Working on the telly I’m no stranger to people telling me how I should look. More this, more that, be thinner, be taller, wear less make-up, have darker hair, lighter hair – the list goes on. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a wee devil on my shoulder saying: “Oh you don’t look your best today, do you.”
However, if I read every social media comment, I would probably go crackers! I did read them once, when I modelled for Michelle Mone during her Real Women campaign. Yes 5ft 4in size 16s can model too. I loved the experience but that was my first, and probably worst, experience of trolling and social media hate.
I promised myself I’d never let it bother me because its just farcical. I thought about it and realised that for me to take offence to a comment made by another person, I’d have to care about that person’s opinion. And why should I be interested in the opinion of somebody that I don’t even know? They don’t know I’m a good person with a kind heart and that, surely, is what matters most?
I appreciate I’m not the only one who’s being filmed, photographed and judged by how I look. We all are. So, I’m not surprised that our 15-year-old girls are the fourth most dissatisfied out of 49 countries in a recent happiness index. It makes me so sad to hear that UK girls suffer high rates of bullying, eating disorders and anxiety – ALL linked to pressure on social media.
Our youngsters have so much judgement to deal with today that it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that their health, mental health and wellbeing are beginning to suffer.
However, we can do something to help. If you’re reading this and you’re a media-savvy butterfly, don’t take the comments to heart and here is why. You are you. You are allowed to be happy and you are allowed to be yourself.
If I could go back to the 15-year-old me, I’d tell myself not to worry about what others thought and just enjoy life. Even at school I was a size 14/16. I didn’t have post-pregnancy stretch-marks or a hairy belly then (that’s just age that’s done that) but I’ve always been what people refers to as “curvy”.
I don’t listen to people when they pigeonhole me because as long as I’m happy, my family are happy and healthy and I have the basics that a human needs to survive (with a few added extras like wine and Chinese food) then what the hell does it matter how big my bum is? Who I am as a person and how I treat people is what defines me, not my dress size. We can all support our younger generation and I think it’s needed now more than ever, to remind them that the internet is a shielded platform for people to say things that they wouldn’t normally say out loud and to your face.
I’m really not OK with bullying teenagers online for their appearance, especially the girls who are judged as much, if not more than their male peers. I won’t lie, it has been hinted to me that I’d earn more money and be more successful on TV if I was slimmer but I’m my size, I always have been and I’m a good person. I also believe good things happen to good people.
So young ladies (and boys) I leave you with a task. I defy anyone to look at the American size 18 supermodel Ashley Graham and not say wow! She’s amazingly confident and happy and, yes, she has back fat and her thighs touch! Hallelujah.
Google the Tedx talk she did on body confidence, it’s awe inspiring. If we all had a little bit of the Ashley Grahams in us, the world would be a better place and most importantly of all, that figure I told you about at the start of this article, the one about how unhappy our teenage girls are due to online image anxiety, it would be much smaller. That, for me, is the only number that we should be worrying about. Not dress size.
Hayley Matthews is a presenter on STV2