WHEN I applied for Love Island in early 2021, I felt the most confident I’d ever been.
I was single, living life just for me and I believed the show would be an experience of a lifetime.
Knowing millions would be tuning in, I wanted to look and feel my best, so in the months before, I got as fit and healthy as possible.
During three and a half weeks of quarantine in Mallorca, I worked out daily, ate healthily and avoided treats, which was a change from normal.
I love sweets and usually eat what I like!
By the time I entered the villa, I was a size 8 – probably a dress size smaller than usual – and felt good.
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At home in Essex, I’m the most confident one in my friendship group, but on Love Island, suddenly being surrounded by all these people who were beautiful and oozing confidence, I began to question myself.
I’d joined the show late, so while I was feeling insecure, it seemed like everyone else was having so much fun, which made me feel low.
Being on the sideline of already-established friendships wasn’t always easy, either.
It reminded me of when I began studying at London’s Ravensbourne University and I was struggling with that feeling of starting over again.
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It took time to adjust to life on a TV show, where arguments were commonplace, bedtimes were set and production controlled our daily schedule.
The food in the villa wasn’t my favourite, and you tend to eat less when you’re in the heat, so when I left Love Island I was a size 6 – the smallest I’ve ever been.
After the show, I gradually put weight back on and rediscovering my curves made me feel sexy.
But recently, I’ve received nasty comments on social media about my size-10 figure, with some people even asking if I’m pregnant.
Can you imagine if I couldn’t have children or I was trying for a baby and not succeeding?
On International Women’s Day in March, I hit back at trolls on Instagram, saying it was insensitive to comment on what I looked like and that I’d been torn apart by the things people had said.
It’s so important to not get sucked in by beauty standards of perfection.
Even though I’m now happy with the way I am, inside and out, those comments hurt. I’m human – nobody likes to feel judged.
I haven’t always felt so confident. I struggled in secondary school as I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), which doctors put down to anxiety.
Nobody knew I had it, and I was scared about what other kids might say.
I’ve received nasty comments on social media about my size-10 figure, with some people even asking if I’m pregnant.
I was just a bit of a worrier as a kid, but as soon as I left school my anxiety lifted, so the diarrhoea and cramps went, too.
I had another test of self-confidence two years ago when, six months after having a contraceptive implant fitted, I developed hormonal acne over my cheeks and jaw.
I felt so self-conscious and was embarrassed about meeting new people, and even though no one ever commented, I was paranoid that everyone was thinking: “God, that girl’s skin is really bad”, so I didn’t want to leave the house.
Once the implant was removed after a year and a half, I began a new skincare regime.
Although the acne hasn’t disappeared completely, it no longer rules my life.
If anyone looks at me and thinks: “She’s got a spot”, I’ve gone past the point of caring.
Acceptance is powerful and the key to surviving crises of confidence is to maintain a good sense of humour and perspective.
So where does love fit into all of this? I don’t believe that being in a relationship has a bearing on self-confidence.
Yes, receiving compliments from Liam [Reardon, 22, Millie’s boyfriend, who she won Love Island with] makes me feel great, but no one should rely on another person’s approval to feel good.
To be the best version of yourself in life, you need to be truly happy in your own skin.
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