Advice I would give to my younger self…

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Dames for Dreams is a fabulous organisation of women who are dedicated to building self-esteem by empowering other girls and women through inspiration, motivation and education. They are also focused on spreading awareness of body positivity and anti-bullying and are partnered with Pin-ups Against Bullying.

For more information on Dames for Dreams visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/DamesforDreamsCommunity or the website http://www.damesfordreams.org

Dames for Dreams; Know them, Be them and Raise them

#powerofshe

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We as women of the world have lived, we have laughed, we have lost. We are older and we are wiser. Having lived a number of years filled with happy, sad, emotional, traumatic and sometimes crazy experiences we want to go back and give advice to our 16 year old selves about what we believe is important in regards to what truly matters.

By doing so, we hope to be able to inspire and empower the younger generation of girls by sharing our stories. We want to show the difference between what we felt was important at 16 and what actually is important.

We want to show that whatever experiences you are going through, you are strong, you can overcome it and there is so much more to life than worrying about your weight, looks or whether you are good enough. We want you to embrace life and realise that you are beautiful, you are capable of achieving whatever you want out of life and the world is your oyster.

For some of us, it took years to love and appreciate ourselves. We hope our words are of some inspiration because loving and appreciating yourself is important. You are not defined by other people’s opinions of you and you are not defined by cruel, hurtful and bullying experiences.

*disclaimer – The photos below have been submitted by the individual participants for the sole purpose of being used for this blog feature. All rights are reserved to the original owner* 

Ashlea, 27 – “If I could tell my 16  year old self anything it would be to not worry about what  people have to say about you…everyone ALWAYS has an opinion on well…EVERYTHING and you don’t need to be the “most” anything or the “least” anything to REALLY feel good about yourself. Just take a second to realise, people who will like you will like you because you are you, and people who dislike you…they’ll find any way to do it regardless but that in no way means they’re right – their opinion is not the be all and end all, infact if anything your own opinion of yourself will get you places or hold you back…so make it a good opinion because chances are the good things you think are the ones that’re real, not the hateful ones you tell yourself when you’re alone. I wish I knew at 16 that the things that matter most include myself. You won’t feel satisfied in life if you always have to hide away in fear of what somebody thinks of you, fear won’t make great memories – it helps you learn sure, but what really matters in the grandscheme of things is that you make the most out of everything. People will try to beat you down and take things that’re rightfully yours  and that shows something about their character not yours so stay strong because you can do this, and you’re so much better than this. My 16 year old self picture…with the scribble on the face is generally how I felt whenever I seen a full body picture of myself. I scribbled out my face because I was ashamed to be seen in my entirety – It was bad enough showing my ‘fat’ ‘disgusting’ body, let alone the fact I had ‘double chin’ and an ‘ugly face’. All my pictures were generally a close up picture of my face and often cleavage because I felt thats what I had to be to be deemed attractive to anyone and a lot of people made me feel this way too. Myself at 27 – I know there are FAR worse things to have/be than to be ‘fat’ and have a double chin…This is me, I am happy and I wish i knew I could be happy with myself when I was younger rather than being forced to feel my body was a void that I really had a massive dislike for thus took it far from my mind so it was kind of like it didn’t exist.  Every nook and cranny is me…it’s real and its glorious – I just wish I had known that sooner.”

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Carrie-Ann, 30 (www.somethingdefinitelyhappened.com) – “There are so many things I wish I could say to my 16-year-old self, but they all boil down to the same thing – be true to who you are, not who you think people want you to be. Ignore them. Those people who tell you that reading is for losers, that you’re too fat to fancy, or that your forehead is the size of an airplane landing strip are complete knobbers, and really aren’t worth your time. Don’t let their comments become nasty little voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough. You are. Be kind – as we’ve covered above, people can be cruel. Sometimes, they say things without thinking or make a nasty comment because you’ve had a row, and other times, I’m afraid they’re just mean people. So, make it your job to build others up, not tear them down. It doesn’t matter if no-one else likes it. So, you like history. And spelling. That’s cool. You should never, ever, ever feel as though you have to hide who you are (and that includes deliberately spelling things wrong so you don’t stand out). As a grown up, a large part of your job will be spelling things correctly, and a large part of your social life will revolve around the 1940s and 1950s, so you may as well embrace it now, instead of waiting another ten years. No-one cares what you did in school. Literally no-one I’ve met in my adult life has asked if I was popular at school, and whether I smoked and bunked off at lunchtime or spent all my time in the library. So stop trying to be ‘cool’ and do what makes you happy (and know that if you truly embrace it, all that reading you’ll do while walking to lessons will come in handy, should you ever want to read a book while travelling in London during rush hour). You’re great, just the way you are. I know, it feels like the size of your waist is more important than anything – your GCSEs, what’s happening with Ross & Rachel, Craig David’s next single – but you’re damaging your body with the cycle of starving and bingeing (which, by the way, also makes you rather grumpy and unpleasant to be around). I don’t have any easy answers, but I promise that the people who matter will love, respect and admire you however you look. And why wouldn’t they? You’re intelligent, funny (even if you do love dad jokes), and, when you’re not a walking ball of hormones, you’re very kind. And, just so you know – when you go to university and get a job, everyone will want to know what ideas are in that big, beautiful brain of yours, not what dress size you’re wearing. Wear what you want. Talking of clothes – I know those blue PVC trousers look amazing on your size 8 friend. Her, over there, with the long legs. But just because she has them, doesn’t mean you have to get them too. If you want them because they make you feel amazing, go for it, but never feel like you should wear something just because everyone else is. While we’re talking about clothes – those 1950s dresses you love, but “would never have the confidence to wear”? Try one. You’ll never look back. Talk to the geeky boy in drama – See that boy over there with the glasses and the Pokémon cards? You’re going to marry him. And he is spectacular. He will make you laugh until you cry, does a cracking rendition of the Grease megamix, and makes you go all fizzy inside when you think about him. Most importantly, he’ll love all the things about you that you thought you had to keep hidden, and will actively encourage you to shout about them. He’ll also introduce you to Doctor Who, which – I’m as surprised as you are – will very quickly become one of the loves of your life. He’s far too mature for you right now, of course, but instead of wasting your time with people who are wrong for you (and those who are just plain wrong ‘uns), why not go and say hi, and save yourselves some time? Finally, 16 year old me, you’ve got a turbulent few years coming up (watch out for 2007 and 2009), but I promise it all comes right in the end. Oh, and go give your mum a hug, eh? I know you love her, she knows you love her, but it doesn’t hurt to show it once in a while.”

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April, 36 – “Dear 16 year old me, I’m almost 37 now, so listen up! You aren’t skinny, pale, and ugly. You do not deserve the nickname Skelator. You are a young woman with a slim build, flawless ivory skin and you are pretty. Here’s the secret I’d like you to understand; those people who picked on you were just unhappy with their own bodies! Yes, that’s right, the tall girl with the red hair you loved so much? She hated it. She loved your light brown colour and wished she could swap. The girl with 34 DD boobs, she wanted your little 32 B pair. The girl plastered in make up? She wanted your clear skin. Instead of being upset when you are called out on your body, compliment the bully. Tell them you like their eyes, hair, figure or style. And believe in yourself. You eventually feel comfortable in your skin and embrace your features. You end up rather happy with your lot. From your older self.”

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Michelle, 44 (www.facebook.com/VintageEyeMag) – “I guess the thing I would say is ‘don’t worry everything is going to be fine, but don’t expect anything big before 40!’ I think I would also say that what I should have done is followed my dreams when I was 20 but at the time I had a mortgage and I was serving on the ambulance service too so life was pretty hard in lots of ways. I always think life gets better as you get older or at least it has the ability to get better – I didn’t really ‘find myself’ until I was passed 40 – I had lost my job due to ill health and so it was then I started my own business and the magazine. And another thing I would say, even when you’re old, you’re never passed it!”

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Spooky Fat Babe (www.donutsanddissent.com) – “When I was 16, I was dealing with a lot of personal trauma. It wasn’t easy, & I wasn’t happy. I tried to kill myself. I felt ugly & unlovable. If I could go back and tell myself things, I’d say: Stop trying to force toxic relationships in your life to work. You don’t need to have a cookie cutter, perfect suburban life to be a valuable person. Enjoy being single, stop jumping from bad relationship to bad relationship. You WILL find so much love in your life. Stay vegan. Put yourself first more and stop apologizing for your feelings. Fat and beauty aren’t mutually exclusive. I wish I could’ve seen a glimpse into just how perfect my future would be. I wouldn’t have tried suicide.”

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Tanya (www.secretplussizegoddess.com) – “Being asked to write a blog post giving advice to my 16 year old self has been in itself very tricky. Obviously no-one can turn back time, and certainly there are a few things I would do very differently. However, like a chain, you can’t get rid of one link without losing some of the others. Its  been a long while since I was 16. In fact, 25 long years and a lot has certainly happened in that time. I’ve had a career, become a wife, become a mother and now my children have “flown the nest” and like one big circle, it is now my time again. When I was 16, I had one massive dream and that was to become a courier. Now, for many of you that means the delivery driver who drops your parcels off, but back in the day, before plane travel was affordable to all, there were thousands of coach companies that drove all over Europe to holiday destinations. These coaches always had a travel courier onboard. Someone to help, show you the sights, take you to the most popular places and help with language barriers. As a child, I went on several of these holidays to the Costa Brava. 36 Hours on a coach, with an overnight stop in France. On one of them, the courier took me under her wing. I was about 8 or 9, and I immediately knew that is what I wanted to do with my life. She took me around Paris, spoke the language, we ate the local food and I fell in love with what I thought was a glamourous, wonderful, exciting job. So, I geared my studies, and my classes to that. I took Geography, French and German. I passed all my GCSE’s and went onto College to study Travel and Tourism. I started Italian lessons and excelled in my college classes. Then it happened…at the age of 16 and a half, I met a man and fell in love. Within months were were engaged, buying a house and planning a wedding. I finished College at 18 and  decided travelling all over Europe every week would not be conducive for a relationship. So I gave up the idea of the job I had spent nearly 10 years pursuing. Thankfully, I did go into the travel  industry and cultivated my German, traveled to different places and saw the sights, just in a different way. I went on to become a Mother, changed careers and watched my children grow and leave the nest.  This means the time I have now is my own, for new adventures.  And You are never too old for new adventures! Now, as I have said, I can’t change somethings without losing others. If I hadn’t fallen in love, then I wouldn’t have my amazing children. On the flip side, I might have had a career that I absolutely loved. Or I could have hated it! Who knows, and certainly I wouldn’t change the way things happened. What I would change is me giving up that dream so easily. I could have given the job a go. For a few years. If our Love was strong enough, it would have survived. If it hadn’t survived, then it wasn’t the everlasting kind of love. But I will never know. No-one asked me to give up on my dream. I did it without even giving it much thought. I never even took into consideration all the hours and years I had put into studying, and learning. The extra tuition, the revision, the studying an Atlas, the learning Capital Cities. What I guess I am saying is that you should never give up on your dreams so easily. If you want something badly enough, then you can achieve it. Whether that is to be a hairdresser, or an astrophysicist, it is within your grasp. More people than ever are going to University. The World is literally your oyster, and there are so many opportunities out there. Technology is travelling at alarming rates, and the World has become a much smaller place thanks to the phones, tablets, laptops and other mediums that we can all access. If you have a dream, go out there. Reach for it and get it. It might be the best thing you ever did. But you will never know if you don’t try. Don’t let anyone or anything make you think that you can’t achieve it. Or ask you to give it up. Once an opportunity is missed, it is difficult if not unlikely to get that chance again. Life is too short to live with regrets. For many years I regretted my size and my looks. I detested them. I was a fat and unhappy person. I went on drastic diets and lost weight, yet even smaller I was terribly unhappy. I just didn’t like me! I let my size stop me from taking part in life. I would sit on the sidelines and watch others having fun, bowling, in the pub, learning to dance, desperately wanting to join in, but too self conscious to do so. That all changed around two years ago when I decided that life was too short, and I had wasted too much of mine not taking part and living it to the fullest. I now do everything I want to. I don’t let anything hold me back, and I have had more fun, more experiences and adventures that I ever thought I would have. It really has been an amazing couple of years, and I intend for it to only get better and better. I have catwalk modelled, wore a bikini, learnt to dance, taken sign language lessons, had a photoshoot in my underwear for a lingerie company website, sung karaoke,  started my own blog and been involved in advertising campaign for a large fashion company. All because I said yes when the opportunity came my way. As I previously said, I can’t regret the decision I made, in not reaching for my dream. I have a most wonderful family that I am so thankful for. I would never think about giving that up, in order to have a career. Thankfully, I am now at that age where I am having those adventures of my own, The World, is again becoming my oyster and I am taking every chance and opportunity. Make sure you make the choices you need to, in order to succeed in your hopes and dreams.”

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Miss Curved Nerd, 24 (www.misscurvednerd.com) – “If I could go back and tell my 16 year old self anything , it would definitely be something to do with loving who you are and not changing a single thing about yourself, just to please others. I was a lot smaller back then compared to today, but I was always teased for being fat. Stupidly, I listened to my bullies and it lead to a life of depression,self harm and low self esteem. No one should spend their time hating the way they look because it takes the focus away from the good things in life. I would also tell myself that life does get better – it may have seemed like the world was against me growing up, but now I’m happier knowing that I’ve achieved so much and come so far as a person. I’ve grown to accept my body and accept myself and it’s lead me to do great things – like inspire others through the Miss Curved Nerd website to love their bodies.”

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Heidi, 40 (www.facebook.com/BeauBombshell75) – “I’m writing this to my teen self…Heidi, yes your mum gave you a name that would give people a reason to poke fun at you, hi de hi, etc I know how much it used to distress you when kids used to follow you around saying it all the time. Remember being self -conscious of not having fashionable clothes and pocket money because mum and dad struggled? But despite that you, aged 13 got yourself a job so you could buy make up?? That took courage and determination even though you felt it was unfair! Now, you were extremely bright at school and the first year at secondary school you were enthusiastic and keen getting straight A’s but that’s when the bullying started..the boys calling you an ugly dog and ginger nut, the girls calling you worse names..the fact you didn’t have branded clothes or trainers so you were called names for that, the girls pushing you around, that time a boy chased you and spat in your face…you grew up hating who you were. Crying every day because you were afraid of what the day would bring, being set up by so called friends to get beaten up for their entertainment. You dyed your hair (people pay good money now to have ginger hair you know!) being used by men as you got older because you were getting “attention”. Let me tell you girl you were worth more than you thought, you may have failed to get the exam grades you wanted because you had enough of school and the bullying so you let your grades slip, but look what you have achieved now! You are a confident, popular lady with values and strength. You are qualified in all sorts of things as you have a passion to learn, you have women and men contacting you to say what an awesome inspiration you are. You help victims of PTSD when they are struggling with life. You have three gorgeous children who are well balanced and hard working…Just like you. I just wish you had known all those years ago how strong you would become and accept that not everybody is going to like you which is perfectly okay, and that you don’t need acceptance to feel empowered. You are and always have been an amazingly strong person and those important to you are proud of all you have achieved and overcome. And I bet you never dreamed you would become a pin up model published internationally! Love Your future self and alter ego Beau Bombshell (your model name)”wp-1453123398964.jpeg

mindsetforlifeltd, 22 (www.mindsetforlife.co.uk) – “Dear 16 year old me, You are perfect just the way you are. You do not need to go on a diet, despite what your teachers are telling you because I’m going to tell you a secret – adults aren’t always right! You do not need to lose weight and you are NOT fat so when that teacher calls you out in front of your friends, it is her who should be feeling the shame, not you. You are beautiful and I know you can’t see that yet but don’t worry, very soon you will! I know you are very insecure in your friendships and that’s ok because those girls aren’t meant to be your friends. Your true friends will find you in the next year and those people are going to be your friends for life! These people will be there for you the next time you go into hospital, which means yes – unfortunately you go back into hospital. There is nothing that you could’ve done to prevent it so please don’t spend any more time living in fear because next time you go into hospital, your friends won’t abandon you. You will feel more loved than you’ve ever been before so your worst nightmare of having to rebuild your life again will never happen. Not having slept with a boy and not having kissed anyone also doesn’t make you any less of a person so don’t let those girls treat you that way just because you are more inexperienced. Books are cool, studying is cool and trust me, everything you are learning will help you build an incredible career in 5 years time. Keep your dreams alive because you have a powerful voice that hasn’t been discovered yet. Spend less time worrying about university, everything works out better than you could have imagined. I love you, 22 year old Michelle”

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Cassie, 36 – “Dear Cass, Viewing life from 36 there are a few things I need to tell you…you are stronger and more beautiful than you can ever imagine. Even though you don’t believe it yet. You are not as invisible as you think and everyone walking around you in these halls are dealing with some heavy stuff. Nobody has a perfect life right now. So don’t feel so isolated. You will be faced with the best and worst life has to offer. And you will triumph! TRUST ME! The hardest time ever will start soon so follow you heart not your head. (your 16 your head is stupid) but you heart is made of gold. And don’t break your rule about taking back an ex. You do that once and it is the only thing in life you regret. Be confident young lady and quit giving a rats ass about what people think of you. It will hold you back for years. In your 20’s you will experience a life changing loss. WATCH YOUR BROTHER. This is the beginning of the end unless someone gets involved! And last but not least when you feel you need to let curtain people go in order to save your own soul (you will later know what I am talking about) do it. Don’t feel bad or hesitate. Love yourself and know at 36 life isn’t perfect but the blessing you have you wouldn’t change for the world. You have built yourself a nice life! Believe it! Love, Me!”

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Angela, 31 – “Sorry, your mum is right, you will only ever be able to count the number of true friends you have on one hand. But your friends will never define you, and neither will your job. It is your experiences that make you who you are. True love is marrying your best friend! Whether or not you have a good day will never be dependent on your hair. One day you’ll throw it on top of your head, every day, without a care – because hair doesn’t make you happy. Acne doesn’t last forever, try not to let it get you down. Love your body unconditionally, it makes miracles! And those little miracles will bring you the greatest joy you could ever know. Enjoy the journey, it is a beautiful life, for which you are very grateful…shared with your best friend.”

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Kahula Lui, 38 (https://psitslingerie.wordpress.com) – “When I was sixteen my life was not easy. Heck all the years of high school were brutal. So bad that I think it was the worse time of my life since it took me until my twenties to be able to find myself and I could write a book but, I will keep it short. Most of what was going on had to do with my body, my socioeconomic status, my race, family disownment, persuasion, and teenage rebellion. My mother raised me herself, she did not work, she received public assistance, she was mentally ill, and I am of Samoan decent in which even to this day some do not know what that is. What happened to me in my teenage years really set the precedence for what type of person I became. Still being a teenager really affects me till this day. I had to stop believing in grudges and start believing in forgiveness. During my time in the early nineties teenagers were already having babies. It became so bad where I was from that they made a school for teenage pregnant mothers. It was a confusing time for me, I was not even sexually active at this age so I was already being slut shamed due to rumors. Reason why I do not slut shame women to this day. During this time, I would have told myself that it is okay to be a virgin and that it was not going to do me any favors being sexually active during this time, since I was already the brunt of slut shaming since the age of thirteen. It just did not make my life any better. Even though my mother loved me I guess I was trying to look for love and acceptance elsewhere. Of course for most teenagers looks seems to be an important play in being accepted. If I could go back and tell myself at sixteen about my looks, I would have said you are great the way you are. In high school I was considered fat and my teeth were terrible. Plus, little did I understand that I was not fat but, I was actually developing into a woman. My body was fully developed by the time I was sixteen but, not in a Playboy Playmate sort of way. My breasts were small, my belly protruded, and my butt stuck out. It was a pear shaped body at best. My two front teeth were not fixed properly as I had bonds placed when I was a child. This was the year my mother had them fixed so things got better. Although I struggle with accepting my body but, it is way better than it was as I try to embrace it. As for my teeth when I was eighteen I got braces but, the color is still an issue for me. You cannot just buy teeth whiteners when you have bonds. Telling myself at sixteen that I should not fear anyone or anything and stop beating myself for my talents. There were graphic violent and sexual things that happened during high school that are too much to discuss here. Most of it had to do with hearsay. My mother did right by putting me into counseling but, once I turned sixteen that was the time I quit doing anything and everything that was good for me or that I was good at. My mother did not drive and I was afraid of using public transit in fear of getting beat up again. Sometimes I would take different and longer ways just to avoid people. It was also the time that I wanted to rebel from school. From the age of eight I played the violin but, with everything else going on being called a nerd was too much more so I quit that my sophomore year. Getting passed being sixteen was not stress free. The pressure of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, people reminding you what is wrong and right, and the torture of wondering why you are not accepted can make your break you. It was not until I graduated from high school and met my husband that things changed. He was not from my hometown let alone my state and had different ways of thinking. If it was not for him, I would not have broken away from all that negativity. Things might not get better in life but, you might learn how to deal with things differently. Being bullied seems to be a lifelong lesson. It is really important to talk to your peers instead of holding it in like I did, such as your parents, family, your teachers, or guidance counselor. With all this being said, I wish I would have told myself at sixteen that you are only this age once, time will pass, focus on those who care about you, and you will get through it.”

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Bobbi Lynn, 45 (https://www.facebook.com/bablybluemn) – “Dear 16-year-old self, You are a beautiful, kind, and intelligent young lady. Cultivate gratitude in your life. Say ‘thank you’ to Mom and Dad when they compliment you instead of rolling your eyes. One day they will be gone; and you will miss their voices more than anything. Don’t worry so much about not fitting in. You will have many friends who love you. Eat your vegetables. One day you will battle cancer and win. Every morning when you look in the mirror and say ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m grateful to be alive’. And lastly, you have a great smile. Use it.”

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Ana, 32 (www.powertoprevail.co) – “Dear 16 Year Old Me, I see the way you always turn to the side to hide your body. There’s no need for that, you were built the way for a purpose specifically for you. You don’t know what that is yet and that’s ok just take care of yourself because someone else is going to rely on you completely. I see the way you cover up your body because you don’t believe the real you is living up to everyone’s standards and expectations. They’re standards aren’t based on reality and they have no concern for you. They want to keep you wanting the items on their shelves because loving yourself isn’t profitable. You have your own path to follow and following anyone else’s will never bring you the fulfillment that you will eventually find on your own. I know you will find this to be true because you will learn to listen to your heart. Until then, keep your head up darling and get ready to change the world. I love you, 32 Year Old Me”

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Emily, 27 (www.facebook.com/TheOnlyVintageDoll) – “My name is Emily, I just turned 27 years old. I’m a single mother of two boys, a professional pinup model, Internet personality, YouTuber, and I have a full time job. When I was 16 I never would have thought in a million years my life would be where it is today. I never thought I would be divorced or a strong image for women to look up to. I never thought I would be a single mother or a pinup model. It’s crazy the turns our lives make depending on our choices. I can honestly say I haven’t always made the best choices but due to the situations I was put in at such a young age I think I handled the best my young heart and mind could. I grew up in a very sheltered home. I was homeschooled my whole life, had zero friends, and spent most of my time involved in studying make up and fashion. I met my ex husband in the last few months of my 16th year. Our relationship lasted nine years. In that nine years I experienced many forms of abuse. Control, manipulation, mental and verbal abuse, infidelity, soul crushing heartbreak constantly. I allowed someone to come into my life and 100% steal and dictate who I was, what I did, who I was allowed to be around, where I was allowed to go. My self worth was beat into the ground and I was constantly alone. I became a mother young and thought it would fix my relationship but only a short year after was the first time I discovered my husbands affair, which was being carried on in our home, around my child and while I was struggling through a miscarriage, alone. For almost a decade from the age of 16-23 I made excuses, I defended, I ignored, I cried, I hurt and I thought there was nothing else for me in this world because that is what my innocent mind had been trained to think by someone I loved and lived for. Looking back now I just want to scream. What are you doing!! You don’t deserve this!! Yell at him!! Defend yourself!! Tell him to get lost and you deserve better! Stop letting him use you and hurt you!! Stop letting him get away with such horrible behavior!! Say something!! I almost don’t even know who that girl was. She doesn’t feel like me anymore because she isn’t me. If I could give my 16 year old self some advice it would be to realize how much you are worth and to never allow anyone to devalue that. That you deserve the love and appreciation you put in to be given back to you. That you shouldn’t settle for less or robe treated poorly because you think it’s your soul responsibility to make something work. I would tell myself that sometimes you have to be brave and allow yourself to hurt and cry and embrace those emotions so you can get better and move on to what your life is meant for. I would tell me that you need to stop doubting yourself and realize that you are strong and capable of anything you want in life and to never let anyone tell you different. Life is going to be hard and you are going to face things that literally feel like they are going to suck the life right out of you but you are going to be ok and you are going to make it. That you are going to be judged for things you have no control over like your body type, your image, your personality, and you can’t let any of it break you because only you control your future and how you live it, not others. You have to stop saying “I can’t” and realize that you can and you don’t need anyone else to prove that but you. Stop living for others and live for yourself. Live for your children and enjoy the life you are given. Let go of negative and hate and don’t hold onto it. Learn to love and never let that go. When we are young we see things so differently. I feel like my 16 year old self walked in pure innocence and love and didn’t realize how it could be manipulated to be used against her. Sometimes we just have to walk out our choices and let the pieces fall were they may and then after take what’s left and make a better life out of it. 16 year old me was clueless and just a baby and now I feel like she had grown into this woman who has this image of strength but is still working to have the level of strength others see in her. I think to many of us grow into adults holding our youth against us. You can’t live like that. No matter what you go through that is hard or painful it will only be your future if you let it. You can’t live as a victim but you can take your past experiences and turn them into something that fuels your life in a better direction and make yourself a survivor. You have to rise above things and move on. You have to use your pain as a tool to build a road of success and keep moving forward. 16 is only a year in your life. It isn’t forever. Remember that when you are making your choices. Choices are important and dictate our future. Poor choices will happen and you can’t stop that and you can’t take it back but what you can to is take responsibility for the choices you made, learn from them and take control of what’s to come for you. I promise you are going to make it, you just can’t stop believing in yourself. The day you give up on yourself is the day your future ends.”

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Beth, 31 (https://lipstickandpetticoats.wordpress.com) – “I can’t believe it’s almost half my lifetime ago that I turned 16! If I could talk to my 16 year old self the main thing I would tell myself is that you are perfect just as you are. You don’t need to change yourself to be liked, anyone who thinks you need to change isn’t worth knowing. If only you had the self confidence to see that you are an intelligent, caring young woman, and you can achieve great things in life. Stay at college and earn some qualifications, you are only young once and you should make the most of it. Don’t get that first dodgy tattoo because you think it’s cool, or the second! Put a bit more thought into it. Love yourself and the way look. You may be a size 12 but ignore the school bullies, this doesn’t make you a whale! Embrace your crazy curly hair because one day after babies and far too much straightening those curls won’t be there anymore. The world is your oyster, explore it, find out who you want to be, but please don’t just follow the crowd, who in the end aren’t even your true friends.”

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Courtnie, 28 (www.facebook.com/Bellatrixuk) – “Wow I really imagined what I would say if I good go back and have one conversation with myself at 16 and I genuinely feel this could’ve changed a lot of experiences for me! Not that I regret any of them, not one because they made me the person I am today! If I could tell my 16 year old self anything it would be this: ‘People act out of either fear or love, their actions reflect their inner insecurities and experiences. So with this in mind, think before you act, listen before you speak, be considerate but don’t ever mistake other people’s insecurities as your own! Be mindful to people’s feelings and don’t concern yourself with people that don’t have your best intentions at heart and above all, regret nothing you’re doing great!!'”

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Zoey, 27 – “If I could tell my 16 year old self anything it would be; Grief passes.
Whether being bullied at home or at school, losing family or a friend, things simply coming to an organic forming of division; there is nothing you cannot survive. It’s okay to feel sad but it’s also okay to let go of the pain just enough to start living again. To reach for the stars and know that each wound can heal; inside and out. I don’t have a photo of me aged 16 as I was going through a life changing event, with no family support which lead me to leave school in order to focus on this matter…I hope my advice helps someone…anyone…”

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Jillian, 34 (www.facebook.com/vitavonfoose) – “To my 16 year old rad self, STOP! Stop obsessing over your clothing and people you will never speak to you again after high school. Who cares what they think, honestly. You’re going to grow up wearing ripped band tee’s, live in leggings and never leave the house without red lipstick. You live your life with yourself and you need to make yourself happy before anyone else. Seriously, concentrate and study hard-It’s really going to matter in the end when it comes time to pay rent. You’ll be happier. Go to college and follow thru on your word. ALWAYS.
Please don’t date the ‘bad boy’ type-they’re not going far in life, TRUST ME (I’ve Facebooked stalked) they may be cute now but give it 10-15 years. Take that nerdy kid to prom, wear something amazing and dance the night away. It will be worth it.  Also, that kid that just broke your heart (the one who is constantly on his BMX bike) your going to end up marrying him one day so…don’t be an ass. In case you’re wondering-Yes, he still rides that BMX bike. Read as many books as you can and volunteer every time you get the chance. Don’t be lazy. Love –  Your 34 year old rad self. p.s you grew up awesome once you realized there’s more to life than NKOTB. Also don’t give your mom such a hard time-she’s going to end up being your best friend.”

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Julie, 38 – “If I could send my 16 year old self a message, what would I say? By the time I was 16, I was on a downward swirl that would come close to ending my life. After being picked on and bullied most of my life, I had finally found a group of friends that became my tribe. The misunderstood understood me, accepted me, befriended me. The days of constant bullying were finally starting to dissipate. But at home, things had been falling apart for a long time. My mom and I hadn’t gotten along in years. I started drinking around the same time my mom shared her intent to leave my father. By the end of my 15th year, my parents were divorced and my mom had moved me and my sisters a thousand miles away to the Midwest. I was ripped away from my home, my dad, my school, my friends and the ocean. The angst between my mom and I continued to grow. She stood for everything that disgusted me, just an ugly person. I hated her. She told me things about my dad I never should have known as his daughter. She berated him in front of my sisters, who were younger than me, and reprimanded me for defending him. By the time I completed my sophomore year at the age of 16, I had spent most of those months drunk, stoned and starving myself. My weight was down to 100 pounds and every time a doctor warned my mom about the dangers of anorexia, she changed my doctor. On the 4th of July, I bought myself a one-way ticket back to California and disappeared while my family was out watching the fireworks. While couch surfing over summer vacation, I met a bad boy. Long dark hair, leather jacket, old enough to drive, old enough to buy alcohol. But while I was in California, my health continued to decline and my best friend was left with no choice but to tell her mom, who called my dad to come pick me up and take me to the ER. I went home with my dad and continued my relationship with my 24 year-old boyfriend. My friends pleaded with me to stay away from him, warning that a 24 year-old man only wants one thing from a 16 year-old virgin. We had talked about sex, but I had said I wasn’t sure if I was ready and that I needed more time. After hanging out with friends one night, we were walking back to his car when he grabbed my hand and said he wanted to show me something. A condo in the complex was for sale and he had discovered the slider was unlocked. He pulled me inside and we started making out. He started pressuring me to have sex with him again. I said I wasn’t ready and asked him to take me home, but he kept kissing me. Being ill and weighing no more than a large child, he pinned me down with ease. With my hair trapped under my shoulders so that I couldn’t even move my head, he stole what was left of my soul. When he was done taking from me what a girlfriend “should give”, he acted like everything was fine. He told me there was toilet paper in the bathroom if I needed to clean up and then he took me home. I quietly snuck into my dad’s house and down the hall to the bathroom where I took a shower until I drained the water heater, quietly sobbing on the shower floor, quietly vomiting down the shower drain. Days later, I was forced to return to my mom’s where things only got worse. When I didn’t get my period on time, I went to the health department to have my STD panel and pregnancy tests done anonymously. They came back negative, but at 3 months post-rape I still wasn’t menstruating. I couldn’t sleep, plagued by flashback nightmares, I would wake up gasping for breath and sweating. I slept with an empty garbage can by my bed so that I could throw up into it when I woke up in a panicked fit, with his face burned into my eyelids. I started cutting and self-piercing. I kept drinking and started experimenting with drugs. I ran away multiple times, only to be returned home to my legal guardian. I fantasized about death and would later go on to try and take my own life. I cut my hair off. I stopped eating. I wanted to die. At one point when my weight was hovering around 90 pounds, my new doctor told me I was going to die if I continued to lose anymore weight. I had started counseling and finally confided to my therapist that I had been raped when I was in California and with that confession, I began the healing process with him by my side. There is no doubt in my mind that man saved my life. But the first step towards my recovery, started within me. I had to find the last bit of will left in me to live, to hope that life as an adult would be more fulfilling than my heartbreaking adolescence. Life did not get easier. I would continue to self-sabotage for many years, never fully believing I deserved any better. Fast forward 22 years and I now the mother of two boys, survived a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, conquered my battle with depression and anxiety and loved and lost and loved again. I am now 38. I had a boyfriend tell me last year that my laugh lines make me more beautiful. I had to pause and smile. I have finally reached a point in my life where I am happy. Something shifted in me. I came to realize that life isn’t about a destination, it’s about the journey, about what you learn and who you meet along the way. I learned that if I constantly say “I will be happy when…” that I will never be happy. And with this lesson, I learned to let the negative people in my life fall away. I have two great kids that are home with me, safe and healthy. I have a job I love. I am more often single than not and I have no problem with that because – I love me! I have come to accept my body and have blossomed with the comfort I find in my own skin. I have a rich life full compassionate, beautiful, confident friends that have become a great source of strength, kindness, motivation and laughter. I have a good relationship with one sister and my dad. Not much has changed in my relationship with my mom, other than me being able to take 2 huge steps away from such a toxic person in my life. Blood is not always thicker than water. Now the only time I think about my trauma at 16 is when I hear the word “rape” or a man lays me down on top of my hair. They say everything happens for a reason. What good could possibly come out of me being raped? That question was answered 3 years ago when I met a new friend who confided in me that she had recently been raped. We would stay up for hours talking and texting when she couldn’t sleep. Through my pain and healing, I was able to help another woman through her’s. So my message to my 16 year old self: Hang on tight girl, it’s going be one hell of a crazy ride, but you are going to come out strong, beautiful and loved on the other side. You will be ok.”

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Katrine, 28 (https://www.facebook.com/KatrinePinup) – “I made a life changing decision when i was 16. A decision that would prove to have huge consequences for my adult life and the choices I’ve made since then. All the way up through my childhood, I was bullied. I went through 3 different schools in hopes that another setting would make it stop. Unfortunately I lived in a small city where everyone knew each other and the bullying continued.  I was an easy target because I let it get to me, I cried and got upset which would make the bullying accelerate.  My first boyfriend turned out to be a bet and my self esteem was non existing. I believed that I was the problem. That I possessed something that made me incapable of being loved, that I was too ugly and fat for anyone to find me appealing. That’s what I had been told. It all changed when I was 16 and met this guy and this is where I made the horrible decision. He was older than me and had a car which made it all seem so cool at the time. He was doing drugs and had faced some criminal charges but I had never been loved like he loved me!  In my mind I knew he was no good for me,  but I had a voice inside telling me that i would never find a guy that would care for me the way he did. That I was  getting more than I deserved and that I should be lucky to even have a guy who wanted to be with me. This is why I decided to be with him. He moved into my apartment and slowly the relationship changed. He took over my thoughts and my actions but it all happened too slow for me to realize. He protected me like no other, at least that’s what he told me when he was controlling my whereabouts and who to talk to. He loved me more than any man ever would, that’s what he told me when he pointed out my flaws as they were to blame for his violence. He accidentally lost my extra key which led to him deciding when I should stay or go since I didn’t get to have the key.  I lost control of my life and I let it happen. I had even started doing drugs with him. It takes strength and courage to get out of an abusive relationship and I didn’t have neither! On my 19th birthday, I decided to come clean to my parents. I moved into a crisis center after climbing out the kitchen window and down a tree when he was out. I stayed there for 3 weeks dealing with anxiety and depression and I’ve been struggling ever since to get my self esteem up to where it should be. It’s been almost 9 years now and I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that I would be where I am today. I am now a nurse at an intensive care unit and I’ve made a carrier of being a vintage model with over 20.000 international followers which to me is crazy! I allowed myself to get the help that I needed and I fought to get back on top! I wish I had known this when I was 16. That I decide the rest of my life and that I am capable of turning things around. Never loose trust in yourself and never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. It’s never too late and you are worth the fight!”

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Christi, (Founder, President and CEO of Dames for Dreams – https://www.facebook.com/DamesforDreams) – “A note to my 16 year old self: I wish I could leave you a bunch of advice to protect you or keep you from going through all of the trials & tribulations, that are going to be painful. The truth is you are required to go through each and every single one of them to become the woman I am today. The next 20 years are all necessary to mold you into the woman you were created to be. What I can say is ‘With all of my heart I believe that the fear of being inadequate isn’t at all our biggest fear. I think that our deepest despair,what we are afraid of most, is that we are powerful beyond our comprehension. We possess a light within us that is far more frightening than the darkness. We think to ourselves Who am I to think that I am powerful? I would be foolish to claim that I am brilliant, talented, gorgeous & unstoppable.’ The absolute truth is that you are fooling yourself that you are not.You are a child of greatness. You were created from greatness for greatness. You playing like you are small doesn’t serve your purpose for the world around us. There is nothing enlightened by dimming your light so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We are all made to shine, as all children do. We were created with the purpose to manifest the glory of greatness that is within us. This greatness isn’t just for the selected, it is in everyone. When we claim our own light and allow it to shine bright we unconsciously give permission to those witnessing to do the same. As we become liberated from our own anxiety, our presence automatically liberates others. In closing keep in mind kiddo that for every ounce of bad there is just as equal good. Respectfully your future self Christi Michelle.”

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Jane – “Dear Jane, Don’t panic flower, it’s just me…you from the future. Don’t get all back to the future on me I’m just dropping you a line or two because I think it will help you. I can see you have just got your school photo back and you hate it, please don’t be too upset. Everyone has that one school photo they look back on and wonder ‘what was I thinking?’. Believe me when I say black hair doesn’t suit your skin tone, I’m not criticising but this is the reason you hate the photo. You will never go that dark again but you do suit auburn and mid-brown, in fact that gives you a real warmth which matches your gentle soul and kindness. I know you also think you are too fat, probably because of the negative comments you get, try and rise above these comments I know it’s hard but they are really not worth the headspace. You are overweight but this is because you overeat and don’t exercise, the good thing is you can change this which you go onto do and find you have a love of running and fitness classes. This is where you meet friends for life, you will support each other and they don’t judge you. You will learn to love yourself as you are despite not being skinny. You will become skinny at some point however, this does not make you happy in face this is when you are most miserable. I’m not going to tell you much about this as you need to do it to learn never to allow yourself back to that awful place. I know that you are feeling low and really hate yourself at the moment, this won’t pass for a while yet. You are grieving as you have just lost nana, this is why you are comfort eating. Try not to worry about this much, thank god for wide legged combat trousers ( gotta love all saints) being in fashion. You will come through this and you DO lose your excess weight naturally whe  gou start college. This is because you are walking a lot more and lugging a ton of art folders and equipment to college on the bus! College is a welcome disraction and where your artistic nature flourishes, go for it my love. Trust me, you find happiness but you have some utter shite to delve through first. When you get there though, it’s totally worth it! Take care sweetheart, Love and kisses Jane xxxxx”

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Vanessa, 41 – “Dear 16 year old me, Now that you are 41, there are a few things I would like you to go. 1, relax its not as bad as you think, what ever happens you will work through it as you are so strong and beautiful; 2, Live your life for you, don’t let others rule what you think you should do, no matter what choice you make it will be right for you; 3, Do not listen to what others say about your height, weight or intelligence. You are a beautiful, smart confidant young lady, who wills one day do amazing things; 4, Do NOT, I repeat Do NOT, let anyone pressure you into doing things you do not feel comfortable doing. You have the right to say no, and you are in charge what happens to you body. Most importantly No matter where life takes you, you will do amazing things and become a strong, amazing woman. You will have wonderful people involved in your life and find the person who will make you the most happy, You! Love your future self.”

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Michelle (https://www.facebook.com/MeL.BombshellMel.SirenMeloddess)- “The Things I have learned since the age of 16. Self esteem is created by thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Where do we developed most of these which are usually harmful to our well being? The Media! There is great news though, self esteem, self image, and self worth isn’t something that is fixed but changed! As I grow older I realize that change, adapting, and learning from mistakes is a never ending journey! Don’t get discouraged just yet…low self esteem is a thinking disorder. If we don’t change our negative thoughts, self doubts and faulty assumptions it can lead to self defeating behavior, depression which in some cases lead us down a road to drugs, suicide, self harm, bad health, and possibly regrets in participating in sexual actives we later regret. Depression is a slippery slope that can deep-root itself so deep inside you and can act like a passenger through adulthood. Now that I have addressed the issue, you’re probably wondering who I am and what do I know about any of these kinds of issues. My name is Michelle (MeL) and after moving from Boise, Idaho to Wichita, KS at the age of around fifteen that’s when the start of my preteen, middle school years began. Before the move I was a happy, outgoing, over achiever with a personality some know as being a “ham”. In my now new home town where personalities, language, and behaviors were foreign to me I struggled with some culture shock. I slowly clammed up and faded away from my true self because of the differences I was labeled as weird, strange, and just out there with an eccentric personality. That lovable, I can do anything attitude, that fueled the fire and cast that sparkle in my eyes went dim over time. Being too kind was also a weakness that created painful moments due to being taken advantage of, manipulated, and pushed around. After struggling to find a balance over a years time I had become part of the so called “cool” crowd. That came with a price itself due to skipping classes, drinking, boys and developing a bad attitude. My grades began to decline and having this new active social life just exposed me to more bullying and drama. I wasn’t happy and I soon decided that the pressure trying to hold on to the things I loved (honors classes, theater, singing, dancing, art, and kindness) vs. being accepted and being “popular”. I gave up trying to measure up to an imaginary status and the competition between the “hot girls”. I was called derogatory names, I was flat chested, I was super short and I had muscular figure which wasn’t viewed as “girly”. This overwhelming feeling drove me to make the choice to drop out just after the first semester of sophomore year to give up the hostile environment and pursue my education by testing out and making a “B line” towards college. Outside of school I would attend local casting calls and model searches but it was always the same response, “She is cute but she is just too short.” Rejection became familiar to me. Creating the assumption in my head that I would never be a model. Not having enough money I knew I would also never have a singing career or be able to travel and do big auditions for shows and that was that. I poured all my energy and focus into school and busied myself with volunteering, being vice president of the student government and new student orientation and working for a high class photography studio (FYI I have now graduated from three different programs and still continue to take classes because I love learning). Yes, in the middle of it all I thought I was happy. My eyes started to open to the world of possibilities, I was becoming aware of my self worth and my potential began to blossom. Yet if you recall what I mentioned earlier, without focus to my inner self I never actually changed the way I thought about myself, I only distracted myself by staying busy just to quite my thoughts. I fell into a few abusive relationships, gave birth to my son, and was always moving back into my mom’s after horrible separations. At that time I was forced to finally face my inner demons in a healthy way. Learning to stand up for yourself, your opinions, values, and beliefs are VERY important! It’s crucial! Be proud of them. That was my first step and my advice to you; admit the depression, low self esteem and negative thinking about your body image, become aware of it. Stand your ground on personal values, likes, morals, ideas, interests, dreams and learn to be assertive! Why, because you are worth it! Change takes time, how much… it’s not measurable, everyone is different! Difference is what makes this world amazing! Everyone excels at different things. Give yourself credit! Try new things (if you fail, so what!). find what you enjoy! Personally I do NOT believe you have to to choose one thing to do in your life. I truly believe you can choose a multitude of interests and are never required to settle for just one subject or area. Learn to accept compliments, recognize the things you can change and the things you can’t! Accept who you are, you have a purpose and a reason. Find what you love, what you care about, what you’re best at and make contributions to the world. You will grow and learn to love your genuine self and others will too. Teasing and bullying will continue whether you do something too well or do something not well enough…. It doesn’t matter! People will always find a way or reason to put others down…Everyone of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, gender etc. all go through it! You are not alone! Here are a few Celebrities that were also harassed, teased and bullied in school and look at them now: Tyra Banks- for having a big forehead, being too tall called a bean pole, and called the ugly duckling. Jackie Chan- for being too scared to defend himself. Jessica Alba- for being awkward, having buck teeth, and a Texas accent. Madonna- for being too hairy they called her “Harry Monster”. Avril Lavigne- for big glasses, her hair, her tom boy clothes and her teeth nick named her “Vampire Lady”. Kate Winslet- for her weight they called her “Flubber”. There are many more but I think you get the idea. Try focusing on what is going well, change the verbiage in your head from something negative to a positive. How you think is ALL UP TO YOU! Change your thoughts, change your feelings! Aim for effort not perfection. My experience and advice is to say that all these things take time and some days I myself have to refocus my negative thoughts. Look at me now…since I believed in myself I have now been published in over 12 things, modeled for Ford, Harley Davidson, recorded music, made my own TV show, performed my own burlesque and contortion shows, and so much more! I am using all my experience and status to mentor others and teach as well as motive and influence others because you and do and be anything you want to and there is a place in this world for everyone! xoxox Michelle P. (MeL)”
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Kimmie, (Cherrie Poppins) – “I grew up in a very fundamental independent  baptist church. My ambitions in life weren’t much(finish school, maybe go to college, get married, and have kids). I have done so much more than I thought I ever would. I’ve meet my childhood star Lucy Lawless (she played Xena), done so much traveling, been in several local commercials, and several magazines. I never dreamed I would ever do so much with my life and have a positive impact on anyone’s life ever. It’s quite humbling for me to think about. I am comfortable with who I have become as a person and dance to beat of my own drum.”
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Lisa, 32 – “When I spotted this campaign via the wonderful Miss Evelyn Jo, I felt completed to write. My 16 year old self was in a somewhat different situation to many young girls – I was pregnant with my first child. Scared and very naive, I wish now that I could have sat myself down and taken advice from the now 32 year old me. In the years before becoming pregnant with my now incredible, clever 15 year old daughter, my body began to change dramatically. My genes dictated that I would indeed be following in the footsteps of most other women in my family and gave me an hour glass figure with a sizeable chest, big hips and hobbit-like height. I  became very self conscious about the way I was developing into womanhood. People reacted differently to me. Boys began to make advances and some girls got competitive. I started resenting my new figure. I laughed off crude comments and suggestions, thinking that’s what nice girls should do. Giggle, be polite and take it as a compliment despite feeling uncomfortable and intimidated. As a confident thirtysomething, this makes me rage for my teenage self. I think deep down, I was subconsciously rebelling against the lack of control over my own body and began attempting to take ownership in a childish manner. I dyed my hair every colour in the rainbow. I got several visible body piercings and tattoos. In hindsight, I was desperate to show the world that I was not just a pretty little blonde girl and my teenage emotions couldn’t find a way to express this any other way. When I discovered I was pregnant aged just 16, my body went through more changes. I actually enjoyed watching my tummy swell as the months passed, feeling the new life grow inside me . Due to a medical emergency, I ended up having a Caesarean section after several days of labour. When I first saw my scars, I cried. I felt like I was ‘ruined’. As I healed, I avoided mirrors, refused to let anyone see. When I gave birth to Lucie almost four years later, I ended up having the same issues and yet more surgery. I was disgusted at the ugly purple marks left on my skin. The stretch marks that now sat themselves proudly on my thighs and chest. The once toned tummy that was now less that flat.  In time, I started to give my body the respect it deserved. More so, I started to like my body. I like my curves and find that they lend themselves perfectly to the pin up and vintage style I adore. I like my eyes and their unique colour that I used to be a bit embarrassed about. Of course there are bits that aren’t my favourite but I’m learning to skim past these and focus on the better parts instead. I’ve even come to terms with my scars. In time, they’ve faded and remind me of an important event in my life. I started getting tattooed to reflect my personally and decorate my body, not out of some confused rebellion as I did in my teen years. So what would I say to 16 year old Lisa now? We’re taught that liking yourself is egotistical and ugly. Say it! Talk about the parts you love more, take compliments with a smile and not scoffing: “You must be blind!!” (as I did for so long) You’re actually pretty clever too which will confuse people at times. What do mean your fairly attractive, funny and intelligent? How can this possibly be?! *insert more sarcasm here* STOP using the words: “I’m fat” I am very much a believer in being healthy and taking care of your body from that angle but fat? No. What a dirty word. Be proud of your body, your curves and all. Do not let anybody shame you or bully you into being something that you are not. Demand respect whilst being polite. You deserve it. Be kind to each other. If you like someone’s outfit or style, tell them. Compliment people – especially other women – often. Let’s stop the put downs, the pressure to look ‘perfect’ and negative attitudes towards each other. Build each other up and most of all, stop being afraid to be yourself!!”

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Viv – “I don’t have any pictures of myself at 16. What would advice would I give? I’d say it’s ok to be scared, to be angry and feel lost. It’s ok to want to be a child and not have to take on the responsibilities that adults put on your shoulders. When other girls my age were out having fun, I was facing court, and sending a man to prison for child abuse. I would tell me not to worry about my grades dropping, that it wasn’t the massive deal I thought it was. I would tell me not to care if I wasn’t thin enough, three years of punishing my body was enough, it was time to accept that I couldn’t halt the hands of time and waste away. Most of all, I would tell me to grab my gorgeous sister and take her dancing in the rain, walk bare foot through the grass, to laugh and to smile until our hearts would burst and our cheeks would ache. She supports me through everything, she’s my best friend. I would tell me not to be ashamed of my past, to let it go, to take the professionals up on the help they offered, so I wouldn’t still be in pain today. I would tell me that I had withstood bullies, cowards and the worst type of people that walked the earth, but I was a survivor, and that I should let the blame and the guilt lie where it deserved to lie, at the feet of those who prey on people weaker than them. Maybe then I would be stronger today. But mainly I’d tell me to forgive myself, for never feeling good enough, for never feeling strong enough, as there was nothing to forgive. I was a child, and should have been permitted to be one.”

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Suzy (www.ladyretro.co.uk) – “Dear 16 year old Sue, You are brilliant, you look fantastic and you are quirky. You really suit the unique style of clothing you wear despite what looks people may give to you. People are afraid of being different, so you are showing confidence already at just sixteen. You may wear very dark eyeliner but thats a good thing, you’re skin is lovely and you don’t need all that makeup like the ‘cool’ girls at school. NEWS FLASH: YOU ARE NOT FAT!! and you have a great figure, stop worrying about your arms and thighs, you have a lovely body shape, so carry on as you are. Keep being yourself, rainbows and cute Japanese, Vegetarian slogan T’shirts and enjoy life being you. Do not change yourself to fit in with the “cool kids” because in just a few years you are part of such a better group of alternative cool kids who like you as you. Your future is fantastic, travelling and great friends and supportive family. P.S Don’t get the black dragon tattoo on your thigh, mum will ground you for ages (since you are underage afterall, naughty naughty) Stop forgetting to wear your retainer and remember that Wheels and Dollbaby pencil pink dress you borrowed from Joanne?, well search for Collectif clothing or look when you visit London, you will love it.”

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And finally me…

Jo, 32 – “Dear 16 year old me…at the age of 32 I finally started to love and accept myself. This means 16 years of self doubt, second guessing myself, worrying that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have the perfect figure and that I wasn’t lovable. 16 years of living that way is a long time! You didn’t go to college at 16, you went into full time employment because at 16 you didn’t know what you wanted to do. You didn’t have a passion. But now, at 32 I look back and realise it wasn’t such a big deal. You have a vast working experience on your resume including working at ITV for the soap Emmerdale. Not bad for someone who thought not going to college would be a downfall. At 32, I finally discovered my passion and that was wanting to help others and be the role model (outside of family) that I needed when I was younger. At 32, I finally realised that my weight did not define me and I should not feel inferior to other people just because I was not a certain size. I wish you had known this at 16. The pictures below are the difference between being 16 and 32. At 16 you were shy and spent a lot of time trying to find yourself in the world and you had no confidence. Remember being a waitress? You would hear ladies in the restaurant comment on your slim frame. They would remark on how you must be anorexic and how your hips stuck out. You weren’t anorexic. You ate and you liked food. You still do and you are open to finally trying new dishes! Those comments upset you and no wonder. You started to cover up and not show your figure for fear of comments you might receive. Remember when you went to the doctors for a check up with the nurse who told you that aged 16 and despite your “slim frame” you needed to be careful with your diet as you were creeping up to being “overweight” on the BMI scale. I now realise at 32 that the BMI scale is not to be fully believed, each of us are different, nobody is the same! You were confused. You had gone from receiving comments about being “anorexic” to now being told you were on the way to being “overweight”. You went from enjoying your food and eating to put on weight to being fearful that you would be overweight! How dangerous the words of others can be. You then battled for 16 years with fad diets, pushing yourself on the exercise bike, doing 50 lengths three times a week at the swimming pool, missing meals, denying yourself treats, feeling so miserable and depressed if a certain size no longer fit you. You weren’t aware that the clothing industry and the media were full of bullshit! You weren’t aware that certain sizes varied depending on which shop you bought them in! Living this way was all due to the opinions of others. It was like you had to have a perfect figure but who is to say what perfect is?! You were starting to be happy with yourself and love yourself until others voiced their opinions. You would deny your happiness to please others. You believed you had to have a perfect body to wear a bikini. So you would not wear one. You would not splash around in the sea because you worried about what others would say about you. Then when you returned home you had regrets that you did not take time to splash in the sea and when would you have the chance again?! You spent many years like this. Denying yourself fun and happiness all because of others, all because of something so ‘trivial’ as your clothes size.  All those wasted years worrying and not allowing yourself to embrace such things because of the opinions of others. How much time you wasted. Time can never be bought back. I wish that you had the attitude I have now. You wouldn’t have denied yourself a variety of things. Life is too short. You have to embrace it. Live it. Love it. Do not waste years of your life. You are not able to get that time back. There is so much more to life than the label in your clothes, fad diets and staying with people who suck the happiness out of you…your shape or size does not define you and do not settle for the lowest of the low just because he makes you feel you are worthless. Opinions of you are not always valid. You need to embrace each day. At 32 I now finally do this. I live it. I love it. Everyday might not be good but there is something good to be found in every day. And I am going to find it and enjoy myself whilst doing so. I wish you had this mentality at 16…”

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#bullyingisabuse

Pin-up’s Against Bullying was founded by Mrs “T” Marie who is a beautiful soul with a big heart. The mission of Pin-up’s Against Bullying is simple – to help raise awareness that bullying will not be tolerated.

Pin-Up’s Against Bullying educates, offers advice and support relating to all bullying, body shaming and other negative ideals society has enforced. They are a fabulous support network to those who need it. Each member of Pin-Up’s Against Bullying is inspiring, strong and empowering. With chapters across the US, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia and New Zealand, Pin-Up’s Against Bullying is gaining more and more worldwide recognition.

Pin-Up’s Against Bullying firmly believe that together, through positive thoughts, words, actions and behaviours we can make a substantial impact against bullying.

You can find more information on the website http://www.pinupsagainstbullying.org or via the Facebook page www.facebook.com/PinupsAgainstBullying or on Instagram by searching the hashtag #pinupsagainstbullying

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Bullying is abuse…and it comes in many forms 

We might all be guilty of bullying on some level at some point in our lives whether that be teasing in the playground from our childhood years, wanting to impress our peers by being cruel to others, being part of a group of girls who mock another for her choice of outfit, leaving a nasty comment on a Facebook profile or even lashing out in anger (“moment of madness”) with a hurtful comment to someone who might have initiated it – this can make us all guilty as well as a being a victim ourselves. 

Bullying takes place in so many forms and we need to set an example whist we educate the younger generation that bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Bullies are not only internet trolls or strangers, they can be friends, family members, wives, husbands and other children – they often don’t think about their actions and how their words or a throwaway comment might actually have a severe impact on somebody.

Social media plays a massive part in bullying in society today and people being bullied can be targeted in more ways than one. It is no longer about being afraid to go to school, it is being afraid to post a picture for fear of being targeted by cyber trolls, being scared to receive a hurtful and threatening email or being afraid to read your text messages – this does not just apply to children, this also applies to adults. 

Bullying can be physical, verbal, emotional and mental torture to a victim. It can take place in any location and at any time – and especially with social media, it might feel like there is no escape for a victim.

People in a toxic and volatile relationship may not see that they are also being bullied, whether that is in a verbal form or the physical. Known as domestic violence and domestic abuse, I believe this form of behaviour is also bullying. The bully often has the power and the control. Being in a relationship such as this can have a devastating impact that cuts you deep and haunts you for the rest of your life. In some instances, a victim may feel the need and requirement for many years of counselling and support groups. This type of bullying can lead to devastating consequences. It is not just about the physical scars – verbal abuse is just as painful and can haunt you long after you find the courage to walk away. Women can be told that they are not good enough, they are ugly, nobody else will ever want them, they are useless, nobody likes them, they are fat, they look disgusting…these horrible, cruel and untrue comments can cause issues such as low self esteem, no confidence and lack of self belief. This is bullying. This can also lead to a ‘knock on effect’ for many years to come.

Forms of bullying can also occur in a working environment whether that be derogatory comments, feeling as though you are being “singled out”, having people insult your work by saying it is “rubbish” and having it thrown back at you or being copied in on an email where you are blatantly insulted and belittled. Often people are too afraid to report such incidents to management or HR because they do not wish to “cause any problems” – this is similar to children who do not wish to report bullying to a teacher, for fear of repercussions. This fear prevents us from speaking up. How sad that as adults we are afraid of repercussions just as much as we were as children. We may have moved on in our age, career and life – but bullying can still dominate us.

Hurtful words, comments and behaviour can have a severe impact on victims – something said from ten years ago can still have an impact today. Even when you are riled up and you may feel your own comments are justified by retaliating, remember, you do not have to attend every argument that you are invited to. Do not dignify with a response, walk away, hold your head up high – be the better person. 

Always being kind and positive can make you a better person. Complimenting rather than insulting immediately puts a stop to bullying and cruel comments. We need more kindness. We need more positivity. If everyone tried to practice “being kind and positive”, then bullying would end. People have feelings, they deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. Even if you are kind and positive and it is not reciprocated, at least you tried – you do not have to resort to being hurtful and negative. I am a firm believer in the saying “If you do not have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

Below are quotes, stories and images from people from all over the world who have felt the impact of bullying whether that be from someone they love, a stranger, a friend or they are a victim of domestic abuse. These people have been brave enough to share with you some of the most hurtful things that have been said to them over the years. They have all been affected, they have been hurt, they have been sad. But they have fought to become strong and they will not let bullying in any form affect them. They want to share with you their story – to help inspire others.

*disclaimer – The photos below have been submitted by the individual participants for the sole purpose of being used for this blog feature. All rights are reserved to the original owner* 

“We are more than your hurtful words. We are more than what you try to label us. We are people. We say no to bullying and abuse in any form”

Natalia, 23 – “The story behind my quote is that no matter what I did, if I lost weight I was too ugly to my mom but if I was extra large, I was a fatass to my mom and an embarrassment. The picture is blurred because it’s how I felt but now I love myself and I will keep my head up. What helped me look forward is my passion for writing and singing. No matter what happened to me, I am me and no one can bully me out of the love I have for myself. I was also bullied in school. I was a nerdy girl and people would want me to do their homework and I wouldn’t so I would get spit at, thrown down the stairs and rocks thrown at my head. It was a day to day basis at school but I never let them see me cry. If I wasn’t bullied at school, I was bullied at home. My favorite quote I live by is “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles ” by Charlie Chaplin. I was also molested when I was 7 by my stepdad and I know many girls, boys, women and men go through that also but I just want them to know that no matter what has happened to you don’t look at it as if it’s your fault because it is not. What is the best thing to do is speak up. I didn’t because I was too scared but keep a journal and write about it, it will keep you strong.”

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Harriet, 17 – “‘Gingers have no souls, so you’re going to hell.’ The comment that haunts me to this day, a girl said this to me in year 9. This inspired me to look into vintage and embrace who I am. I have dyed my hair, but not because she said that, because I wanted to. Pin ups stand proud and fight bullying!”

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Hanna, 29 – “So I decided to use Finnish word, because this way I got to hear it when I was younger. I’ve been bullied for so long and heard so many words that hurt, but I picked this. In my opinion this is the word no one should ever use about a girl/woman, no matter what the language is. So “huora” translates to “whore”. Though English word does not feel that bad for me, that’s why I chose the original. And adjectives like “ugly/pathetic/fat/you choose whore”, I’ve probably hear them many times. How stupid it is to call a 12-year old girl a whore? Just because you don’t like her? She’s different, she’s not wearing latest and most expensive clothes? You don’t think she’s pretty? She’s not cool enough? Someone still thinks those things give them a right to use such insulting and hurtful word. I felt so bad to even see that word written down so I had to take this second pic too.”

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Fran, 24 – “For years, for far too many years, I was bullied into believing that I was too fat to be loved, that I was too far outside of beauty ideals to be considered worthy of loving. But now I have come to realise that my worth is not dependent on the love and validation of others. I have learnt to accept myself, and in doing so I have learnt to love myself, no matter what anyone else thinks or says.”

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Traci – “‘You’re a he/she’ this was said to me in 1999. ‘Do you have a d*ck or p*ssy in your pants’ – this was said to me twice in 2015. ‘That tells me you are a tomboy’ – said to me in 2015 by a friend (former friend now). Words do hurt. They can make a shy woman become self conscious about her appearance to the point where one doesn’t want to leave the house. Do I change my jeans and t-shirt appearance to suit those that like to humiliate me? No. Do I wish I was never born? No. Do they control my comings and goings? Yes. Should I have mouthed back? Yes. But I didn’t. I was brought up to ignore and disregard. Such behaviour did curb my chat-room experience/my expectations. Once I got to leave my shy and self conscious shell to try partake in a conversation between two strangers before they both kinda cut me out of the conversation. One of them suddenly got up and said ‘I am out of here, leaving you alone.’ What did he say within earshot of myself and looking right at me? – ‘Do you have a d*ck or p*ssy in your pants?’ After three days of dwelling in this, I called the customer service people to talk to them about what happened. A nice consoling female spoke with me and apologised for the unfortunate incident – it wasn’t her fault. Less than 2 weeks later I was asked this same question by someone else. Last but certainly not least, I asked my friend ‘Do you think I dress or act differently than other females?’ His answer ‘Your jeans and t-shirts tell me one thing, you haven’t outgrown the tomboy phase’. I did ask him what he thought but I was shocked at his answer. I ended the friendship in July after two years of being around him off and on. I don’t feel any remorse.”

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Amanda, 29 – “Here’s my picture. My ex boyfriend was the worst for my self esteem, constantly tearing me down every chance he could. He managed to make me hate who I was and how I looked. I was a shell of the person I used to be. Breaking away from him was my first step to healing. It’s taken over a year, but I can say I’m 100% happy with who I am, and I love the girl I see in the mirror!”

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Bekki – “I’ve always been interested in the alternative side, it is the one place where I feel comfortable with myself and my body, and because of it, I get bullied. I’ve also always been self conscious about my body, as people have always made fun of my weight, ever since I was around 9 or 10. Because of it I’ve always panicked about wearing shorts, and last week I ended up having to sit out of gym because I couldn’t bear the thought of wearing shorts. But, I know that being alternative makes me unique, and my body isn’t ‘fat’, it’s just right.”

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Svetlana, 29 – “I am Russian but currently live in Switzerland. Now I am happily married and have a son. I am a happy and a self-confident woman. But it has not always been like that. At school I used to be being bullied for my love to the books and the excellent marks. My appearance was the object of bullying as well. My face, my body, the first hair covering my legs… No wonder that I felt very insecure and developed an eating-disorder. It took months of therapy and inner-work to overcome the disease. And now I am struggling for body positivity and trying to help other women to develop self-love and to become more self-confident.”

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Christian Simone, – 30 “My quote comes from family especially my step father who felt as a dark fattie no one would want to be my friend God forbid a man would want me. I worked hard and gave way more than needed as I always felt like was undeserving of anyone. I gave myself away to men who aren’t even worth to drink my bath water. Now as I have lost 100lbs and have gotten my cycle certification and started a plus fit blog The Plush Cyclist I know I’m strong and a everything life is. I’m Plush but one of the baddest. We all don’t have to have a tiny waist and big butt to be pretty either.”

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Christi, 36 (Founder, President and CEO of Dames for Dreams and Chapter Head of Seattle Washington for Pin-up’s Against Bullying)- *Caution-Possible Trigger* – “You’re my problem child!” she exclaimed, “I wish you were dead!” My bully started at home. I have tried to overcome in spite of everything. Often times she wins because now as an adult my bully is in my head. Like venom poisoning my self esteem. If my bully was outside of my head I would punch her lights out for talking to me like that. There are countless things said to me that play like a recording in my brain. These words cut the deepest. I wish you were dead? Who says that? To someone that she knew was struggling with a deep destructive depression. “Why don’t you just go kill yourself.” Deafening. Repetitive. Rings loudly, in mega phone volumes.”

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Lottie (@miss_lotti_gore ), 27 – This was put as a comment on one of my Instagram photos a few months back. I think that’s why it sticks. I remember just feeling embarrassed and so deleted it straight away. I’ve just started to become more comfortable in my post motherhood skin and this set me right back into despair. Being discriminated against for having tattoos is something that sadly happens a lot and so unfortunately I’m used to those comments. People don’t realise that attacking people online is still bullying and even though you can’t see the person your are affecting they’re still raw and real.”

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Treasure – “I had liked someones “to be honest” on Instagram (so maybe this was my fault) and it was shared so the friend of mine of course had nice things to say about me but the other girl of whom I didn’t know at all only had negative things to say about me of course coming from a bigoted mindset. After she had posted what she felt was “honest” I contacted my friend and asked if she had something against me or if she really just judges people based on what she sees. My friend told me it was nothing personal. As crazy as that mess was it just showed me that everyone is very well entitled to their own opinion and if that girl wants to judge me and say that I’m ugly and that I don’t care about my looks then shes more than welcome but I really hope she soon decides to find her heart and gets to know someone first. I have a very unique relaxed and yes care free style but in my honest opinion, I make it work and I know I’m pretty and I’m pretty damn confident! Her words hurt at the time but I’m okay now and going to enjoy my care free looks and my gorgeous weight!”

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Ashlea, 27 – “This comment was made to me by a loved one and has stuck with me for the longest time.. It was said to me as a very insecure 16 year old who had limited friends and zero body confidence yet I still mustered up the response “they can like me for who I am rather than how I look” and no matter how much I ever told myself that the constant verbal beating from everyone on how I looked made me feel that how I looked wasn’t EVER good enough and there would always be something wrong with it. I over came this by starting to believe in myself. It can spout from just the tiniest bit of belief you just have to be persistent with it and great results will come. Whether on the Internet or face to face terms like these and many others can be more than hurtful and can make or break even the best of people because you never ever know what that person is facing everyday. So be kind and considerate.”

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Carrie-Ann – “My friend said this to me when I was 11, at a time when I was throwing away my lunch, constantly feeling hungry and pedaling away on my mum’s exercise bike until my legs begged for mercy. My weight has been up and down over the years, and while she’s probably long forgotten it, that mean little comment is always in the back of my mind, even 19 years later and no matter what size I am. Please everyone, be kind – your words can do so much damage.”

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Michelle (@mindsetforlifeltd, http://www.mindsetforlife.co.uk), 22 – “This is how I see it, anything that induces embarrassment or shame or involving belittling is bullying. A lot of bullying is said under the guise of it being a ‘joke’ but saying something cutting, then claiming it’s a joke, doesn’t diminish it’s pain. This was said to me by a guy and my response is this: I am not my race, I am not a label and I am certainly not something to tick off your list. I am a Body Confidence Coach and the creator of the Scarred Not Scared campaign. I am also the founder of the company Mindset For Life which empowers women to not just love their bodies but their life. I became passionate about this after 15 surgeries left me with many scars that cover my body.”

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Beverly, 43 – “I experienced a great deal of bullying as a child which led to a shockingly low self esteem, depression and feeling like I wanted to end my life. I think it was my terribly low self esteem that led to me to end up in an abusive relationship. I left that relationship 3 years ago. I was then able to re-build my life. I was able to see that the bullies words were just that: words. I have been able to separate myself from those words. I made a decision to stop believing the horrible things that were said to me and start believing the good things. I have a much better self esteem and confidence. So much so that I have started to make the tentative steps into performing burlesque. I’m very proud of myself and my journey.”

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Briony, 22 – “I felt worthless until I realised that insults are really the other person’s insecurity.”

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Beth, 31 – “I remember first being called fat when I was 6 at Primary School. I was always the “fat” one. Always the “ugly”. My nanna once told me it was puppy fat and I would grow out of it but it didn’t happen! I spent all of my youth worried about my weight and have spent the majority of my life on diets. In my late teens/early 20’s I went through several different phases – punk, skater, mosher, trying to find who I was. I was called weird all of the time by people who saw me or who I worked with. They didn’t know me though, or the struggles I had trying to be happy with how I looked. I am now 31 and peoples opinions on the way I look no longer have any influence over me. I might still be fat, and some people might still think I’m weird, but I just don’t care anymore. I am happy, I’m confident, and I have finally accepted that this is how I look. This is me 💗”

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Cheyenne, 20 – “Comments like this caused me to develop an eating disorder at age 13 which resulted in self harm and hospitalization. I still battle with this at 20 years old.”

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Linz, 32 – “When I was at school there was a group of girls who always used to say hurtful things about my appearance. Mainly about my hair which is quite thick and frizzy. It made me really self conscious about my hair and I use to straighten it every day which was not healthy for it at all. I only embraced my hair and my appearance once I went to art college where being individual is celebrated and the bullies were gone from my life for good.”

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Miss Curved Nerd, 24 -“My hurtful comment is that several guys told me when I was younger that no one would ever want to be with me and one went so far as to say that why would anyone ever want to have sex with me as I would crush them because of my size. At the time, it was hurtful and upsetting because I had been bullied most of my life due to my size and I never thought that anyone would be so cruel. He thought he had the right to judge me based on a few photos of myself I had online, which is something that no one should ever have the right to do – never assume. I have proven many times over now that I am beautiful despite my size, my size does not define who I am or my happiness. I have a loving partner who I am marrying next year and he loves me no matter what I look like  Everyone deserves to be loved. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and if someone thinks that you don’t deserve to be happy or loved, then they have something seriously wrong with the way they think. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. I now run the Miss Curved Nerd website to inspire people from all walks of life. You don’t have to be what society calls normal to fit in in life, just be yourself. It’s not only a journey to help others, but my own personal journey with depression,weight loss and body confidence.”

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Lotte (@thetruthfairie), 30 – “A throwaway comment made by a stranger, that bought back the personal insecurities I had for always being bigger than everyone else, and at that moment I wanted to lock myself away. Here’s the poem I wrote about it –

Acceptable

Social media gives every Tom, Dick and Harry their five minutes of fame within the confines of an add comment box.

Jovial conversing soon turns sour with the input of a keyboard warrior friend of a friend.

I don’t do fat girls.

Meant in jest or to offend, no matter the reasoning, this earring wearing stranger, touched a nerve, a past, my past.

Snidey comments, moments of horror and dispair, that seemingly had disappeared, in that moment haunt me.

I’m the victim again, disgusted by own flesh and gluttony, pulling layer upon layer of darkness upon myself to cover up the rolls.

Shaken from my recollection, i hear the ringing of compliments within my ears, the eyes of a loved ones gazing upon my naked flesh in awe, at its beauty, I smile.

We’ve come far, this body and I, and although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’ll do for me, and that’s all that matters.”

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Amelia (@mamatwohoots), 32 – “As a teenager I was called every name under the sun for a spotty, late developing awkward kid with strict parents. It was another lifetime ago and I honestly couldn’t repeat those names for you now because I rejected them completely- they might have described me but they didn’t define me. I left those people behind and surrounded myself with confident, supportive, loving people who keep me right. If I have a message for anyone who is suffering bullying at this point in their life it’s that the hurt is so very real in the present but it doesn’t have to be in the future- you are wonderful and unique beyond measure you just haven’t realised it fully yet.”

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Lynsay, 40 – “Well this is me…I’ve always been a small person… quite slight. You wouldn’t expect bullying but there was. It was mainly as a teenager. ‘Oi anorexic! Get some food in ya!’ And so on…You try to not let it get to you but it does. I even went to my GP to see if there was anything I could do. BUT I was fine…my BMI was OK and told not to worry! Even in adulthood you get snide remarks…’wouldn’t get my left leg in your skirt!’ I’ve always been a size 6 to 8 and this is me!!! I’m now 40 and only just loving myself and the way I look. Always under the impression I couldn’t dress a certain way…but I can!!!! And I love it!!!!!”

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Nicola, 25 – “When I was around 11-12 years old someone I went to school with called me ‘fatty Texas’ (as my t shirt said Texas on) when I was walking to the corner shop to get my nan some milk. I cried all the way back and have remembered that very vividly ever since.”

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Zoey, 27 – “Everything about that day is burned into my brain. Every now and then all of a sudden and out of nowhere “BANG” the entire event flashes before my eyes like an old weathered film! I could be asleep, driving, showering or enjoying the company of friends and then all of a sudden my mind is years in the past, palms are sweaty, short breathed & it’s almost like for that moment in time; everything turns into nothing and I become nothing too. That is trauma!! Unfortunately, there is no cure but to regain some type of self-love & respect then try to believe the opposite of everything I was ever put through, taught or heard. There was no point, none what so ever & that’s the saddest part of all.”

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Cacao Papow, 27 – “This was said to me by a ‘friend’ in front of other ‘friends’ when I was 16. Like a fool, I sat and smiled – I so regret that. I will always endeavour to rise above feelings of anger and hatred. I’m 27 now but, when I think back to that moment, I just feel like waste of space – a pointless blob. I doubt people understand the impact of their words.”

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Miss Florence Flounce, 28 – “I am a lover of all things vintage and pin-up. I sufferer with condition known as congenital haemangiomata. This is a medical condition which normally affects people in the form of birth marks or port wine stains on skin. I have a rare form of this blood vessel deformation whereby the problematic blood vessels are internal rather than on the surface of the skin. I spent a large amount of my childhood in Great Ormond Street Hospital and have had numerous operations to help me walk as well as I can today and to reduce the extent of the internal bleeding I continue to suffer with as a result of my condition. Growing up I spent a lot of time hobbling around in between stints on crutches and in a wheelchair. Throughout secondary school this was obviously tough. I was never in the “popular gang”. I threw myself into my studies and at school and university. In 2010 I graduated with a first in my masters degree and came top of my year group. In 2011 I then qualified as a pharmacist. Today in this job I am lucky enough to give back to others some of the amazing care that I have received myself over the years by Drs, nurses and pharmacists alike. Outside of work I now also run a blog with a good friend of mine Cacao Papow (papowandflo.wordpress.com). We are complete opposites and like to use the blog to show others that no matter your background, race, colour, size or disability…pinup and vintage style can make you feel beautiful. I am who I am now and I do what makes me happy. This year I have unfortunately spent a great deal of time in and out of hospital but my passion for vintage and pinup and my dedication to my job and our blog is something I get so much joy out of. In this picture I am holding up quotes of some of the names I have been called over the years. Today I can look at these names and laugh, because yes I do Limp…but I am an independent, beautiful, and successful woman! I OWN my condition and if I want to refer to myself as special then so be it, anybody else however…how dare they! I am one in a million. I may not be what society classes as physically perfect but I am me and I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

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Jane – “I was going to write about my abusive relationship which began in 2004. Then I was dragging out my Christmas decorations and found an old sketchbook from art college. This relationship was my first serious one and so toxic I honestly believe it has molded my way of thinking for years after. I met *Dave when I 17 and working part time as a waitress in the local hotel. I was taken with him immediately, very handsome and very charming. We dated over the summer, he was very image obsessed and told me he liked me slim and blonde. I am already blonde and whenever we were out he would point out girls slimmer than me ‘You would look so much sexier like that” he would tell me. I was 5 foot 5 and 10 stone. Healthy I thought as I’m quite muscly. Then he used to weigh me at his house’just for fun’ and used to treat me when I lost weight. My friends could see what what was happening but I was oblivious and falling in love. Once the summer ended he went back to uni up north. I really missed him but he still wanted updates on how my weight was. I’d been out on a birthday meal and had a 2 course meal. ‘You’re useless!!!!’ How was he supposed to love me when I abused my body, made myself fat. He said he would be the laughing stock of all his mates with a fat useless moose of a girlfriend. This was his coined phrase. He was always sponging off me when I visited him always ended up paying. When I said I couldn’t afford to visit him I was verbally abused again. At college I was studying fashion and fine art so naturally I was always researching fashion shows and exposed to skinny models (this was late 90’s early 2000’s so skinny and Sex and the City was in). I found a way to release my frustration and sadness through art as I’d dropped 2 stone and become incredibly skinny and felt faint all the time. I’d skip breakfast, lunch and survive on diet coke and coffee. I’d eat at home so I wouldn’t get hassle from my parents. I’ve included the picture I painted after I’d gone to his uni to surprise him and he was too busy in his flatmates room rattling her. It represents the emotional bruising and heartache of the deception. Over the next few months I was heartbroken, suffering from emotional stress and need to learn to love food and myself again. Art and crafts gave me an outlet for my hurt but I could also lose myself in a portrait or some sewing and give me space to heal. Even now I find my self apologising if I think I have been ‘useless’ but it’s few and far between when I do it. These days I say to myself sod him, I’m bloody awesome. Heavier than I was but hey, I’ve got a cracking set of knockers!!”

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Georgia, 20 – “My friend said this to me when I asked why one of her other friends wouldn’t speak to me when we were 15. I always think of this as the start of my spiral into anorexia.”

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Nikola (@nikola_noelle), 18 – “I value my presence on the Internet. So far it has been positive and it’s a good way to keep in touch with my family and friends. But over the past week I experienced the unpleasant side of social media. One day I logged onto Instagram. One of my favourite Instagram accounts had two people bullying her. So I did my duty and blocked and reported them. But one of them was still being rude. Out of curiosity I asked him why he was doing that. He responded with anger and he was bullying myself and others. Next thing I know, a picture of me (I was in a baggy sweater, sweatpants with no makeup on. And it was at night when I finished hunting.) is on his profile with this quote as his caption; “WANTED! Watch out!! She has belly rolls and she’s not afraid to use them, she’s about two ft tall with a double chin. If you see her please call 555-2345-ANIMAL SHELTER.” I don’t know what this guy was thinking. I could barely think myself. My body wouldn’t stop shaking and sweating. But then it got me all fired up. This guy doesn’t even know me! This guy needs to pipe down. So I took action and posted that picture and told my followers to go report and block him for bullying and harassment. And people that I know, and didn’t know, had some powerful responses for him, and even left some for me. Random people were liking my pictures, saying that I was gorgeous and also saying don’t listen to him. And those people gave me hope for the world. When we band together, we can stop bullying and harassment from getting worse. Bullying is abuse. It hurts. It can affect the rest of someone’s life. It can end up being the result of something fatal. Let’s stop it, shall we?”

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Miss Mozzy Dee (@missmozzydee http://www.facebook.com/MissMozzyDee) – “There are a lot of hateful people out there, and for what reason? I just don’t know. I have had my share of bullies, and I know how it feels to be shamed and ridiculed on my looks, goals, and accomplishments. Even my personal life has been criticized even when the other party doesn’t know what is going on or the truth behind my actions. The damage is sometimes irreconcilable, but the experience is what has made me who I am today. I have come out of hate and shame by others, scarred but not beaten. I have learned valuable lessons through them, and had I not known what kind of people these hate-mongerers are, they would still be in my life today, and I would’ve suffered even more. I am blessed with my friends and family who have stuck behind me through these times, and I’m thankful that toxic people are out of my life for good. I still don’t understand why they say all these bad things about me, why I’m the one who deserved such treatment…But you know what? I don’t want to know…”

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Spooky Fat Babe (@spookyfatbabe http://www.donutsanddissent.com) – “I spent a lot of my dating life being the secret girlfriend. In private, my boyfriends were loving, attentive, perfect. In public, they pretended I didn’t exist. They were ashamed to be seen in public with my fat body, my weird hair, my drawn-on eyebrows. They were ashamed of my bluntness, my vegetarianism…they were ashamed of me. Some of them even made fun of me with their friends behind my back. And that made me ashamed of me, too. I let them get away with it, I went along with it, just feeling lucky to be in their company. It was pathetic. I won’t be invisible anymore. I won’t let myself be pushed aside, because I know now that my body and I are glorious, and that I’m deserving of real love, not just the secret, shut away kind. If you’re too embarrassed of the way I look to want to be my friend or lover publicly, you don’t deserve even a second of my time. I wish I would’ve learned this sooner.”

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Sarah – “From the Mother of the Golden Hearted Bully. The circle of life, the top of the pyramid, the leader of the pack, the pecking order or taking your place in society. However you spin it it doesn’t matter. Its life. There is said to be a natural order of things. In this story I’m hoping to find an end to this seemingly unbreakable cycle. At 3 years old my son was diagnosed as Autistic. High functioning low spectrum autistic. He wasn’t shy or withdrawn but the opposite. He was an entertainer to the classroom, a comedian and in every teachers words a pure joy with a great sense of humor. He laughed and smiled, his art work was always brilliantly colorful, his happiness was absolutely contagious. Through Kindergarten, first and into second grade this refreshing ball of energy bounded through every day sharing himself with the world. He had his moments like every young boy his age and then some and they were only made more intense by his inability to transition, understand empathy and absorb immediate direction. He needed processing time. Time for instructions to be thought through. He needed to be heard out to his very last thought before he could move forward. He had a hard time having the patience to return the favor. Sometimes that was hard for kids his age to understand. With the help of teachers kids were patient for the most part. They all loved my boy. As second grade moves on the spotlight shifts. By the Third grade kids were more irritated with him than amused. They started laughing at him instead of with him. His differences socially were starting to be clear. It was a pretty sudden shift for him to swallow. By the end of third grade he was bullied, beat-up and belittled. That spirit that had always been bright was slightly dimming. He would laugh at them as they mocked his speech, smile and held back tears as they picked apart the remaining confidence he had. He even forgave minutes after he was punched, pushed and kicked and talked away from telling an adult with the promise of friendship that never came. I told my son, my incredibly strong caring unbreakable son, to get out of the situation if at all possible. If it was not possible that it was okay to protect himself. Against many people I told my son to stand tall and be proud of who he was. Not to cower and let yourself be abused. After a few times of being called into the principals office the tables were starting to turn. He was always the common problem on the school yard. Id show them bruising, softball sized lumps on his shins and spine- “It’s just him being competitive on the playground playing soccer at recess”. My parents were never instructed to send me to school with protective armor to play at recess…by the time fourth grade started all kids had settled into their own groups. My son seemed to not fit into any of them. He was autistic. No one seemed to understand what that meant. Not the unit, not the kids….He was thrown down during recess and kicked by three boys.They proceeded to lift him, hold him and thrust their knee into his groin. It wasn’t until two days later that I was told about this. Not by the school but by my boy. We had to go to the ER which only humiliated him further. They had kicked him so hard he was severely swollen and couldn’t go to the bathroom. It was said by the school and the other kids involved that it was an accident and must have happened when they fell into a pig pile going for the ball. There were many situations that arose over the course of this year and all with a fitting excuse. Towards the end it even started to lean towards the guilt being placed on my sons shoulders…Keep in mind this is a school with the most renowned special needs program in the area. Yet the special needs student was being suspended while the “other” kid was not…no parents were even contacted to my knowledge. When I asked for email contact information I was told it wasn’t available. His love for school and entertaining his peers had turned into an almost hatred if not fear. After bruised kidneys and a broken heart I noticed something else change. That bright spirit was angry. His embarrassment turned to sadness turned to fear turned to solid anger. Once a victim now fed up. He had one friend in the world but he couldn’t be there all the time. I came to class unexpectedly and saw my sons desk removed from the entire class. he was alone- discarded. The summer between 4th and 5th grade was a busy one. When he returned that one life line of a friend had traded him in for the biggest enemy of all. After years of being the punching bag-he punched back…and quite literally. He was suspended on the spot. Now let me put it out there that no one else over the last 6 years has been sent home let alone been suspended after an altercation involving the many situations my son has endured. Not even after broken ribs. When he reported it I was told that there was no boy by that name that attended his school. Funny thing is I know otherwise. He was a neighbor from our previous home that had always bullied my son. He is in the same grade and has been in the same class. Nothing was ever done. Now he was publicly alone. That’s the worst kind. The kind where your all alone, in the loneliest place on earth in front of everyone. Sitting at your lunch table getting chips dumped on your head or your lunch smashed in your lunch box while people laugh. You have more than hunger pains in your stomach as well as deep sharp pains in your chest and heart accompanied by tears welling in your eyes. Please don’t let them fall. I showed up the next day alongside the lunchroom after catching wind of the treatment that was taking place. A smile spread ear to ear on my sons face when he saw me. He ran and grabbed my hands then proceeded to wrap his arms around me in the middle of the school cafeteria. He knew why I was there. He knows I will always be there. He was no longer afraid. Should a Mother have to come to school lunches and recess to protect her child…especially in a school with an amazing special needs program????? Now 5th Grade is in full swing and he has been painted as the instigator, the troublemaker, the bully. How long can you be a victim? When a child, especially a special needs child in a special needs school, is not listened to when they ask for help what else are they to do??We tell them to not take matters into their own hands, to tell an adult. To NOT accept bullying…but then when the same child does as they are told and reports the alleged bullying we then turn a deaf ear if its repetitive. Do we not consider the same people fall victim??? We are leaving that little voice to think its just that…a little voice. It’s a HUGE voice! One that should be heard loud and clear! We preach anti-bully but we aren’t taking the time to act on it. We as adults are giving those little voices the need to become the bully just to survive. We are, by ignoring, creating that bully we so proudly rant and rave about stopping. IT TAKES ACTION! So from the Mother of the Bully, Made by Bullies, with the golden heart- Do something before our made bullies continue the cycle instead of breaking it. Help this Mom help her son become not a victim- not a bully- not that weird kid- but himself minus the bruises. Learn and teach your own and yourself about peoples differences in perceptions, learning, empathy, emotion, hair color, skin color, bank accounts, speech impediments, eye sight, shoes…the list in limitless. We are all different we all FEAR different. Lets learn about our differences so we all can not just become someone better but become someone greater. Become the influence our children need because they find that in us. What is it we are teaching them ? USE OUR ACTIONS NOT OUR WORDS! -The Mom”

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And finally me…

Jo, 32 – “I struggled to think of something to use for this feature as I had lots of examples to choose from. Did I include something from my childhood bullying? Or did I include an example of experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse? Should I use something from experiencing office bullying? Or how about I use an example of someone I consider a friend making snide comments about my weight? I decided to go with an example of something I experienced online as this happened recently (and in relation to this blog feature actually when I put a request out for participants). Someone referred to my blog features as ‘pseudo tosh’ which loosely translates as ‘load of rubbish’. This insulted me because the definition of pseudo can translate as ‘not genuine’ and ‘false’ as well as ‘fake’ and ‘insincere’. Was this person insinuating that my blog features (and all the brave and inspiring women in them) were not ‘genuine’? Whilst everyone is entitled to their opinion (whether it is valid or not) his choice of words had an impact. 100 women could tell me that what I do is inspiring and helps them. But his one comment and misjudged opinion was a slap in the face, it niggled me all day, it was like an annoying wasp, constantly buzzing around me, that stung me. Me and the girls in my blog features have a voice that deserves to be heard to help others and to put a stop to bullying in all forms by sharing our examples and experiences. Should we not do so for ‘fear’ of someone ripping us to shreds? If someone does not have anything nice to say, they should not say anything at all! I was brought up to respect people and his comment was rude, hurtful and uncalled for especially as he was a follower on my Facebook (until I blocked him as I will not allow any negativity in my little part sanctuary of positivity). This is a message to all cyber trolls and online bullies – why follow someone if you don’t like what they do? Why resort to being rude? Do you get a kick out of being nasty for the sake of it? Do you get a thrill from being a cyber troll? How many other people who you follow have you openly insulted and slated when you have no reason to? Are you that miserable in your own life you have to resort to online bullying? I feel truly sorry for you. Doing what I do online has brought me to meet some truly inspiring and motivating people. But it just goes to show that words of any kind when they are insulting and rude can have an impact. Should I doubt myself because of one person and their comment? Should the girls in my features remain silent over the things that they have experienced because someone feels it is their right to refer to it as ‘pseudo tosh’ when these girls have been so brave to share their experience? NO! We have remained silent for too long. We have crept on eggshells for fear of what people might do or say throughout our lives whether that be at school, at home, in a relationship or in a working environment. How pathetic that we have to ‘worry’ about being targeted online. We have prevented ourselves from living the life we choose because of other people and their opinions. Isn’t it funny how one person and their opinion can have the impact to make you doubt yourself and all you stand for? Isn’t it awful how one person and their opinion can knock your confidence and have an impact on your day? This is a reminder that your words can be hurtful, they can have such an impact on somebody, way more than you might imagine – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Always be kind, always be positive, treat people with respect and compassion – you never know what someone is going through, you never know how ‘close to the edge’ someone might be…negativity breeds negativity. End the cycle now…”

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Pin-Up’s Against Bullying

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I am excited and honoured to be a part of something amazing. I am going to be involved with Pin-up’s Against Bullying and I am “Global ambassador for Pin-up’s Against Bullying and England Chapter Advocate”.

Pin-up’s Against Bullying was founded by Mrs “T” Marie. The mission of Pin-up’s Against Bullying is simple – to help raise awareness, through a variety of social media connections, that bullying is wrong and will not be tolerated.

As you know, I am a firm believer of promoting body confidence and body positivity and encourage others to love their body and be proud of who they are. I do not agree with any form of body shaming whether that is #fatshaming or #skinnyshaming. Everyone deserves to feel loved and everyone deserves to feel beautiful!

Pin-Up’s Against Bullying educates, offers advice and support relating to all bullying, body shaming and other negative ideals society has enforced. They are a fabulous support network to those who need it.

Pin-Up’s Against Bullying firmly believe that together, through positive thoughts, words, actions and behaviours we can make a substantial impact against bullying.

You can find Pin-Up’s Against Bullying on Instagram by searching the hashtag #pinupsagainstbullying

http://www.pinupsagainstbullying.com/
https://www.facebook.com/PinupsAgainstBullying

Keeping up with the vintage whilst on vacation!

 

I have just got back from a fabulous vacation with my husband and whilst I was there I was able to keep up with the vintage hair, makeup and outfits by using a few simple tricks and tools which didn’t take up a lot of room in the suitcase!

Leopard print is something I am a fan of and has a real 1950s kinda vibe to it. For my “travel outfit” I wore a leopard print top with some cropped jeans and leopard print ballet pumps. I wore my hair in a simple 1950s quiff which only took five minutes to do which is great when you are up at 3am to get to the airport!

I took my Vivien of Holloway dress with me minus the petticoat as that would have really taken up room in the suitcase. I wore this dress with a pair of black peep toe ballet shoes. I put a side parting in my hair and twisted the sides and secured with bobby pins to create “quiffs” on each side of my parting.

For during the day, one look I easily achieved was faux Bettie Bangs where I used a donut ring that I had cut in half and rolled the front section of my hair around it, securing in place with standard size bobby pins and large bobby pins. I then tied my hair in a messy bun at the back and finished the look with my leopard print headscarf and my Marilyn Monroe style shades!

For the beach I wore a emerald green swimsuit which I bought online. I quiffed the front of my hair and tied it up at the back to keep the sea and sand out of my hair! I also bought a blue polka dot swimsuit from Amazon and it looks great when you team it with vintage hair and big shades. It has a great pinup look to it!

Scunci Foam Rollers are great to take in your suitcase as they as squishy and do not take up a lot of room. I also took my Lottabody Setting Lotion and one afternoon I put my hair in rollers and then secured with a headscarf.

After sleeping in the rollers, the next day I teased them with Murrays Pomade and finished the look with hairspray. Despite the heat and humidity this look lasted all day!

A simple black vest top and a patterned skirt teamed with ballet pumps and a wide belt is a classic vintage look that helps to keep you cool!

As you know, I am a firm believer of body confidence and body positivity and I was so happy to see that pretty much everyone of all shapes and sizes were rocking the body confidence on the beach. Nobody cared, stared or batted an eyelid at other people, they were all just happy to enjoy time with friends, family, soak up the sun, play in the waves and make memories!

My hair is very thick and heavy and I often have to have layers cut into it. To keep the thickness down, I have to straighten my hair which also manages to keep it looking smooth and tames the frizzyness and flyaways. I didn’t take my hair straighteners and only washed it once whilst I was away so by the end of the week, my hair was feeling a bit like “cotton wool”. But one easy way to combat this whilst managing to look classy was backcombing a front section into a big quiff, putting my hair in a messy bun and pinning into place, then finishing the look with a polka dot headscarf.

Red nails, red lips, big earrings and Marilyn Monroe shades are always a winner too and of course, these don’t take up any room in your case!

I bought a blue halterneck dress from a market stall in Portugal and I love it. The colours are gorgeous, the style and cut is flattering, it is great for the beach and keeps you cool whilst looking fabulous!

I had a fabulous time in Portugal, it is one of my favourite places and I was able to keep up with my vintage attire very easily by just using the tips and tricks above. I often mix and match my outfits (wearing them more than once) so that you don’t end up taking too many clothes!

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Love Liberty and Lip Gloss radio interview

My friend John Ricciuti of Radnor Studio 21 put me in touch with Daria Anne and Lisa Tarves of Writestream Radio Network who host a show in America every Thursday called “Love Liberty and Lip Gloss”.

I was lucky enough to be featured on their show where I was chatting about vintage glamour, vintage events and my blog feature “Together we are body confident”.

The link to the show can be found here – http://writestreamradio.com/2015/08/07/love-liberty-lip-gloss-british-chick-and-vintage-blogger-miss-evelyn-jo/

You can listen to the interview here –