Former model speaks out over living with condition that 'makes her look pregnant'
What with the prevalence of social media and advertising these days, it's very easy for people to become self-conscious about the way they look. We're constantly being told that we're too fat or too thin, too short or too tall, too glamorous or too plain - and, after a while, it really starts to take its toll.
Issues like this are especially difficult for people who have underlying health problems that affect the way they look.
Many individuals - younger people especially - suffer from skin conditions such as acne or eczema, while others may have to deal with issues such as hair loss or involuntary weight changes. But one woman, Sam Smalling, deals with a particularly difficult health problem: she looks pregnant.
Smalling, a former model, recently uploaded a picture of herself in a tight-fitting dress to Instagram. In the snap, she appears to have a swollen stomach - and any onlooker would probably assume she was pregnant. However, she captioned the pic: "Before you congratulate me, please read on," and went on to explain that her physique was actually down to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
"Before you congratulate me please know that although it looks like I'm six months into a pregnancy, it's actually just my IBS playing up at its worst," she wrote.
"It's taken some guts for me to post this but hopefully it's for a good cause and people won't be cruel. Instagram is so bad for making girls feel insecure, so many filters, editing and 'best angles'. Then we compare the images we see to our unedited real life and often feel like ?. So here's some reality for ya!"
Smalling then went on to explain that she has been suffering with the illness for most of her life, along with other health problems that worsen her condition:
"I've suffered with extreme bloating since I was 15. I was also diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 18 which is said to also contribute to IBS.
"If someone else had spoken out about something like this when I was younger (or even now) it would have made me feel that bit better in that situation. So if one person with an 'embarrassing' problem sees this and feels comforted by it then it will be worth it."
The former model then went on to cite some statistics, saying that about 20 per cent of people have IBS, and 10 per cent suffer from endometriosis - so there's no reason to be quiet about the condition.
"It's uncomfortable and sometimes painful but the worst part is I feel super unattractive," she said. "It affects the clothes I buy and wear because although I can breath in, I can't breath in [sic] 24/7."
"IBS is a b***h but I'm learning to accept it while I work out how to make it f@&k off for good," she said.
"So if you suffer from IBS or any other problem that causes your body to do embarrassing things just know you're not the only one. Everyone has their struggles even if they're not obvious to see on social media."
Finally, she rounded off with some excellent advice:
"Focus on your good bits, focus on your growth and as I've heard 'never compare your behind-the-scenes to other people's highlight reel'."
And she's totally right; just because other people might look a certain way, that doesn't mean that they're healthy or unhealthy - or even happy or unhappy. Everyone should stop worrying about how others look, and focus on being whatever makes them happy.