This woman's powerful 'before and after' photos crush myths about body positivity.

Michelle Elman, a body positivity coach, helps people who are struggling to find confidence in their own skin.

After persevering through numerous medical conditions and surgeries in her own life, Elman realized a few years ago that body positivity wasn't just about size or weight. Things like scars, birthmarks, and anything else that makes us feel different of self-conscious have to be a part of the conversation, and she tries to make the movement accessible to everyone.

Sharing her own journey has been one of her most effective teaching tools.


In May, she shared a post on Instagram of herself trying on a dress she bought five years ago in order to prove a powerful point.

In the first photo, from 2012 — when she was a size 12, she says — she's wearing a size 14 dress. In the new photo, she's wearing the same dress, though she says she normally wears a size 20.

The dress still fit.

NUMBERS DON'T MEAN ANYTHING. I found a dress in my cupboard the other day that I had since I was in sixth form. The dress is a size 14. I bought it 5 years ago when I was a size 12. Now, I'm a size 20. And yet, I still fit it. Which just proves that NUMBERS DON'T MEAN ANYTHING. So are you really going to let a change a dress size dictate your day? Are you really going to let an increase in a number affect your mood? Same dress. Still comfortable. Still beautiful. (In fact, I think I look better and happier now!) A higher dress size doesn't mean: - you are less beautiful - you are less worthy - you are less lovable - you are a worse human - you are a bad person - you are a different person AND it doesn't even mean you have a bigger body. You could go up a dress size by simply changing stores... (or countries). You can change dress sizes because of the time of the day or simply due to whether you are on your period or not. If you look at your cupboard and you find it harder and harder to find something to wear because of a change in clothing size, I have a great solution for you... throw out all clothes that don't fit. Looking at your wardrobe shouldn't be something that makes you feel insecure and sad so make sure everything in your wardrobe fits! Numbers don't matter. Not the number on the back of your jeans, on the scale or even the number in your bank account. You are not a number. #OneTakeBeauty #BodyPositivity EDIT: For anyone saying I'm lying about my size. Check my stories

A post shared by Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared) on

"NUMBERS DON'T MEAN ANYTHING," she wrote in the post. "So are you really going to let a change [in] dress size dictate your day? Are you really going to let an increase in a number affect your mood?"

"A higher dress size doesn't mean: — you are less beautiful — you are less worthy — you are less lovable — you are a worse human — you are a bad person — you are a different person AND it doesn't even mean you have a bigger body."

The viral photo inspired thousands of people. While a huge majority of the comments were positive, there was still something bugging Elman about the response.

Not everyone was getting the right message.

"Since the creation of this account, I have always been told I'm beautiful 'for my size' and I never wanted to talk about it because I thought I was being pedantic but eventually decided to speak my mind about it," she says in an email.

She decided to create a follow-up post to set a few things straight about what body positivity really means.

In the second post, she took a different approach to the "before and after" shots we see so often on Instagram. People loved it.

Picking up on a few of the comments from yesterday's post. "You look good for a size 20" - This is not a compliment. It's like saying that an older woman looks good "for her age". Who says size 20 women can't look good? Who says older women can't look good? It's ALSO an insult to all my other size 20 babes. When you say I look good for a size 20, it usually means I look skinnier than a size 20 which still sends the message: thin = good, fat = bad. "You are lying, you aren't a size 20" - I am a U.K. Size 20. It is a fact that changes depending on which store but the majority of my clothes are size 20. That is a fact. This assumption that I'm lying is contingent on your perception of what a size 20 looks like. This perpetuates the idea that fat equals ugly or unattractive which is most definitely DOES NOT! "You distorted camera angles + edited it to look skinnier" - It was not a preprepared photo that I planned from 5 years ago so yes different angles but it's the only photo I had in the dress. The photo from 2012 had a filter because another person took that photo. The one from 2017 is not edited/filtered in anyway. These assumptions are based on the fact I have something to hide. NOT HIDING. Right here telling you my dress size. "You aren't even fat. You should stop invalidating the struggles of actual fat women and taking away from the movement" - I don't know what you deem as "actual fat" but both my weight + my dress size indicates I am. I use the word fat because it's not an insult. When you tell me I'm not allowed to use a word that describes me, when I experience the marginalisation of anyone in my size, that invalidates MY experience of being fat-bodied. In terms of taking away from the movement, you'll be hard pushed to find another mixed-race, not able-bodied, fat scarred woman talking about chronic illness and chronic pain and THAT representation matters. In summary, if people tell you they are a certain size, believe them. They are the ones picking out their clothes! You can be the same dress size + look bigger/smaller as shown in the two photos above! Whatever your size, you look good for your size 😉 #scarrednotscared #onetakebeauty

A post shared by Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared) on

In the caption, Elman addresses a couple of things well-meaning people got wrong about the message she was trying to spread. Some commenters said she looked "skinnier" in the 2017 photo which, though meant as a compliment, just reinforces that being skinny is somehow better.

Others said she wasn't fat enough, to which Elman could only scoff.

"If people tell you they are a certain size, believe them," she wrote.

"People think that body positivity is about trying to convince people that bigger bodies are attractive, either physically or sexually," she says.

But that's totally missing the point of what her work is all about.

"If you are still relating your love for your body to society's perception of beauty," she says, "then you are still reliant on someone else's opinion. Body positivity is about saying that you are more than a body and your self-worth is not reliant on your beauty."

Her second post is currently sitting at over 26,500 likes on Instagram — a clear sign that this is a message many of us desperately needed to hear.

Family

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular