Kids can be cruel. It's sad but true: Teasing and bullying have become a twisted rite of passage for many adolescents, and thanks to social media, that humiliation can now spread like wildfire with the click of a mouse or a swipe of a touchpad.
While some bullying victims may favor self-imposed isolation and renounce the Internet in the wake of a scandal, others, like Carleigh O'Connell, face it head on, transforming it into a moment of empowerment and example for anyone who's experienced similar victimization.
Image Credit: Facebook
O'Connell, a 14-year-old from New Jersey, recently discovered that someone had spray-painted a rock at a local beach with the phrase "Carleigh's ass," a crude commentary on the size of her behind. Instead of letting the pathetic body-shaming attempt get her down, she owned it. The teen found the rock and posed atop the scrawl in her bikini, her rear end turned toward the camera — and smiling.
O'Connell first posted the photo to her Instagram account, and her mother subsequently shared it via Facebook with this message:
She decided that she was going to be stronger than hurtful words on the concrete and that she was going to be proud of her figure. She also told me that she feels complete sympathy for the teenagers across the country who face this everyday. She understands and wants all of them to find strength inside to rise above the nastiness and be empowered by who you are, how you are made and what is in your heart.
Not surprisingly, O'Connell's image and story have gone viral, as a sort of anthem for teens — or anyone of any age, for that matter — who encounter body-shaming antics.
"I gave it some thought and realized it wasn't that big of a deal to me," she told BuzzFeed. "I didn't give them the power they wanted. I wanted to show whoever wrote this that I was better than that."
Indeed, O'Connell wrested control from her graffiti-loving peers, replete with a body-positive message.
"I didn't know I could look something in the face like that and conquer it," she told TODAY. "The biggest message I want to get across is just to be strong, and that anyone who is experiencing bullying and anything like that, that they're not alone and there's people there for them — and I'm one of them."
Body-shaming unfortunately doesn't end when adolescence ends. Product marketers, for example, have made a killing by shaming women, not to mention Hollywood and even online dating sites. One way to put an end to it? Follow this brave teen's lead and turn the body-shaming power structure on its head.
Kudos to Carleigh. She really gives new meaning to the phrase "turn the other cheek."