Between models promoting weight-loss teas and waist trainers on Instagram to cyber bullies “body-shaming” users on Twitter, the pressure to uphold society’s standards of beauty on social media is one that has plagued the Internet for quite some time, perpetuating the notion that a slimmer figure equates to beauty and self-confidence.
To clap back at that ongoing stereotype, U.K. body positive advocate Olivia Callaghan (a.k.a @SelfLoveLiv) went viral last week when she posted a side-by- side image of herself wearing body shapeware. “Do you know how uncomfortable these things are 😂 breathing was not an option!” she wrote in the caption. Callaghan initially purchased the body shaping underwear with the hopes of wearing a bodycon dress but felt “tight” and “restricted” in the undergarment. “You are FABULOUS. You are FLAWLESS. You are BEAUTIFUL. Don’t let any fucker tell you otherwise. Love your damn self!” And as referenced in her Instagram handle, “self-love” is what she prides herself in.
Inspired largely by self-proclaimed fellow body positive “feminist and warrior,” Instagram’s @Bodyposipanda, the 24-year-old Birmingham native’s Instagram feed is a dedication to her recovery after years of battling bulimia and bipolar disorder. Through her empowering photos and personal anecdotes, SelfLoveLiv aims to eliminate the stigma around mental illness and shows us how body positivity starts with the mind.
her sweat. caught up with Callaghan to discuss her journey to self-love, the power of body positivity and how she aims to use her Instagram to encourage others battling their own struggles.
her sweat.: Congratulations on your two-year anniversary of being self-harm free! Talk to me about the last two years. What was the journey like up until now?
Thank you! It’s crazy to think I have reached two years! It has been a difficult road. Self-harm is not an easy thing to “quit.” Every time I get depressed I feel the urge to self-harm, but I realized over the last two years that self-harm wasn’t helping me. It was a temporary solution to my pain. Through therapy, ounseling and the support of family and friends, I reached two-years self-harm free!
How did you learn to accept and love your body? How did you build your confidence?
I learned to accept my body because I was tired of hating it. I’d spent years wishing to be thinner and prettier. I slowly realized that none of that mattered. The size of a person doesn’t matter! Beauty is skin deep. What matters is being a good person, helping others, being kind. I gained confidence through the people around me; friends and family who knew about my past with bulimia and did nothing but support and care for me.
What did you learn most about yourself during your journey?
During my journey, I think I discovered my strength and determination. I never felt “strong” through my illness, but throughout everything I persevered and kept going, and kept believing that I could recover. In a way, I miss the person I was before mental illness but I wouldn’t change who I am for the world.
What does body positivity mean to you?
Body positivity means getting up in the morning and getting dressed without feeling sick or ashamed. Body positivity means going out on a night out, and feeling alive and amazing and comfortable in my own skin, surrounded by others who are skinnier than me. Body positivity saved me, and I will continue to help others.
Recently discovered the incredible @soworthsaving and her fantabulous hashtag #BoycottTheBefore! I have been guilty of doing a before and after photo, hey I’m still learning! I discovered body positivity through @chooselifewarrior and @bodyposipanda and was in awe of these two women. Their strength, their courage, their kindness, their want to help others. I wanted to be like them. My before photos just show sadness. Not because I was ashamed or am ashamed of the person I was, but because during the photos I was so depressed. I feel so sorry for my before self. I just want to hug her! I don’t have a shocking before photo. I wasn’t dramatically under weight, and I feel slightly triggered by before photos personally! Now, I am happy. I am happier than ever. Sure, I still suffer severely with a mental illness. I’ll never be cured of bipolar disorder. My eating disorder still looms over me, and my self harm battle will always be a battle. But this is a fantastic hashtag, one I will always support. You are more than a before photo. You are strength and courage combined. You are fabulous. Here’s to recovery. Here’s to the after photos. Here’s to life!
You’re very open about your experiences and being body positive on Instagram. Why was it important for you to use Instagram to document and share your journey with the world?
I literally started my Instagram as a way to share my feelings and emotions to my friends. I only changed my name to @Selfloveliv in November because I realized I could help others rather than just myself. I became obsessed with @Bodyposipanda and her Instagram. She was the main reason I started my own.
How do you remain positive?
I naturally am a bubbly person, and am always making jokes and trying to make people laugh. I stay positive through the company I keep. My boyfriend is amazing and he’s so kind and considerate, and always does little things to make me feel better.
Is there a specific quote or song that helped you through your journey?
My favorite quote of all time is “be the change you want to see in the world.” I have it tattooed on my back, and it’s just a reminder to be good and kind and to make a difference. I will always try and live by the notion.
What’s your self-love routine like?
My self-love routine is basically do whatever makes me happy, whether that be a coloring book, a massive meal, or simply a few moments to meditate and reflect on the day.
What advice would you give other females who aren’t as confident as you but would like to live healthier lives?
Simply to surround yourself with positivity. Get rid of toxic people. Get rid of negativity. Get outside. Go for a walk, take in the air. Breathe.
In one of your recent IG posts, you discussed your tattoos. Have you thought of any ideas yet for your self-love tattoo? What are you thinking of getting?
I’d love to get a heart with “love yourself” inside. I’ll keep you posted!
What’s your overall mission?
My overall mission is to help as many people as I can. If I can get through to one young boy or girl, in their room, feeling so dow. If I can make them believe they are worthy of life, that they are beautiful and wonderful, I’ve done my job. I hope that people learn that it doesn’t matter what you weigh or what you look like, if you’re a good person, that’s all that matters. End of the day — kindness will always prevail.