It took years for Michelle Elman to muster enough courage to post a picture of herself in a bikini.
But the British body-confidence coach did it, revealing the deep scars from the 15 surgeries she has had since childhood.
"Was I terrified? Yes, but not about all the comments I’d get," Elman told Today. "I was scared that the boy I’m interested in was going to see it! But I did it anyway.”
Elman has endured a brain tumor, punctured intestine, brain cyst, an obstructed bowel has undergone more than a dozen surgeries. Even more, she has lived for 21 years with hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in the brain.
Physically, her health problems have taken their toll. But it is the scars that have been the hardest part, she says.
After posting her bikini pic on Instagram, the photo has gone viral. She even has support from body-positive role models such as Zooey Deschanel and Tess Holliday.
Elman admits she was prepared for a negative backlash. However, she was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive and supportive comments.
"I knew there was a need for a voice in terms of scars, but the lack of negative response has been astounding," she said.
"I want people to look at the post and realize that they can do it. I tick all the boxes in being overweight, scarred, mixed race and disabled, and it is in these differences we should be proud."
Elman, who will turn 22 next month, has a degree in psychology. She is accredited by five boards, and she has launched her own body-confidence coaching business, Mindset for Life.
She coaches in person and via Skype.
Her young age could be a deterrent for some people seeking therapy or coaching. But Elman speaks with maturity far beyond her years.
"People aren’t intimidated by me," she said. "When you reach a certain age, people think, the therapist is this perfect person. I don’t preach perfection.”
"Fear is just a sensation in your body, and then you put label on it," she said. "Call it excitement, and you take power away from it.”
For now, Elman is just thankful that her message has had such an impact.
"What amazed me is the number of people who have got into the pool because of one picture," she stated. "People have messaged me saying they have got into the pool for the first time in 10 years."
"The biggest purpose of the campaign was to let those who feel isolated in their body-confidence issues know they aren’t alone and to show that body confidence and your body aren’t actually correlated — they are separate issues," she added.
"There are fat people with confidence and there are skinny people without confidence and the same goes with scars!"