by Carleigh O’Connell

Carleigh O'ConnellSome of you may have heard my story, I was the target of hurtful graffiti on a huge rock last summer down at my local beach. The graffiti made fun of my figure. But, instead of pretending like it wasn’t there, I decided to handle it in my own way. I posed for a picture on top of the rock, next to what was written about me. I posted it on Instagram and my mother posted it on Facebook. Nothing could have prepared me for what came next, the story went viral. I received thousands of supporting messages from all over the world. I never anticipated that my story would have such an impact, and was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Many wonderful things have happened to me since I took my stand. I became a guest blogger for AMightyGirl.com and us.Reachout.com. I have been a contributing writer for Today.com and I am currently an active Youth Ambassador for Bystanderrevolution.org. I am very proud and excited to have been nominated and accepted through Bystander Revolution to We Day. We Day is a global conference that is “Youth coming together to make the world a better place is the global movement for our time – We Day is this movement.” At We Day, you do not buy a ticket…it is earned! I am very excited and honored to be among such company and it is wonderful to be a part of organizations that help guide and support teens though many issues and situations. It is through these organizations that I find comfort and a voice through writing, blogging and daily strength from the positive messages that I receive, and I am honored to be part of them.  Standing Up for Yourself

It is through embracing this negative situation that my mother and I were able to create a positive one, and have recently developed and co-authored a children’s book entitled Everybody “Every Body.” It teaches young hearts and minds to accept and be kind to each other. My mother is an author of children’s books and we decided that bringing positive messages of acceptance to young children was a perfect way to continue my story and support others. We are very proud of this book and plan to have it released soon. My favorite quote is from the late, great Maya Angelou. “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

Please remember that body shaming is not gender specific. It happens to boys also. I plan to continue sharing my positive message. We cannot control the behavior or actions of others, but we can control how we respond to it.

Everybody "Every Body"

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4/12/2016 Editor’s Note:  The book that Carleigh co-authored with her Mom, Daryl Lynn O’Connell will soon be available in hardcover.  Pre-order here.