Last week, Penny, one of my lovely blogger friends over at Lillies and Love, put the call out on Instagram and Twitter for bloggers to get in contact. She wanted to hear from people who were fed up with body shaming. “I have had just about as much as I can take of body shaming,” she said. Haven’t we all? We’ve all seen it on Facebook, Twitter, in magazines and newspapers and on the television. She’s too fat. She’s too thin. She has terrible hair. He has a beer belly. His hair is receding. She doesn’t have the figure for that top.

I know I’ve done it. I know I’ve looked at people on the street and judged them without a second’s thought. I’ve tried really, really hard to curb my judgemental streak, and now I try to judge people on the things they do and say, and not on the way that they look. The biggest victim in terms of my judgement though, is me. I look in the mirror several times a day, and I’ve recently got into the habit of saying to myself, “Look at the state of you.” How awful is that? I know that it’s pretty self-destructive, but it had genuinely become a habit; to catch sight of my reflection and mutter those words to myself. I decided that it has to stop, and I was busy drafting a blog post in my head the other day about a self-love project. About taking the time to appreciate me, and all the things that go into making me the unique woman that I am. That’s when Penny’s email fortuitously popped into my inbox. #bodyUNashamed is about celebrating those things, in ourselves and other people, that make us unique. So what if you don’t have a washboard stomach? Or that your nose is slightly bent, or your legs aren’t as long as you wish they were. We all need to get out of the habit of comparing ourselves to the people around us, and there’s nobody that needs to make a bigger change than me.

So this is the first step on the #bodyUNashamed road. To be frank, I am not unashamed of my body. I wish I could be, but I’m not. I’m hoping that Penny’s project will have a positive impact on the way I see myself, and the way I treat my body. I need to lose weight. Not because Heat magazine tells me to, or because I want to look like Cheryl Cole. But because I want to be healthier, and feel a lot happier about myself. It might seem counter-intuitive to talk about changing myself in the same breath as talking about being unashamed. But I think, for me, the two go hand in hand.

Penny has paired everyone up with another blogger, and asked us to take a look at their blog, and highlight three great things about them. I got paired with Hayley from Sparkles and Stretchmarks. Hers is not a blog I have ever read before, but when Penny sent me her name, I settled down and had a good old read! Hayley is mum to a gorgeous little boy called Tyne, a blond-haired, blue-eyed little one with a twinkle in his eye! Her blog and Instagram feed are full of photos, so it didn’t take me long to start making a list of great things about Hayley, based entirely on photos and blog posts.

– Hayley has pink hair. OK, so it’s just the ends that are dip dyed, but she still has pink hair! I want pink hair, but with my dark brown/red mop, I’m not sure it would really work! I love that Hayley just thought “You know what, I want pink tips,” and so she went out, bought a box of pink dye, and did it. No muss, no fuss, and now she has super cool hair.

– When I clicked on Hayley’s blog, one of the first posts that came up was one featuring a YouTube video she had made with her other half, Jon. I had a watch, and found myself laughing out loud. The two of them are so funny together! It made me realise that Hayley is as bubbly as she looks from her photos. You can see her personality shining through in the outfit photos she shares of herself. If I walked past Hayley on the street, I think I’d know that she’s fun. She has a naturally smiley, happy face, and I think that’s a lovely way to look.

– I read a post of Hayley’s from a couple of months ago where she wrote about her body issues. She has some health issues that has led to some weight gain, and this has left her feeling really unhappy about the way she looks. I know a few words from a stranger on the internet won’t magic all of those feelings away, but I just want to say that I think Hayley looks amazing. I have had a good look through her outfit posts, and she always looks great. Her outfits are often super comfortable, because she has a little one to run around after, but she always looks good! I’m totally coveting this ensemble – zebra print trousers? Yes please!

Penny’s a canny girl, because writing this about Hayley has made me realise that I have similar feelings to Hayley about myself, and I find it hard to find the positives in the way I look. But if I can go to Hayley’s blog and, after a couple of hours, find a whole load of things about this girl, who I don’t know, that I think are great, then I should be able to stand in front of the mirror and do the same for me. I know me a lot better than I know Hayley, after all!

The next thing I am supposed to do is share three things about my appearance that I like. I’ve tried to do similar things before on the blog, and you may remember that I shared a photo of myself where I pointed out my flaws, and the positives. There were more flaws than positives, but I’ll try to think of three!

– I go on about it, but I do really like the colour of my eyes. They might not be as different as I like to think they are, but someone once complimented me on them, and since then, I’ve always thought they are quite an interesting colour.

– Most of the time I hate my hair, but every now and again I can appreciate that while it might be thick to the point of bushy, when I actually take the time to do something with it, it can look nice. Thick hair can be a pain, but so many people comment on it and say that they would rather have thick hair than thin hair, that I’ve started to realise that it’s probably not all bad.

– When the sun comes out, I don’t tan. If I don’t wear Factor 50, I burn, and then I go back to milky white. I always say that I got the ginger gene that is so prevalent in my family, without actually getting the ginger hair. But I do get freckles in the summer, and I love my freckles. I get freckly arms, and a freckly face, and I think it makes me look so much healthier.

I think the #bodyUNashamed journey is a long one, but it’s well worth the time.