I started my body positivity lifestyle after being mis-diagnosed for 7 years. I collapsed in December 2017 and was rushed to hospital after going temporarily blind and my parents being told I wasn’t going to make it. I also had sepsis and kidney failure. I was left with a scar the whole way down my stomach and a stoma bag. My line of profession is still modelling but it was also dancing at the time. I trained at a full-time dance school and that industry is very looks orientated so for me, I felt my life was over and it wasn’t until half a year or later I realised I have the power to break a stigma in these industries when it comes to bodies.
When it came to building up my confidence again, it was things like the law of attraction that really helped me with this. Affirmations everyday, my favourites are “I am beautiful”, “I am strong” and “I am capable of anything I want to achieve”. I began to be grateful about things a lot more. I’m grateful for the scar on my tummy, because without it I wouldn’t be alive. Grateful for the fact I had a stoma, because again, she saved my life and she humbled me. My stoma made me a better person and made me realise so much about life. It was like it helped awaken me.
Honestly I really did have to learn to love myself again. I actually hated myself so much leading up to my diagnosis and afterwords for a bit because firstly, leading up to my diagnosis I was so skinny. I was tiny, I hated the way I looked, I covered up in baggy clothes always. I also have to admit I was one of those girls at times who if I had problems with another girl I would be a bitch to them, you know like proper old school cheerleader shit. I know now it was because I hadn’t gone through a spiritual awakening. I had a lot of my own self-hate towards myself and I was just bitter because my life seemed unfair. I am not regretful of her though, because I needed to go through that stage in my life in order to learn who I was destined to become. I also had a toxic relationship when I had the stoma and had it planted in my head that the stoma was disgusting and nobody would ever want me. This has caused me to have a lot of mental health issued and even being referred to a women’s centre for emotional and/or physical abuse. If I knew then what I knew now, and if I was in the mental space I am today, I would’ve just left straight away. I know that I am worthy and special and anyone would be lucky to have me. I used to hate the face I tolerated it but now as part of learning to love myself again, without that abuse I wouldn’t be who I am today and I would have never met the amazing IBD community. I wouldn’t have had a push to change the way that scars, stomas and body imperfections have a toxic stigma attached.
Going from not knowing what was wrong with me but having a clear tummy and honestly my stomach was always something I had been proud of, to having a massive scar to which at the start I was convinced it was like Freddy Kruger had hacked at me. It was really a huge mental impact. In all honesty, I accepted my stoma way before my scar. My scar and me had a really hard relationship for a very long time. I hated it. I was diagnosed with PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. I really struggled mentally. My anxiety has got so much worse and I have blips of real positive moods to such low moods. I am so drained I don’t speak to anybody and I don’t do anything, including simple things like having a shower.
In order to learn to love myself again, I had to take time out. I ghosted. I came off social media, I made sure without fail I got up, I wrote 10 things I’m grateful for and 10 I am’s. I then made sure every night before bed I wrote one positive thing that happened to me that day no matter how big or small. I was also very selective on who I associated with. Trust me when I say, if you’re around toxic energy it becomes you. I began going to the gym 5 days a week, really working on myself, for me. I started to read more, sit in the park by myself and read books. And of course, what most girls do after a breakdown – I got my hair colour changed. The whole thing, it was honestly so refreshing and I began to feel like I had control of my life again.
A piece of advise I would give to anybody struggling with their body image right now would be, don’t be so hard on yourself. I love the story of the tortoise and the hare and I always compare self-love to it. If you take your time and really go through those painful traumas and acknowledge things you need to acknowledge, things are going to heal for you. Don’t rush anything, don’t avoid obstacles or truths on the way up as it will only send you back to stage one again. Please do not compare yourself to celebrities or social media influencers because they edit their photos, they pose in angles to enhance their looks, it’s not all glam for them. Instagram is a façade and you can be whoever you want to be on there without the world knowing the real you. A lot of these influencers suffer from their own mental health and insecurities because they feel they need to keep up a certain look to impress others. YOU are the only person you should be impressing, nobody else. The most important thing of all is YOU ARE ALIVE. Always be grateful for your life, there are so many people who would love to have our problems and worries in exchange for being able to be alive.
Natalie created the selflovebynatalieamber project and a whole body confidence movement. She actively works hard to create and take part in projects to boost body confidence, acceptance and self love. If you’ve like to take a look at Natalie’s work you can find her on Instagram at @natalie_amber1 and @selflovebynatalieamber.