It can take a lot of courage for anyone to open up about their body image issues. Add just about over 11 million adoring fans hanging on your every word, and I can only imagine what it must feel like for a 26-year-old celebrity to be so candid about the relationship he has with his body. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Sam Smith opened up about his body image struggles on Instagram, and although the “Dancing With A Stranger” performer has addressed his reservations with self-image in the past, the singer announced to fans that he’s decided “to fight the f*ck back” and reclaim his body for exactly what it is.
The photo was taken by Ryan Pfluger, a photographer based in LA and NYC, and captures Smith standing shirtless on a beach with his bare back toward the ocean, his eyes looking straight into the camera’s lens. It’s the kind of picture you’ve probably seen a million times over, the type of pose people strike on their tropical vacations and day trips down the shore, but it’s not the setting that makes this snapshot of Smith important; it's what the photo represents.
“In the past if I have ever done a photo shoot with so much as a t-shirt on, I have starved myself for weeks in advance and then picked and prodded at every picture and then normally taken the picture down,” the “Fire on Fire” singer wrote in his Instagram caption. “Yesterday I decided to fight the f*ck back. Reclaim my body and stop trying to change this chest and these hips and these curves that my mum and dad made and love so unconditionally.”
From that introduction alone, it’s clear that Smith is ready to make a commitment to and for himself. But in doing so, he’s also sending a message to his followers that, despite any struggles you might be facing, there is hope and there is healing. Unfortunately, haters are going to hate, and internet trolls are going to troll. Knowing that, Smith made sure to shut down anyone who might interpret the photo as "narcissistic."
“Some may take this as narcissistic and showing off,” he continued in his Instagram post, “but if you knew how much courage it took to do this and the body trauma I have experienced as a kid you wouldn’t think those things.” And, really, there’s nothing more that needs to be said on the subject, unless, of course, Smith eventually decides he does want to share those details with the world.
And, should Smith decide to continue the conversation, if the outpouring of love in the Instagram comments section is any indication, I think it's safe to say he'll have a wave of people supporting him. I mean, the post itself has garnered over one million likes in less than a day, plus countless comments praising the performer for his transparency. One person commented, “You are beautiful, love. Seeing the love and the bravery in you. Thank you for showing us to be human. Onwards, @samsmith ❤️❤️❤️,” while another added, “Good for you, you look great! Nothing to be worried about!”
Scattered among the many clapping-hands emojis and sentiments of love, some fans also commented that Smith’s words were inspiring, and served as a comfort to them on their own journey. One person wrote, “Thank you for inspiring others with your story! I feel you on this!!” Another tagged a friend of theirs, noting Smith’s caption should be printed on a 150x200 canvas so that they could “read it every damn morning” like a bible. Amen to that.
In addition to the overwhelming love and support the singer has received from his followers, Pfluger also wrote his muse a sweet message in response to Smith, who neatly concluded his own Instagram post with a thank you to the photographer for helping him take such an integral “step in the right f*cking direction.” Uploading the photo to his own Instagram account, Pfluger returned Smith's thank you with a heartfelt caption, expressing how proud he is of his dear friend. Pfluger wrote,
@samsmith thank you for trusting me to facilitate photographs that empower your ownership of your body and mind. I honestly wish everyone relinquished themselves to the experience like you did. An experience that has brought us closer together & I look forward to creating with you through the years. All the love.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 10 million men in the United States will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives, and of that statistic, 42 percent identify as LGBTQ+. What's more, per NEDA, eating disorders "disproportionately impact some segments of the LGBTQ+ community," and body image issues in the LGBTQ+ community can develop for a number of reasons. For instance, the organization explains, an eating disorder can develop as a coping mechanism out of a fear of rejection from loved ones, as a result of the discrimination or bullying the person may have faced because of their sexuality, and even as a way to meet certain body image ideals that are sometimes perpetuated within the LGBTQ+ community.
While I'm sure the support of his fans, and even Pfluger, have meant the world to Smith during his struggle, I genuinely hope he knows that, no matter what, he's never truly alone. And if you're currently struggling with body image issues, neither are you.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and needs help, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237, text 741741, or chat online with a Helpline volunteer here.