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How Modeling Is Helping Me to Recover From Self-Harm

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

I’ve always had an interest in modeling and loved the idea of becoming a model. However, I’ve struggled with self-harm since the age of 12 — my body has many noticeable scars, and frequently had recent injuries on it. So, despite my interest, I never pursued modeling as I believed my body was “too ugly” due to my scars.

Back in March, one of my dad’s friends asked if I’d like to model body paint for a festival, and in a moment of impulsivity, I agreed. This means only wearing underwear and nipple covers, and then having your body covered in paint. So, essentially, exposing my scars to a room full of painters and models. I still don’t know why I agreed; I was so nervous for the paint, and probably would have dropped out if people weren’t relying on me.

I was terrified when I dropped my clothes for the first time to reveal a multitude of scars, but my artist and everyone else in the room treated me no differently despite the obvious evidence of my mental illness. I am still so grateful to everyone there who treated me with kindness and respect. Since then, I have fallen in love with modeling and model body paint at any available opportunity.

I have yet to encounter an artist who has an issue with painting me due to my self-harm, and whilst I’m no longer ashamed of my scars, it’s nice to see my body without them occasionally. The art covering me reminds me how beautiful the human form is and restores my conviction to recovery. I have come to realize all bodies are beautiful — many of the models I’ve met have stretch marks, saggy skin, “chubby bits” and more besides. They all look beautiful, both with and without paint, and I am starting to realize that I do too.

Feeling so welcomed into the body paint and modeling communities has helped me to realize my scars don’t define me unless I let them — a hugely important lesson for anyone who has struggled with self-harm. The community is completely non-judgmental, and we all build each other up and grow together. I am proud to be steadfast in my recovery for the first time in seven years, and I don’t believe this would have been possible without my modeling.

Lead photo via contributor/Clive Thompson Photography

Originally published: November 2, 2018
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