We’ve partnered with Simple who’ve teamed up with Little Mix to take a stand against online hate and bullying, wipe away unkind words and empower everyone to #ChooseKindness. We caught up with Little Mix about the campaign and their experiences with online hate.

DTL: Obviously, you guys get a lot of crap in the press about what you wear and your message, have you found the same online? 

Perrie – ‘It’s always online. The majority of the stick that we get comes from social media, from people behind their computer screens, their phone screens. In the comments section of articles and stuff, it’s just all the time.’

DTL: Who’s got the best clapbacks to that kind of stuff?

Leigh-Anne – ‘Jade definitely! She always knows what to say!’

DTL: A lot of young people deal with online abuse every day – what would you say to them? 

Perrie – ‘It’s really hard because when people are being cruel online, it’s hard to deal with. When you are not that kind of person and someone is acting that way, you just don’t know why someone would want to say something nasty or cruel. You just have to stay confident in yourself, and maybe try to talk to someone close who will listen to you.’ 

DTL: Did you ever used to look at negative comments online about yourselves? 

Jade – ‘Oh yeah. I think we’ve all been guilty of looking at the comments, and I think at one point we used to obsess over it, and that’s obviously a really unhealthy way to live your life. It’s how you start to get more insecure about yourself, and over the years we’ve really learnt how to not let that negativity in, and how bad that was for us. It’s now kind of out of sight, out of mind – we try not to read it any more. It’s great that Instagram lets you block words and things you don’t want to see. It helps us surround ourselves with much more positive stuff.’ 

DTL: The photoshoot you guys did for ‘Strip’ deals with a lot of this – what would you say is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you that you remember?

Leigh Anne – ‘I think for me if anyone has ever said ‘you are not good enough’ or has questioned my ability. Like if you do a bum note and people comment on that, or you miss a dance move. It happens! But it does really stick in my mind because it’s just questioning if you are good at what you do.’

DTL: Recently, you guys have started to talk about your struggles with mental health – what made you want to start talking about it? 

Perrie – ‘I think it’s because we’re in a good place right now, and when you are in a good headspace, you can talk about these things a little easier. Hopefully, it will just help someone else out there who has gone through the same thing.’

DTL: Why is talking about it so important? How can we all start talking about it more? 

Jade – ‘I think the more you talk about it, the more everyone does, it starts to normalise it. It becomes a less taboo subject to talk about and in doing so, helps a lot of people. I think for a lot of time, mental health wasn’t really spoken about enough, and could escalate because no one spoke about it. 

Jesy – ‘Yeah and I think the more you talk about it, it’s like a weight being lifted off your shoulders. I think especially with social media, we have this huge platform which we want to use to talk about this kind of stuff and be positive. I guess we hope it would help combat some of the negativity online as well.’ 

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DTL: Do you think the stuff you’ve had to deal with online has contributed to this? 

Jade – ‘I think one of the main reasons I wanted to talk about it more is, you come out the other side of dealing with this stuff, and when you’re in a better place you want to. Also I think we are being listened to more, and people are starting to take notice and understand how much of an impact big artists can have, and we hope it can only help.’ 

DTL: What do you think can or should be done to deal with online abuse? How can we make the internet a more positive place? 

Perrie – ‘In real life, rather than online, if you see somebody in the street, you’d be more likely to compliment them than scream at them. We think a compliment goes a long way. We just believe in making people feel good about themselves. Instead of tearing somebody down and throwing negative stuff at them 24/7; pick them up and make them feel amazing! It’s the same online, reach out to people and let them know how great you think they are instead of being negative.’

Leigh Anne – ‘More needs to be done by other people to combat it too. Like there should be more moderation from platforms and stuff. And maybe bigger consequences for people that do it often, because the consequences for those that go through it can be huge, the biggest.’ 

Jade – ‘Yeah the effect that it has on people’s mental health can be massive, and there seems like there isn’t enough being done by everyone at the moment to stop it from happening. 

DTL: What would you say to someone who posts the negative stuff online? 

Jade – ‘The majority of the time, the people are spreading hate online have a lot of issues themselves in their personal lives. It takes a lot of energy to go out of your way to be awful to somebody else, so obviously the root of that is them feeling crap about themselves. So, they need to talk to someone, get some help, find a way of channelling all that energy into something positive. 

Jesy – ‘It’s so much easier to be kind’.

DTL: What do you think they can learn from the #choosekindness campaign?

Perrie – ‘I think, just be kind. That’s the vibe. I don’t think a troll really realises what impact they have on people when they say something nasty, even if it’s in passing for them. The impact of it really has to be understood, and the campaign will hopefully do that, and empower people to be kinder.’

DTL: In the spirit of #choosekindess, what’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? 

Leigh-Anne – ‘The kindest thing, for me, would be the girls and how they are such a positive support system in my life. When I come to work, I know I have three friends to come to. That’s a really nice feeling.’

Watch how Little Mix wipe away unkind words and check out the video from the #ChooseKindness campaign below

We’ve teamed up with Simple who have teamed up with Little Mix to tackle online hate. For more information on #ChooseKindness, click here

It’s Valentine’s Day! This day can be super wonderful if you’re all loved up with your other half, but if you’re flying solo or just having some relationship trouble, it’s a hell of a lot of pressure. Well, we asked a whole bunch of influencers about love, because Valentine’s Day should be for everyone, whether you’re in a couple or not. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

Emily Clarkson

Emily says:

“HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY ❤ a day that I bloody hated when I was single and convinced I was unlovable, that now I’m coupled up slightly washes over me because capitalism is tiring BUT given social media’ll be rife with soppy, envy inducing declarations of love today and I know it’s not the happiest day for a lot of people, I wanted to pop up with a reminder. 
A reminder to love YOURSELF this Valentine’s Day. 

I’ve been with my wonderful boyfriend for 7 years and in SO many ways our relationship is entirely fantastic and perfect. But then in other ways, it’s not. Because he always leaves food in the sink and I never put my clothes away and we drive each other mad. Also because we’re humans. And human relationships aren’t perfect.

But Instagram never sees that shit. Only we see that and that sometimes leaves us feeling like there’s something wrong with us, and there isn’t! @alexandrew.1 is still the love of my bloody life, my heart could explode with adoration for him! But something we’re learning as we live our lives together, is that in order for us to be happy together, we have to be happy within ourselves too. And that means putting ourselves first from time to time. Practising a bit of self love, as the kids call it! 

At the end of the day, the MOST important relationship you have, is the one that you have with yourself. I know that’s hard to believe, we are the generation raised on the rom-com after-all, but it’s true. True happiness doesn’t come from external validation; it comes from within. And the rest of it is really just a bloody delicious icing atop the cake. 

And so today I’ve teamed up with @ditchthelabel to remind you, whether you’re single or not, to show yourself some love today. Spoil yourself. EAT ALL THE OVERPRICED CHOCOLATES. And be kind to yourself, now and forever!!”


Simone Charles

Simone says:

“❤❤LOVE YO’SELF❤❤ As you start to see Valentine’s day adverts this week, remember it isn’t *just* day to show love to a partner… You can show love to your friends, your family and most importantly yourself!”


Stevie Blaine

Stevie says:

During a holiday created by capitalism to make us buy crap and feel even worse I want to remind you to love yo self! You’re the most important person in your life so spend the day doing something for you. Take a bath, go on a walk and whilst you’re at it buy yourself some chocolates because you deserve it! As I’m here in japan I started my day at @nobehanoyu_tsuruhashi onsen (public baths filled with hot spring water) relaxing and giving myself some much needed R&R now I’m off to get milk tea & melon pan.”


However you are going to be spending your Valentine’s Day, make sure you leave some room to take care of and be kind to yourself. It’s one day, in a whole year of wonderful days, so if you aren’t feeling great about it, take some advice from some our favourite people above and do you.

If you feel like you need a bit of daily inspiration, follow us on Instagram @ditchthelabel

It’s LGBT history month! So we caught up with Sam Stanley, one of the first openly gay rugby players, to chat about rugby, pride, and how he dealt with coming to terms with his sexuality in an industry where very few had already done so.

Hi Sam, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure, I’m an English born boy from Thurrock in Essex, raised by a Kiwi (someone from New Zealand) father and an English mother. I’ve Samoan heritage also. 

I played rugby from the age of 4 and ever since I can remember, it was my dream to play it professionally. My uncle was an All Black and so my father, as well as his other brothers, made sure their children would have rugby in their blood!

I would say I was around 10 years old when I started feeling different to what I was “supposed” to feel. Almost like my emotions weren’t in tact and that I was pretty strange feeling the way I did.

Being a rugby player, there’s this apparent “macho” way of being that you’re supposed to live up to so you can imagine the fear of thinking I may be gay. I say this because growing up, and even now I still hear, being gay for some reason meant you were less of a man – camp, effeminate, soft etc I’ve heard them all. People even tell me now how “it’s nice because you don’t act like a gay person”. If I acted like “a gay person” would you think of me differently? Maybe we’re all just very judgemental!!

Anyway long story short, I’m an out and proud gay man moving between London and Sicily with my partner Laurence. We’ve had a place in Sicily since 2013 and lived here for 18 months previously; having been together now for 9 years.

You played a very high level and touring with the England Sevens in the World Series, how did that feel to represent your country?

For me it was the icing on the cake having had numerous knee operations and struggling to stay fit.

I played at Saracens previously, having risen through their academy. I only managed a handful of first team appearances here and there, however, as I found myself sidelined a lot through injury. Maybe I should have played golf.

I’m just grateful that Simon Amor gave me the opportunity to do so and loved my time playing 7s. Met some awesome people along the way.

You’ve mentioned your mum being a huge support, what do you think that did for you when you were coming to terms with your identity?

Well at first I think Mum struggled to come to terms with it. We actually kept it a secret as her view was a protective one. She had gay friends growing up so not that that was the issue but more from the point of view of ‘What will it do for your career? If a coach is homophobic it might be detrimental to your progression’ etc. Also, she was afraid at what my siblings & father would say.

No disrespect to my mum but it was actually my ex girlfriend who was a huge support and helped push things forward for me. I consider her my best friend and I’m her gay best friend haha! I’m lucky I have numerous supportive people around me. My brother, sister, father, aunties, uncles… too many to name.

How did it feel to be hiding your sexuality from your teammates?

It was the worst feeling to be honest. Having to see them day in day out making sure I had my lies down to a tee. Not being able to be open about who I really was, what I got up to at weekends. The only real social life I had in rugby was when I had to be at a function or something. I’d try and avoid going out with the boys every time, at least until I was honest about who I am, which was the best feeling in the world. It was a huge weight to carry and I hate the fact that so many people go through this.

What was the response from your teammates like when you did come out? Did anything change?

Yes a lot changed! The boys were great. I was playing 7s at the time so quite a tight knit group of only 18 full time players then. Lots of questions asked, obviously, and people were taking an interest in what it was like. It gave me lots of confidence and I was able to be training and playing without that fear anymore. 

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Did you receive any negative comments online after coming out? How do you deal with that?

Not directly but certainly indirectly that I saw on some threads. I think I’m responsible enough to know anyone can make an account and hide behind it. Negative comments I just tried to overlook. You’ve just got to laugh it off really.

How does it feel to see great ally support online and recently at London Pride from big name players in the game like Drew Mitchell, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and plenty more?

Oh it’s great to see! Such progress in rugby and its inclusiveness. These guys just keep helping the cause. They certainly seem to be making it easier for players to be themselves. It would have been awesome to see the support back when I was struggling. I admire Drew Mitchell for his support, particularly with the issue over Israel Folau. They were teammates and as similar playing positions may have been pretty close at one point. Probably most players that disagreed [with Folau] kept quiet so it’s great to see others speak up! 

What advice would you give to a young sports player who is also coming to terms with their identity?

I think it’s a tough one all the time because there’s a lot to coming out. What are their family and friends like? Will they be supportive? Can the person support themselves or be supported if things don’t go so well?

From experience, I can say now that things have been great since being able to be truthful. Not having to hide your life really is incredible.

What’s the best thing about being in the prominent position you’re in and having come out?

That having shared my story helped others come to terms with themselves. I love receiving messages of support from those that have found courage because of what I have done. It really makes it all worthwhile.

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Sam’s story is nothing short of inspiring and he’s a downright awesome bloke. For more from him, be sure to follow his Instagram @samstannerz.

For more interviews, inspiring stories and everyday motivation, follow our Instagram @ditchthelabel.

Tell us about yourself in one sentence

‘My name is Addison Rose Vincent, I use they/them pronouns, I am 26 years old, Canadian, and a proud transfeminine genderqueer non-binary person.’

Tell us a bit about your experiences as a transfeminine genderqueer non-binary person. 

‘Every transfeminine and/or genderqueer person has their own unique experience and definition of that terminology. As someone who was assigned male at birth (AMAB), currently taking oestrogen, now has breasts and curves, and has a full beard, my experience is definitely unique. For me, “non-binary” fits how I don’t feel like a man or woman but somewhere between or outside those binary points. “Transfeminine” aligns with my social (and medical) transition from masculinity to femininity, especially in my gender expression and presentation. And “genderqueer” refers to how I express myself in a way to intentionally play with and challenge traditional notions of gender and the binary.’ 

You’ve been a really vocal trans rights activist – what started that for you? 

‘When I came out as trans and non-binary at the age of 21 and as a student at Chapman University, I already knew and was repeatedly reminded that this society was not designed to support or empower people like me. I quickly learned that if I wanted to survive and thrive in this world, I needed to be fearless, take space, be unapologetically visible, and fight back. I also learned how important it was to be intersectional in my work, to prioritize, centre, empower, and follow those most vulnerable and marginalized by violence and oppression, keeping in mind that none of us are free until all of us are free.’ 

Why do you think it’s important? 

‘It’s important for me to be vocal because not enough people are. I hope that by sharing my story and the story of my trans and non-binary siblings on social media platforms that aspiring allies will understand how they can support and empower our community. But even more importantly, I hope that by being unapologetically visible that I can be a possibility model to people of all ages and inspire them to explore their own genders and expressions, to find the joy in journeying beyond the binary, and to know that they are not alone.’ 

What do you want the future to look like for trans rights in the US and the world? 

‘There’s so much to say! I would love to live in a future where trans people can access medical transition medication and procedures easily and affordably (ideally free), and not have to sacrifice fertility by transitioning (access to fertility banks and storage); where trans people are not reduced to our genitals, medical transitions, or as objects of desire or experimentation; where trans people can work, attend school, use bathrooms and locker rooms, love openly, and live without harassment or judgment; where trans people are visible in all sector and forms of media, not because of our identities but because of our skills and qualifications.’

Why did you start @breakthebinary? 

‘I started @breakthebinary as my own personal social media platform, and “break the binary” was a phrase I loved and constantly used as a personal motto. Over time, I grew more followers and recognized that I could use this platform to share my journey, my transition, my story, and my beliefs. My account has grown a significant following in just the past couple months since I started growing out my beard and adding more hashtags in my posts. 

I’ve been so grateful and humbled by the outpouring of love and support I’ve received, and messages from strangers thanking me for my visibility and the impact I’ve made on them always make my day. A few weeks ago, I also received a lot of hateful, threatening comments and messages, one describing me being hit by a bus, which is why I changed my comments setting so that only people I follow can comment on my posts. If only I had a setting like that for real life haha!’

What do you love about Pride month and pride celebrations? 

‘I love being around community! I’m so grateful to be living in Los Angeles, and during Pride I feel like I have a whole month to be even more unapologetic in public spaces with how I present myself. Pride month also gives me and so many others a chance to understand our history, to honour our trailblazers like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and reflect on where our community is 50 years after Stonewall and so many other pivotal moments like Compton’s Cafeteria and Black Cat Tavern (here in Los Angeles).’ 

What does Pride mean to you? 

‘To me, Pride means celebrating my identity and showing the world how wonderful and amazing my identities and gender expression are. Pride means peeling back the layers of shame and stigma I have accumulated throughout my life (especially during my childhood and teen years), and replacing them with foundations of joy and self-love. Pride means walking out my front door each day as myself and into an often violence and hateful world to spread the message of love, peace, and freedom.’ 

For more from Addison, you can follow their Instagram @breakthebinary

If you have a question about sexuality, identity, relationships or anything else, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

Summer can be a pretty tough time if you are dealing acne, scars and other skin problems, and it can be pretty easy to let it take over your life. Well, at Ditch the Label, we don’t want anyone to miss out on the fun because they are feeling anxious. That’s why we caught up Kali Kushner, a.k.a. @myfacestory, about her skin journey and how to improve your skin confidence.

Why did you start @myfacestory?

I started @myfacestory at a time that I felt very alone with my skin. I remember constantly looking around in my college courses for others with the same condition, and being the only one with cystic acne. I started my Instagram account to both track my progress on Accutane and hopefully connect with others who struggled with their skin as well. 

You seem to really embrace your skin struggles – what was the turning point for you with feeling good about it? 

The turning point with skin acceptance for me came down to control and happiness. I realized that I couldn’t always control my breakouts, and in constantly failing at doing so it made me very unhappy. In letting go of control over my breakouts, I began accepting my skin. I may not ever have completely perfect skin, some scars, a pimple here and there, hyperpigmentation, but I am very happy with my journey and how far I’ve come! Realizing that being acne prone means that yes, I can work on improving my skin, but the goal should never be perfection. For me, it’s much easier to love and accept myself than constantly trying to change myself. 

Did you find you ever got much negative feedback on your Instagram? How have you overcome or dealt with it? 

When I first started my Instagram, I received a lot of negative feedback mostly from people who were ignorant on the subject of acne or those who have learned cultural stereotypes associated with blemished skin (drink water, wash your face, etc.) Over time, through the acne community we have been able to open the conversation up about skin, so there is much less shame, people are becoming educated on the subject, and there aren’t as many stereotypes. I do think that I have gotten less negative feedback over the years by opening up the conversation around acne. When I first started my account, I sometimes let negative comments effect my mood but now I don’t really give them a second thought. 

What do you think of the skin positivity movement?

I think the skin positivity movement is much needed. If you think about it, skin issues are rarely portrayed in the media. In movies, TV shows, magazines, and especially beauty media; you never see acne, scars, or hyperpigmentation anywhere. It’s practically been erased from history and is culturally taught to be something to be ashamed about when in fact its normal, it happens! People need to know not to be ashamed of their skin and that it is OK to have acne, it doesn’t make them any less of a human.

My account is to share my own journey, provide product recommendations I feel that have helped me, and provide some inspirational insight when needed. I am not a dermatologist or estheticianso I do not feel qualified to help others with their skin in that sense but am happy to help people change their mindset when it comes to how they view themselves or their skin! 

What advice could you give to a young person struggling with their skin? 

It gets better and it doesn’t last forever. This is what I used to tell myself and it is so true! Eventually, acne will (and physically has to) go away. It’s funny when you’re in the moment you think things are so definite, but now not even 5 years later I can barely remember what it was like having cystic acne so severe. I always ask myself; will this matter in 5, 10, 15 years?

Also, that acne doesn’t define you! You are still the same beautiful, wonderful person regardless of what your skin looks like. You are worthy of all things good and can accomplish anything, don’t let your skin hold you back! 

Do you have any tips for someone who might struggle with embracing their skin for the summer?

If you’re struggling with embracing your skin this summer know that you’re not alone! It has taken me a long time to get comfortable going out barefaced. First, I started with a quick trip outside, then to the grocery, and now I’m able to spend a full day at the pool or beach without giving my skin a second thought. It starts with baby steps and slowly getting comfortable seeing yourself without makeup on. Of course, makeup can be used as a creative tool to express yourself, but if you’re using it because you feel insecure you should be asking yourself “why?” and see what steps you can take to banish these insecurities.  

What has been the best thing about your skin positivity journey? 

The best thing about my skin journey has been meeting all the other people who deal with the same condition as well. It has helped me feel less alone and we’ve built this wonderful community that aims to support one another. Without this community I wouldn’t have the confidence or any of the wonderful opportunities to talk about skin positivity like I do today! I am so grateful for this community.

For more from Kali, make sure you follow her Instagram @myfacestory for all things skin care and skin confidence

If you are struggling with confidence this summer and feel like you want to talk to someone about it, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

Girl on beach in leather jacket in summertime

Hi, I’m Billie, I’m 22 and living in London. I also happen to have a stoma bag. 

At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC); one half of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (the other being Crohn’s) UC is a gut disease that attacks the good cells in the lining of the large intestine. My UC was so angry that almost a year to the day of my diagnosis, I underwent abdominal surgery gave me a stoma bag. A stoma is an opening in the abdominal wall and a bag is placed over it to catch waste. Basically, in simpler terms, I poo into a bag.

Without warning, without a reason and without a cure; my life was thrown upside down. Before I was diagnosed, I went through months of suffering without any knowledge of why my body was in so much pain. After a while, suddenly I was completely bed bound. I was stuck between my bed and my bathroom; unable to eat or sleep properly and crippled by severe anaemia. I’d lost two stone in a matter of weeks and wasn’t able to walk on my own. 

Finally, after months of suffering, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in January 2017 and put on a strong medication regime in an attempt at getting my angry body under control. After being on 20+ pills every day, going into hospital three times a week, medication side effects like losing most of hair, burning acne and crippling joint pain, the call for surgery was made in December 2017. 

From the moment I had surgery, I’ve been living my best life. I may be a little different, but I want to show our differences make us stronger. I’ve been using Instagram to raise awareness of the issue and now I’ve been lucky enough to be part of so many incredible campaigns, met thousands of fabulous people and found a confidence inside me I didn’t know I had. I’ve learnt so much through my journey; it has helped me to see how lucky I am and without my bag I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I have found a way to love myself through all that pain and come out the other side so much stronger. 

5 Tips for Starting Your Self Love Journey

1) Self-love isn’t linear 

You don’t wake up one day, love your body and continue to do so 100% of the time. Self-love isn’t a destination we reach; it is a journey of ups and downs where we learn so much about ourselves in times of joy and times of sadness or pain. I don’t love myself all the time but I am grateful for what I have now. After losing my hair and suffering with painful acne, I appreciate the full head of hair I have and the importance of looking after my skin. Throughout my UC-infested-colon days I lost a lot of weight and found it very difficult to look in the mirror.

My ribs, pelvis and spine were my defining features for a long time and I have come to understand what it means to be a healthy weight. Pre-illness I used to think skinny = worthy, but being skin and bones isn’t healthy and is no longer my goal. All I want is to be healthy and happy. At times I find it difficult to love my body; the bag of poo on my front and the routine that comes with it can be exhausting sometimes, but my bag gave me my life back in ways I never thought possible and I will always be grateful for that.

2) Do the things that make you happy 

Happiness means something different to everyone. To me, it’s a chilled evening in front of the TV after a home cooked meal. Happiness is a cuddle after a long day from the one I love the most or a cup of tea with a friend. Happiness to me is being healthy enough to hit the gym or go for a walk without needing to plan where the nearest bathrooms are. The rat-race of life can become all-consuming and sometimes we forget to do the things that make us happy; so, plan that time in! It’s so important. 

3) Everyone is different 

Self-love means different things to different people and the process we go about getting there is unique to each individual. After surgery I would compare my recovery process to others, but this did more damage than good because what helps others may not help me and vice versa. It helps to talk to others but we should take that advice and make it our own. 

4) It’s the little things

I’ve found that setting small goals along the way helped me the most in loving myself. I choose to focus on the little things in life, as I have come to realise they are the most important to me. It started throughout my recovery with walking unassisted for the first time, going back to the gym and being brave enough to go on holiday on my own. To me going for coffee with friends, sitting through a whole movie without needing to rush to the bathroom and being able to eat whatever I like, are just a few of the things that make me happy. They might seem small but they make me smile. 

5) Be selfish and learn to say no 

I always put other people before me and will continue to do so, however I have learnt that the people I love are just as important as I am. Being a little selfish once in a while isn’t a bad thing. Saying no to plans to stay in and watch TV or just read a book or do something that makes you happy is OK. Giving yourself some ‘me time’ is so important. 

For more from Billie, make sure you check out her Instagram @billieandersonx

If you are struggling with starting your self love journey or you need someone to talk to about anything, you can race out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

We caught up with social media influencer and all round warrior princess @foodfitnessflora about social media anxiety, online abuse and negativity and her top 4 things to think about before you write something negative online.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a food and fitness blogger and social media consultant working in the area of health and wellness. My background is in science communications, so I always try to add a little bit of science into everything I do.

I started my Instagram account about 7 years ago whilst recovering from an eating disorder, as a way to track my meals and show them to my doctor. I then started putting up other bits from my fitness training and my life, such as talking more about mental health. My blog started in 2016 and is my baby – I love writing!

What is your experience of cyberbullying?

My first experience of cyberbullying was talking to blogger friends who had received it. It brought back a lot of memories – thankfully I was never cyberbullied at school, but I received my fair share of nasty comments to my face, and watching other people being attacked or made the subject of online and playground gossip was really upsetting for me to see. 

You have mentioned you have received more abuse recently, would you mind telling us about it?

I think once you get to a certain number of followers on Instagram, negative comments are bound to happen. Whether they’re in your DMs or online they find their way to you somehow and, unfortunately, I think I’ve reached that point! 

Recently, I also discovered some messages online following running the Tokyo marathon that were pretty nasty. Most were along the lines of telling me that I’m not good enough and then spreading other rumours about my relationship and friends. 

Initially I read negative comments to see where I might be able to improve my account and make it more useful to my followers, but at the point that the comments became nasty or simply just lies, I decided to block the sites. I still get the occasional message through but I don’t mind that – at least it’s usually not anonymous, which is the main cause of particularly horrible comments. 

What about friends in the blogging/social media influencer sphere – have they experienced the same?

Absolutely, I’m yet to find a blogger who hasn’t received hate online. Of course, there’s a line between hate and negative comments (it’s obviously impossible for everyone to like you), but I think everyone I know who has the same job has received their fair share of both. 

What do you think needs to be done about it? Or what CAN be done about it?

This is a really good question. 

I would like to see more education around the issue. Currently people can have easy access to sites and accounts where people are spreading hate, slander and defamation, without any repercussions. It would be nice if there was increased education around general behaviour on the internet, similar to how we are all taught that cyberbullying and teasing for ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation etc at school is not allowed, and where to go if we feel we are experiencing it. 

I also with that reporting stuff to the police was wasier, and that social media sites worked faster to deal with online nastiness, bullying and abuse. Currently the response to ‘I’m being abused online’ is ‘don’t go online’, and that’s unacceptable. It shouldn’t be the job of those being affected by this to simply avoid the spaces where this happens. Also, a large number of the people who are receiving these messages earn their living through being present online. As a social media consultant and blogger I am incapable of not using social media, and my popularity is, in part, due to my vulnerability and openness online. 

I absolutely don’t have all the answers and this is what we have charities such as Ditch the Label for, but primarily I wish there was more of a discussion around the issue. As far as I can tell, even the large number of celebrities and influencers who have talked about it have not prompted any real lasting change. Sadly, online hate is still happening, it’s still contributing to the poor mental health of a lot of people and in its worst cases has contributed to people’s deaths. 

Obviously, your job relies on social media so you can’t get a break from it – what affect does being around abuse frequently have on you?

It’s not just comments about me that affect me. As much as anything, I hate to see bullying of anyone online, and sadly I have seen my fair share. At the height of the horrible comments directed at me, I was experiencing extreme anxiety where I was unable to eat or sleep properly. Having suffered from quite bad depression in the past I found that week extremely tough, and became worried that I might be slipping back into much darker days. 

Perhaps I am over sensitive and shouldn’t ever have chosen to start up an Instagram, but I’m here now and I truly believe my account really helps people, so don’t exactly feel like I can leave. And how could I have foreseen, 7 years ago, with the start-up of my private Instagram, that 7 years later people would be commenting on my parents’ jobs and spreading rumours about my sex life? 

I try to have low-Instagram days where I don’t spend more than 30 minutes on any form of social media that day. This happens every one to two weeks and is a godsend for my mental health! I actually think everyone should do that, regardless of whether they’re an influencer or consumer and suffering from abuse or not, and I’ve been practising it for about a year, since my career on Instagram started becoming more serious. 

What advice would you give to a young person who is getting abuse online right now?

First of all, talk to people. Our brains are naturally wired to pick up negative comments and blow them hugely out of proportion. Talking to people brings you back to reality – NOT everyone hates you, no matter how it may feel, and surrounding yourself with people who support and love you can really help balance things out. 

Spending more time off social media as a coping mechanism can be helpful, but of course isn’t possible for everyone. If possible, speak up about the abuse you’re receiving. Suffering in silence can make you feel like you’re unable to do anything about it. For me at least, talking about it makes me feel less helpless. 

What does the future look like for you?

Contrary to what people might think, my ideal social media world would not be one where people are not allowed to comment negatively on what other people do. That’s not only unrealistic, but it stops any debate or healthy discussion. But I would like the future would be a more balanced one, one where negativity is constructive and not simply to hurt feelings. 

Ideally, influencers would take more responsibility for what they put online and would be held more accountable for sharing potentially harmful information. We have to be responsible in what we put out there to the public. And if the public have an issue with what we say/promote, there should be somewhere where it can be discussed so it is not simply a barrage of abuse online. 

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@FoodFitnessFlora’s Top 4 Things to Consider Before You Write Something Negative Online

1) Would you say what you’re saying if it wasn’t anonymous?

 If not, it’s probably best not to say it 

2) Can the person you’re writing to/about do anything about what you’re going to say?

So, for example, are you hating on them because they did an advert you didn’t like? If so, that may be a great thing to discuss and debate (e.g. I didn’t like that ad you did because it targets young girls’ insecurities and I think that’s irresponsible). But if it is because you think they looked fat or had cellulite or stretch marks or spots, it’s unnecessary. Absolutely no one is 100% perfect all the time, and there is nothing we can do about that. 

3) It’s also about the way you say something. 

‘I believe/in my opinion’ is very different to stating your opinion/gossip as fact, which could be seen as defamation e.g. X totally cheated on their partner of 5 years with X’. That could cause serious issues down the line. Just because some of someone’s life is online, that doesn’t mean the rest of their existence is available for comment. 

4) Why are you commenting what you are commenting? 

If you think someone has done something wrong, by all means message them. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would always rather receive constructive criticism to my face/in my DMs to discuss rather than read about it in a forum where it is impossible to discuss and come to a solution. It is also usually much better worded/thought out! 

But so much of what I have received is not like this at all, and is instead just mean and hurtful. Abuse is an outlet for frustrations that feels good in the moment. But it really doesn’t solve anything, for you or for the person you writing to. 

If you have been affected by negative comments or abuse online, you can reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

We caught up with singer-songwriter Sody on her new single, her experiences of bullying and what the future holds for her. Check out her new single The Bully on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and Apple Music.

Hey Sody, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hey! I’m Sody, my real name is Sophie, and I’m a recording artist and songwriter. I am 18, from West London and a Netflix addict with an obsession for cheese. I’m quite strong minded and try to write music that is raw and relatable that is directly about my personal experiences.

Were you bullied at school?

I first experienced bullying in year 7 and 8 by various people in different year groups because I had acne. I remember so clearly a boy in the year above me called me ‘volcano head’ which made me so insecure. I tried to cover it up with makeup but that would only make my skin worse. I would sweat in class for fear people were staring at my face and neck. It was a horrible time and I felt disgusting.

I was lucky enough to go on a tablet which cleared up all my spots and it felt so good to come back into school at the beginning of year 9 with clear skin and newly dyed hair – I was now a platinum blonde. But the bullying didn’t stop there as that’s when I released music as ‘Sody’, and people found a new reason to tease me.

Album artwork for the song The Bully by Sody

You have just released your new single, how does it feel? What inspired the song?

It does feel good but I was also incredibly anxious and nervous to release ‘The Bully’. We all want to feel popular because somehow we think that brings worth and so telling the world that actually you don’t have a cool friendship group is quite scary.

Society seems to think that only certain people are likely to be bullied but the truth is anyone, anywhere, can be bullied, whether that’s at school, at work or at home. I felt so strongly about telling other people what happened to me at school in the hope they realise they’re not alone!

What are your experiences of bullying?

My experiences have been in person and online. Sometimes, people were upfront with the bullying, other times it would be through leaving me out and ignoring my existence, groups of people taunting me and of course via social media. People in my school would also encourage students at other schools to dislike me too, so I had no chance of going anywhere else and starting over.

About 6 months after I had left that school, I was invited to go back to the annual rugby match that students and alumni could go to. I knew in my heart that I shouldn’t have gone but if I’m honest I still wanted to believe there was a chance I could be friends with some of them, and a couple of girls had told me how excited they were to see me.

However, when I arrived, some of the girls were saying ‘why the f*&k is she here’, one girl said that she wanted to stamp on my face, and people were chanting ‘Sody, Sody, Sody.’ because they knew it bothered me when they didn’t call me Sophie.

To cut a long story short, I ended up leaving the after party after I was publicly humiliated by a bunch of girls who used to bully me at school. They were screaming at me that everyone hated me, that I wasn’t welcome to these events and I should just ‘f*&k off’ out of everyone’s lives. One girl even filmed it and posted it on Snapchat. No one stood up for me, so I left. But then about 50 people followed me out the door, laughing as I jumped into a taxi. I felt so alone, embarrassed, ashamed and I was truly devastated.

Portrait of Sody in a yellow jumper

How have you overcome that? How has your experience shaped you?

I overcame bullying by going to therapy and by finding an outlet. At first, I believed it was all my fault and that I was the problem. But you shouldn’t have to change who you are for anybody and I needed someone to tell me that. It definitely has shaped me into the woman I am today. All I know is that I want people to be aware of how harmful their words can be.

I put on this hard front but I was so broken because I didn’t have a friend I could talk to, ever. I still don’t have a best friend from my school days. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to not have found ‘your people’ in school as it’s just a bubble and when you leave school there are so many other people out there. I just had to keep reminding myself that there is so much more to life that what I was going through at the time. Music saved me!

We saw on your social media that you have been going around schools to talk about bullying – what drove you to do that?

I felt alone when I was being bullied. Yes, I had family around me which was a huge help but I wished there was someone my age who could understand what it felt like. I know there are many artists who have opened up about their experiences later in their careers but I really wanted to do this whilst it was so recent and raw. I feel like right now I am in the best position to speak to other young people about this stuff because I’m so close in age to them.

Sody sitting on the floor with white trainers and pink trousers

If you could any young person who is going through bullying right now any advice, what would it be?

Don’t keep it bottled up. Tell someone. It’s so hard, I know, but it will get better. Find an outlet and make sure something that makes you happy and stimulates you. Sing, go for a run, paint, bake a cake or write a poem — just do something that takes your mind away from those people and the stuff you are having to deal with. And, put your phone away! I realised that was a huge part of my unhappiness and once I separated myself from it, I felt better.

It’s such an exciting time for you right now – how are you feeling about the future?

Well I’m actually just about to go travelling around Europe for 3 weeks so I’m excited to experience new things and meet new people. Also, to take some time off from social media and just live in the moment. When I’m back I have a super busy schedule including a writing trip to LA, more music releases and my headline show on Monday 20th May at The Waiting Room in London. There’s a lot to be excited about right now!

You can check out Sody’s video for The Bully below!

‘Success is something you are taught to strive towards, and failure is more or less the end of the world, or at least thats how it felt in high school. We are always constantly told that you mustn’t fail, that you must succeed in everything you do.

Do you ever feel that sometimes everyone around you has never failed the way that you have and that they are constantly pushing you to strive to succeed? I find that we never really get taught how to fail, how to accept failure, how not to think less of yourself for failing and that only success is acceptable.

Well, here’s a lil story to show you that what you’re taught about success and failure isn’t so terrible and can actually be a good lesson in life. 

Now imagine after years of trying to find that one thing that makes you work harder, something that makes you want to do better, something that makes you feel like you could truly succeed in life, to then be told “no, this is not a career, try something else, What else do you like.” 

I like the arts, no actually I love the arts and I have worked too damn hard for too long to quit because you’re a professional and you say so!” 

To this day that’s how I wished I replied to the careers lady who sat me in a room and told me the one thing that I was passionate about was a waste of time and that it’s not a lucrative career. At that time my highest marks in my mock GCSEs were in creative and arts based subjects, so I automatically thought “Crap, I’m screwed!” 

From a very young age, since I could wiggle on my butt I’ve been dancing, doing gymnastic stunts, painting. I was a huge arts and crafts fan and in my teens and I loved going to an arts company that ran projects over school holidays. I had a plan that if I couldn’t create art as a living then maybe I could do dance somehow or study music, or maybe build a career in my new found favourite class at the time, photography. To be told in one go that the arts is not a career is like being told my whole life of aspirations and dreams were useless and a complete waste of time. It was like being told I had already failed at something I hadn’t even started yet.  

They asked me what else I liked doing except the arts and all I could think that made me happy was travelling. I loved flying, ending up in a new country, learning a new culture and adjusting to new surroundings. I guess thinking that studying tourism would be just as exciting was naive of me but I didn’t want to quit and feel I had failed again. I won’t lie I hated every minute of studying at college and university –  I mean wouldn’t you if you felt you had to study a subject you had no ambition for? 

To make matters worse, after finishing uni I went out to join the big world of employment, to only be told by another superior that, after an assessment, nobody would really want to employ me because I would probably be off work a lot due to my disability. Oh yes btw….. I have a disability, lol. In my mind that was another fail for me, so far the score was universe 3 & me zip, zilch, nada!

There was always so much emphasis onnot failing, and how important it is that we succeed because we are the future generation. From teachers, parents, guidance counsellors. Sound familiar? That’s a lot of pressure for anyone to deal with. Through all that I forgot that these people were there to guide me not live my life for me!  

Don’t worry, here comes the success – it’s not all doom, gloom and regret! “So what did she become?” “Where is she now?” you may ask. Well, let’s just say it’s better late then never to realise that failure isn’t the end of the world and that only I can steer my life in the right direction with a lil help from some great people.

Today I am the Co-Founder and the Marketing & Multi-media Coordinator of an Arts Company, a National & International Wheelchair Dance Champion and a Model all in between working as in admin for an SEN School. 

I have learned you have to have a little faith in yourself and only then can others have faith in you to succeed. I took a chance, and realised I didn’t have to spend my life studying subjects I didn’t like because I was told that my way was not an option. If I’m honest I’m amazed that, just by believing that I could achieve a little more and listening more to the people that believe in me, I could do all of these things. 

We are taught to strive for success and not to fail but in my life I realised that by failing I have been able to achieve so much more that I once found unimaginable. I think it means you should never give up on yourself, no matter how bad things may look. Without failure, we might never achieve our potential to succeed.’ 

You can follow Monique on Instagram @monique_dior_zebedee_model

Feeling like a failure and need a bit of support? Reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

We had a chat with the CEO of women’s sportswear brand Sweaty Betty about the ‘Support Women: Support the World’ campaign, starting a business and empowering strong women around the world.

Tell us a little about why you started Sweaty Betty. 

‘I started Sweaty Betty after spotting a gap in the women’s activewear market. At the time I was working as a buyer for Knickerbox, an underwear brand and we started to do a little bit of sportswear. As a sports enthusiast this lead me to realise there was nothing on the high street offering good-quality, female sportswear. At the time, activewear for women just wasn’t a thing, it was all about big, male-oriented sportswear stores. So, then, I thought, ‘Right, this is a proper gap in the market’. After being made redundant, I took the opportunity to evolve the concept to create beautiful clothes for women who live active lifestyles – whether yoga, skiing, swimming or running, I wanted to provide products that could be part of every woman’s wardrobe.’

What inspired you to launch the ‘Support Women: Support The World’ Campaign?

‘At Sweaty Betty our mission has always been to empower women through fitness and beyond, so we have created this collection to celebrate strong and powerful women worldwide in time for International Women’s Day.  One of the main rules we live by is to find strength in sisterhood and be kind to each other, so we are wanted to work alongside charities that completely resonate with our brand mission to give back.’

What challenges do you think young women are facing today? And what advice would you give them? 

‘As a mum of three, one of the biggest challenges young women face today has to be social media and the pressures that come with this. I always say to my daughter that surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial. It’s so important to be kind to each other. I teach my kids not to judge others by their appearance. Instead of knocking each other down, I tell them it’s cool to be kind.’

What challenges did you face, either starting out or even today, as a female CEO? 

‘The beginning was stressful to say the least. I opened our first shop in November and my only staff member decided to quit, so I was left to run the entire store on my own over Christmas. In hindsight it was a great experience being on the shop floor, as I learned a lot about the customer, but there’s no denying it was a really difficult time. Though, I learnt that in order to achieve a work life balance and feel calm and fulfilled, not stressed, you have to feel in control of your time. No-one is ever going to give you more time and you are never going to suddenly have more time. So you have to make time for the things that matter the most to you.’

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If you could inspire one change through the campaign – what would it be?

‘To bring women together and encourage everyone to be strong and confident in who they are and support each other.’

Why did you want to support Ditch the Label through the campaign?

‘For our new year campaign this year we have worked with three incredible women, including Mia Kang, who selected Ditch The Label. Your message of equality and accepting each other is something we really stand behind as a brand, and after being bullied as a child, Mia was really passionate about choosing Ditch the Label as she loves how you encourage everyone to be strong within and unapologetically themselves.’

To snap up one of Sweaty Betty’s limited edition tees for Ditch the Label, click here.

For loads more great stuff, including inspirational quotes, cute pics and links to support, follow our instagram @ditchthelabel.