By Achieve Australia Writer and Researcher, Fi Bridger

9 October 2023

The term ‘body image’ has been talked about for years – in fact the term was first coined in 1935. Body image refers to a person’s thoughts and feelings about their body, particularly how it looks. It’s unfortunate to say, but most people have a negative view of their body.

When I was researching ‘body positivity’, I saw an episode of Australian Story – “The Skin you’re in” featuring Taryn Brumfitt and I was moved. The episode told Taryn’s journey to self-love and how she ended up opening a business promoting body positivity to help other women to love their bodies.

We see photos of when Taryn was in peak fitness and “beauty” as a body builder but hear how still found flaws with her body. In fact, she hated her body.

Hearing about this and how she was inspired to open her business to help women love their body made for a captivating documentary. Taryn wants to teach every woman to love themselves and their bodies.


In the new movie “Barbie”, even as the epitome of women’s beauty, shapes and sizes is on display, Barbie advocates for healthy body image and encourages young women to love their bodies no matter what shape or size they are.

I have learnt that pop culture, social media, magazines and society make young women feel insecure. And that their bodies need to fit certain parameters otherwise they are considered ‘average’ or even ‘ugly’.

Images of the perfect body and the ageless face are poured into our consciousness each day through advertising and influencers. The rise in popularity of plastic surgery is a manifestation of this. And if healthy, young women are struggling with body image, you can only imagine how disabled women like me feel.

Studies have found that people with disabilities face unique challenges with their body image and healthy outlook. People with disabilities don't fit the beauty mould. They find it difficult to accept their bodies. Also, many times society lets us know we are different.

The view from here

My personal journey through body image to loving myself remains a work in progress. As a teenager, and in my early 20’s, I hated my body and I hated having a disability. I felt strongly that I was very different to all the other people who don't have a disability.

However, through my other achievements and accomplishments, I realised having a disability doesn’t define who I am. I am learning to accept my disability and my unique body, but, as I wrote above, I am a work in progress.

I go to the gym twice a week. I have my monthly session with my psychologist to work through my traumas. I keep myself busy with work and volunteering to be a valuable part of society.

Yet when I try to go on a date or get rejected on a dating app because of my disability, it hurts and the voices in my head return. Some days I still hate my disability because I think to myself ‘who will ever love me?’

My body can’t do what I want it to do and it’s darn frustrating. I get so angry at my body, as when I tell it to walk it doesn’t and when I tell it to eat, it says, “Okay, but this will take forever”.

I need people to help me do the most basic things. I’d love to go to the bathroom by myself or just be able to brush my own hair. At times I feel embarrassed and like a burden!

All these things add up to make me feel, “what the heck is wrong with me? Why can’t my body do all the things I want or need it to do?”

Of course, this leaves me feeling very upset that I can’t do things myself. My support team are pretty great and understanding but I still get upset about life not being very fair and annoyed that I need people around to support me.

Not being able to do the things I’d like to be able to do independently leads me to feel a lot of self-doubt. I get anxious that I will never find someone to love me. That no one will be able to look beyond my disability to see me for who I truly am.

I feel that people just see my disability first. This makes me feel so distressed. I see all my friends getting married and having children and it makes me realise that I may never get this chance. It’s a very harsh reality that this is a part of my life and there is nothing that I can do about it.

Finding space to work through my feelings

There are a lot of positives in my life such as my beautiful dog Ollie who loves me unconditionally. However, having him doesn’t remove the pain or emptiness that I feel when I think about not having a partner.

I know that self-love and body acceptance is a journey, I am far from perfect. I believe that sometimes just sitting in the sadness is the best way to process difficult emotions, although I try not to dwell on negative thoughts too long.

I accept the road is long and this journey will at times be hard, but I hope you’ll join me and find peace and love within yourself.