Fitness guru Cassey Ho Photoshopped herself to prove a point about body shaming

When Cassey Ho — YouTube fitness guru and queen of the Blogilates empire — became the victim of online bullying and an onslaught of negative comments about her body, she wanted to find a way to combat it productively and create a positive impact. So, as she so often does, she made a video — and the results are game-changing.

“In the last few months, the negativity towards me personally has gotten worse. I’m a person too, so it really gets to me,” she told People. “I had this epiphany: How can I express how I’m feeling visually?”

In the video, Ho provides just a small sampling of some of the cyber bullying she’s received — and then Photoshops her face and body before our eyes to match what people have complained is “wrong” about her body. It’s a powerful and heartbreaking video: Ho erases her thighs and slims her waist, she exaggerates her curves and changes the color of her eyes. And ultimately, she’s unhappy — and in turn asks all of us, “What would you change?”

“Photoshopping and body image — all of that — is such a big problem that a lot of girls deal with because magazine covers are Photoshopped, and even people on Instagram Photoshop their photos,” she told People. “You really don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore.”

But Ho is quick to point out that our self-esteem isn’t just affected by photographs.

“Our friends, our families and just random commenters can really change how we feel about our bodies, and make us feel insecure,” she continued. “That video was really just me stripping down to my raw self and showing everybody that no matter who you are, these things really hurt.”

It’s the perfect reminder that all people have their insecurities, and that the best thing we can do as fellow humans is just to practice kindness and empathy always. To help promote the video, Ho posted the final Photoshopped version of herself to her Instagram — and the response it received is eye-opening.

“You saw me strip down my confidence and self esteem. You saw me raw. Hurt. And vulnerable,” Ho writes as a caption to the photo. “I wanted to post again because there was a weird phenomenon that happened when I posted this photoshopped picture. On the very same photo, I got some people praising me and others degrading me.”

“What worries me is this,” she continued. “1. That some people think this is real and that it should be ‘goals.’ 2. That some people still think it’s not good enough.”

Ho proves that there is no such thing as the perfect body, that we will never be able to satisfy every critic, and that what’s most important is that we love ourselves — and we couldn’t think of a more important message.

“The goal is to show that cyber-bullying and mean comments really affect people, and to think before you say something,” she told People. “I hope that people do the exact opposite after seeing this video, which is enlighten everyone around them with positivity.”

While Ho has somewhat recently come under fire for a “thigh gap” printable she published a few years back, in an interview with Forbes, she clarified that she in no way encourages unhealthy practices to achieve what is, for many, unrealistic body standards. She is extremely outspoken when it comes to eating disorder awareness, and encourages her community to always be conscious of and kind to others.

“I realize now that I am not just an instructor at a gym, but that I am a role model and leader in the fitness industry. It is my responsibility to do whatever I can to help people get healthier while feeling confident and happy in their body,” she told Forbes.

As Ho proved, the idea of a “perfect” body by society’s standards is unachievable and damaging to all involved in the distorted mythology. We need to change the perception of beauty, and we also need to teach the Internet critics who police our bodies that bullying and body-shaming is hurtful and dangerous. Ho’s Photoshopping experiment offers some new insight into how judgmental beauty standards don’t just hurt one person, they damage us all.

Check out Ho’s video in its entirety below.

(Images via video, via, via.)

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