If you heard that an anonymous insult to your body had been spray-painted in a public place, your first instinct might not be to pose with it in front of the entire Internet. But, that’s exactly what 14-year-old Carleigh O’Connell did when friends informed her that someone had graffitied a reference to her butt on a cement barrier near her home in Wall, NJ.
Thanks to the unusual spelling of her name and past remarks peers have made about her body, O'Connell knew that the words were meant for her. But, instead of locking herself in her bedroom and turning up her moodiest music, Carleigh threw on a bathing suit and headed to the beach to find the graffiti. Then, she posed for a smiling portrait next to it, with her “offending” body part proudly on display. Carleigh posted the photo to Instagram, but it wasn't until her mother shared it on Facebook that the image truly started making Internet waves.
“This one is hard for me, but I feel it necessary,” Carleigh's mother, Daryl, wrote. “My daughter heard that her ‘rear end’…was made fun of on a big rock on the beach… 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.”
“So, for me as the mom…I type this with tears in my eyes,” she continues. “Tears of joy knowing that my daughter can face negativity with a smile and sense of humor… No perfect report card, high test score, athletic race, or award could top the pride I have today.”
Daryl isn’t the only one inspired by her daughter. In the past two days, Carleigh's photo has been shared over 1,000 times. “I wish, that at my absolute best physical moment, I'd had the same respect and love for myself that Carleigh has,” one commenter wrote. It can be hard enough to deal with our own negative self-talk, let alone body-shaming from others, but Carleigh's response — without anger or sadness but with levity and grace — shows that her opinion of herself is the only one that matters.