With the weather finally warming up, people can't wait to hit the beach for some fun in the sun.
Swimsuit season has most of us looking at ourselves twice in the mirror. An extra stretch mark on your stomach or some overhang around your hips has some of us second guess whether or not we should be seen in public this way.
For one teen, a trip to the beach that many people look forward to, caused her serious anxiety.
“I get bullied a lot because of the way I look,” 13-year-old Paris Harvey, tells Yahoo Style. “I hadn’t been to the beach in ages because of the anxiety I feel when I go.”
“I got bullied in the past and after a while, you start to believe what people say. I became really insecure about how I looked,” said Paris. “I can be eating the same food as the next person but I gain weight. It’s not like I’m sitting at home all day eating crisps. But I felt like I shouldn’t have to explain myself.”
This trip to the beach was different, however. Paris decided that she wanted to face her biggest fear.
She how she responded to the bullies on the next page.
It was a hot day in Gillingham, a town outside of London England where Paris lives with her parents. She decided to put on the bathing suit her mom bought for her and take the train to meet her friend at Margate beach.
“When we got there, I initially had shorts over the bathing suit,” Paris explains. “I love swimming. As we went in and out of the water I decided to take the shorts off.”
Paris suffers from a metabolic condition, which means she gains weight quickly and struggles to lose it. She was also born with hip dyspepsia, so her left hip is 1.5 cm shorter than her right. She has already had over 8 reconstructive surgeries and she has pins in her joints which cause her to limp.
Often she is mocked because of her conditions, with people calling her fat and poking fun at her for "walking like a penguin".
“I walk with a limp, it’s hard for me to do things normal people do, but I always find ways to do them,” she says. “I like to tell people about it. The best thing I can do is raise awareness of this issue.”
After posting her beach picture to Twitter, her post has gone viral.
Omg so I faced my biggest fear today and went to the beach in a swimsuit☺️🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/eeSKUE581x— Paris #LookAtUsNow (@ArtHopeAlly) May 27, 2017
It's clear that her message resonated with a lot of people.
“I only see thin people posting beach selfies in a bikini. I think it’s nice to see something different,” she says. “I feel there’s a stigma against people who want to feel comfortable who are bigger. I thought if I covered myself up then people wouldn’t bully me.”
Paris enjoyed her day at the beach, and realized that no one was bullying her or mocking her body.
“People at the beach were minding their own business,” she says. “I should’ve done it a long time ago.”
“It’s important to embrace who you are and be free to love yourself. People growing up latch onto certain superficial things but you should look within yourself and let that define you,” Paris said.