We all know Iskra Lawrence for breaking down society's standards of beauty and encouraging people to strive for happiness, not a number on the scale. The body-positive role model has appeared in countless Aerie campaigns with zero retouching and is always posting inspirational and motivational messages on the 'gram.
In her most recent post, in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, she opened up about her struggles with body dysmorphia and disordered eating. "I want to combat the stigma around this mental illness," she wrote alongside side-by-side photos of herself. The photo of the left shows Lawrence airbrushed and Photoshopped to an almost unrecognizable degree; on the right, a photo of her today, rocking a bikini on the beach, truly happy with being "perfectly imperfect."
Photo: Instagram / @iskra
"I wish I had known that Photoshop and retouching didn't make me perfect or beautiful," she wrote. "Also that I didn't have to be a 'male fantasy.' Look how posed the pic on the left is, how squished my poor boobies are. This was again another societal fantasy I thought as a woman I was expected to be."
Lawrence spent years of her career as a model, thinking she was supposed to look a certain way in order to fit in. "When I started modeling, I was so focused on the scale, so focused on looking a certain way, that I didn't even realize I had a mental health issue," she previously told Shape. "I was working out so hard, to the point where I was dizzy and my eyesight would become blurry. I was obsessively writing down how many calories I was consuming, and my diet was so poor that I was constantly tired and would often fall asleep in the middle of the day. Despite that, mentally, I always felt like a failure because I could never reach the aesthetic or standard I'd set for myself or what I thought society expected of me."
Blinded by obsession over changing her appearance, Lawrence was ignoring all the signals her body was giving her. "It was basically screaming that I was hurting myself, but I continued to ignore it until one day, something just clicked," she said. "I stopped trying to alter what I looked like and accepted my body as it was. With that, I also gave up on dieting, restriction, and everything else that was damaging my body and self-esteem."
Since then, Lawrence has worked hard to become comfortable in her skin. One of the most valuable lessons she's learned is that she's worth so much more than what she sees in the mirror. "I've never felt more beautiful or sexy just being the real me, and knowing that I'm loved because I'm me not some fantasy or perfected illusion," she continued to share in her post. "That my value wasn't based on a set of measurements, a number on the scale or the size I wear."
Today, her goal is to continue sharing that inspiring message with women to encourage them to love their bodies as they are and to have more open and honest conversations about disordered eating and self-image. "I know now that my body is mine and therefore perfectly imperfect and my home to be cherished," she wrote. "I'm grateful I'm here to tell my story when there are too many lives being lost from this mental illness. I hope that someday you share your story because we need more representation when we talk about eating disorder recovery. Sending you all so much love and hope that you will tell yourself today and every day that you love yourself too."
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, NEDA's toll-free, confidential helpline (800-931-2237) is here to help.
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This article originally appeared on Shape.com