FORMER Paralympian Jessica Smith knows how poisonousness society’s ideals of “beauty” and “normal” can be.
The Australian swimming champ was born without a left arm below the elbow and suffered third-degree burns to 15 per cent of her body in an accident when she was a toddler.
As a teenager, the only place she felt confident and positive about her body was in the pool.
She developed an eating disorder and spiralled into depression so deep she was hospitalised at the peak of her career just after returning to Australia from the 2004 Athens Paralympics.
Now she will do anything she can to prevent her daughter – and every other child – from facing those same unrealistic expectations.
A finalist in the 2015 Pride of Australia Medals, Jessica has become an advocate for positive body image, speaking at schools across Australia.
She has also written a children’s book, Little Miss Jessica Goes to School, telling her own story to help kids understand that it’s perfectly OK to be different.
“Now that I’m pregnant with my first child, writing this book became even more important because I started to realise the messages meant so much more,” she said.
“The challenges that I know (my daughter) will inevitably face growing up is something I want to be able to experience with her, being as open and honest as I can in the way that I communicate with her about the struggles that I went through so she knows that she’s not alone and that it’s OK to experience all sorts of emotions about who we are and the way we look.”
Voting is now open for The Sunday Times and PerthNow Pride of Australia People’s Choice Medal.
Voting closes at midnight on Sunday, September 6. The winner will be announced at a ceremony on September 12 and will receive $5000.
Originally published on Perth Now.