alive and fighting for my dreams. So how it looks isn’t really the most important thing to me. At the end of the day, our bodies are the vessels we live our lives in. They enable us to achieve things and to think for ourselves. It’s been a long road to get here and I would say that body confidence can come with time and age. I’m just trying to help people get there sooner.

Being very proud of all her hard work with The Body Confidence Revolution Leyah has hopes that the beauty madness will take a turn for the better and that people will begin to see their beauty and appreciate their body. When asked what she is striving for with her efforts she shared, " I want to change people’s thought process when it comes to their bodies. I want people to see the positives instead of the negatives. I want them to understand that there are no negatives when it comes to our bodies. We have been conditioned to believe that there is, but in actual fact the diverse range that we come in is wonderful and that it’s no bad thing. I want to teach people that they don’t need any Photoshop or filters to feel good about themselves. They’re awesome as they are." 

Many look to Leyah Shanks as a positive role model. We asked her who she looks to and she replied, "Robyn Lawley is someone who inspires me. She is doing very well for herself and has a lot of attention, so to promote body confidence in all kinds of people is a wonderful thing. There aren’t many famous people who do that."

One particular struggle we are aware of in the #StopTheBeautyMadness campaign is the moms' struggle with their own body image and their acceptance, relationship and conversation that they have with their daughters. We asked Leyah, if you had a chance to share with a group of moms about how to talk to their daughters about beauty, what would she share. "I had a mother who ran a network for mum’s who approached me and told me that she was going to show her daughter the site. That was really overwhelming as that’s one of the things that I really wanted people to feel. I’m not a parent, so I don’t know how ‘qualified’ I would be to do that but, I would say that talking HONESTLY about the unrealistic expectations that are placed upon women and actively SHOW them what happens. Show them YouTube videos and any other kind of material that you can get your hands on to actually prove to them that the industry is warped. Talk to them about Photoshop. Point them to campaigns, charities and organizations and arm them with knowledge. You’ll hopefully raise questions in their own mind so they’ll go off and do their own research into matters too."

Finally, we asked Leyah what does she think the future holds regarding beauty standards for women. She states the universal hope we all hold, but also a commitment to being a part of the change. "We’re nowhere near where we should be. But I do think that things are on the up. People are asking more questions now which is wonderful. We’re becoming less in the dark about the power of Photoshop and how much it’s actually used. We’re becoming less satisfied with the representation of only one body type/age/ethnicity in the media and are using our voices to try and change things. That can only be a good thing."

To learn more about Leyah Shanks and her Body Confidence Revolution visit her blog at iamleyahshanks.wordpress.com