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30-year-old woman with swollen legs defies bullies to become an Instagram sensation

While we have graduated beyond having our heads shoved into lockers and getting our lunch money stolen, it’s apparent that this new age of internet bullies work around the clock. But regardless of whether Twitter is your medium of choice, or if you prefer posting memes on Instagram, one thing is for sure: trolls will come flooding in as soon as you garner a following.

This is something that body positivity activist Carmen Smith knows too well. The Instagram sensation has endured cruel remarks and comments from strangers after developing lymphedema as a child – a condition which causes her legs, ankles and feet to swell.

But after years of attempting to hide her limbs, Smith has come to grips with her condition, and regularly poses in lingerie to encourage women to show of their “flaws” and be confident in their own skin.

#CelluLITsunday 💕. It’s a new week and a chance for all of us to practice #positivity and kindness towards our bodies. Here’s your goal: do something nice for your body everyday. Doesn’t have to be big but actively think of something to help your body out everyday. Tag me in your acts of kindness! 😍😍 . Photo by: @cordobaphotography . #eatthecaketoo #carmenrene #bodylove #bodypositive #bodyconfidence #selflove #selfappreciation #everybodybeautiful #effyourbodystandards #chunky #curves #curvy #cakeday #cake oh hi #backrolls #natural #bodybeautiful #selfcare #bekindtoyourself #lymphedemawarrior #lymphedema #sexylingerie #bbw #bbwlove

A post shared by Carmen Rene (@eatthecaketoo) on

Despite previously struggling with body confidence, 30-year-old Carmen Smith has learnt to embrace her disorder and is now sharing her journey with her 48,000 Instagram followers.

Speaking to Barcroft TV, the Pasadena, California native asserted “Be what you wanna be, [don’t be] stuck in this weird box society wants to keep us in.”

“Our differences make us beautiful. I always tell my followers on Instagram to embrace their bodies at every step of our journey,” she continued.

All month is #LymphedemaAwarenessMonth so I’m hoping to make as much of an impact as I can! I never wore shorts growing up and I never EVER wanted people to look at my feet. My feet are still such a vulnerability for me if I’m being completely honest. Because of my poor circulation they tend to callus easily and are far from what society seems as #prettyfeet . Through this journey with you, I have challenge myself to really love the parts of my body that make people stop and stare. The parts of my body that make me feel most vulnerable. Not just say I love my body but to believe in my soul that my feet are perfect for me just the way they are. That my lower legs are worthy of all my love. We are on this journey together, please believe that! . Photo by @cordobaphotography . . #lymphedemawarrior #effyourbeautystandards #eatthecaketoo #carmenrene #bevulnerable #iamstrong #iamworthy #bodypositive #bodylove #bodycare #selflove #curves #plussizemodel #bodyposi

A post shared by Carmen Rene (@eatthecaketoo) on

Carmen was just three when her mother noticed that her extremities were uncharacteristically swollen. “My mum tells me I was about three when she noticed that something was going on. I was complaining a lot that my feet hurt,” the 30-year-old revealed. “She took me to the doctor and they diagnosed me with lymphedema, stating that most likely I was born without some of my lymph nodes.”

Lymphedema affects up to 10 million people in the United States and as Carmen explains, “Your lymph nodes and your lymphatic system are supposed to be moving fluids through your body”. In her case, however, there was a blockage in her legs which explains the chronic “swelling and discomfort” that she started to experience.

Carmen’s symptoms have progressed throughout her teenage years and into adulthood. “As I’ve gotten older my lymphedema has progressed. I do remember [people] would look at my feet or say something about them,” she stated. “It would just make me horrified and so uncomfortable and embarrassed.”

“She’s got that whole purpose driven warrior queen save the world type of vibe”. ✨ Staring life right in the eye like What’s next? . Photo SLAYED by @cordobaphotography shot @cordobacreatives . Lingerie: @fashionnovacurve . . #carmenrene #eatthecaketoo #everybodybeautiful #lymphedemawarrior #lymphedema #lymphedemaawareness #queen #glowforit #stronger #strongwoman #femaleempowerment #feelempowered #bodyempowerment #bodylove #bodypositive #bodyconfidence #bbwlove #bbw #plusmodelmag #plussize #getoverit #biggirlswag #bigisbeautiful #sizesexy #effyourbodystandards #effyourbeautystandards #iambodybeautiful #celluLIT

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As a young girl, Carmen would attempt to hide her lower body. She would do this by trying to hide the most swollen leg, the right, when posing for pictures, and to this day she is still not wholly comfortable with people looking at her feet.

While enduring scathing remarks from people around her knocked Carmen’s confidence for a long time, her mindset gradually began to change. “The turning point was telling myself that I have to start being in a more positive mental space saying that I’m not going to be defined by what someone else has to say about my body.”

#TransformationTuesday 🙌🏼 Not my body but my mind! 4 years ago I would have focused on everything I thought was wrong with this picture and would have been MORTIFIED at the thought of my legs and feet out there for everyone to see! I was OBSESSED with cleavage and would have never felt comfortable with my boobs having a mind of their own (which we know they do from time to time 😂). Lord knows i still have my struggles and I still have days when I feel insecure but I also understand the importance of celebrating your Victories, Big or small. We all start somewhere and I like to think we are better today than we were yesterday. Celebrate yourself and your journey 💕. Photo by @cordobaphotography . Dress: @fashionnovacurve promo code CAKEXO for 💰 off. . #novababe #workinprogress #carmenrene #eatthecaketoo #bodypositivity #bodylove #confidence #curvy #curves #plusisequal #plusisbeautiful #embracethesquish #chunky #biggirlswag #biglove #selflove #selenagomez #loveyourself #celebratemysize #celebrateyourbody #bodyconfidence #bopo #journey #progress #lymphedemawarrior #lymphedema #AconfidentYou

A post shared by Carmen Rene (@eatthecaketoo) on

She also stresses that it’s important to have a supportive partner, who cherishes your body. “The way my boyfriend makes me feel about my body is something that I wish every woman could experience,” she asserted.

“A partner who empowers you and encourages you to love your body the way they say it, it will change the way that you see yourself. For me, he was, and has been, a huge part of me being able to do what I do.”

Well, Carmen’s story is certainly inspiring, and it just goes to show that we really do have the agency to start the long (and often arduous) process of learning to love our bodies.