Nova Scotia

Eskasoni woman's message to body-shaming bullies goes viral

'Go ahead and judge me, I know who I am, and I know my purpose in life.'

Warning: Photo below contains graphic language

A 19-year-old Mi'kmaq woman has shaken off the anguish of bullying to encourage people to love themselves, no matter what others say. And her message is being shared by thousands around the world.  

Hannah Battiste of Eskasoni, N.S., was just a child when she lost her dad, and her brother committed suicide not long after. She struggled with confidence and self-esteem, and she was bullied at school about her weight. 

Battiste and a worker at the Eskasoni Crisis Centre. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

'Started to accept myself'

Some students even told her to kill herself, Battiste said. 

She tried, in November. 

Then something changed.

"After a long time of doing this and doing that, getting treatment, doing home-schooling, I just woke up one day and I just started to accept myself," she told CBC News.

"It's been, like, a month now I started to [become] a positive, confident person, and it just never stopped."

Facebook post goes viral

Battiste spends a lot of time online, mainly making funny observations and comments for the benefit of her friends and community. 

Then she posted the photo below on her Facebook account, with a message: "My reaction when someone judges me... 'You gained weight.' So what?

"No matter what you do, whether it's right or wrong, people are going to judge you. Go ahead and judge me, I know who I am, and I know my purpose in life."

"Go ahead and judge me, I know who I am, and I know my purpose in life," Battiste wrote in her Facebook post. (Hannah Battiste/Facebook)

It garnered thousands of reactions from people all over, many of whom Battiste had never met. 

"Thousands of shares and I've been on Buzzfeed and People magazine, Cosmo magazine, a lot of articles and people inboxing me, emailing me from Italy, France, all over the place, telling me I have their support. It's crazy!"

She thinks more people should find the courage to express themselves as she did.

'When they speak out, it's good'

"Because somebody will eventually kill themselves or turn to drugs, turn to alcohol because of bullying, because of mental health issues," she said.

"So when they speak out, it's good. The sooner you speak out, the sooner you get help, and then the sooner you have this happiness and this confidence in yourself."

Even while struggling to find a way to speak out about her personal pain, Battiste became a published poet, writing about her love of her Mi'kmaq culture.

She says her Facebook post has brought more people to her home who want guidance about how to overcome their own troubles.

Lately she dedicates a lot of her time to the crisis centre in Eskasoni, and encourages people to turn there for help.

People have told her "that when they look at my funny posts, and they when they look at me going good, it makes them want to do good," she said.

"They said that I'm a role model to them. It's like, the more I do good, the more people want to do good for themselves too. I don't feel like a role model. I just feel like I'm doing my own thing and people like it."

With files from Gary Mansfield