"After experiencing an eating disorder through high school and my early 20s, I learnt the importance of self-acceptance and self-love," Jae West told PEOPLE
Jae West stripped down to her underwear and a blindfold in the middle of London’s Piccadilly Circus – and what happened next was truly inspiring.
The 24-year-old stood with a whiteboard that read, “I’m standing for anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder or self-esteem issue like me. To support self-acceptance, draw a heart on my body.”
By the end of West’s experiment, she was covered in hearts that were drawn on by strangers. And the video has over 650,000 views on YouTube.
West was inspired to conduct the social experiment by her own personal body confidence issues.
“After experiencing an eating disorder through high school and my early 20s, I learnt the importance of self-acceptance and self-love,” West tells PEOPLE. “In a society that is driven by commercialism, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking your self-worth is governed by your exterior. I understand the importance of my journey from self-hate to self-love now, because it fuels my passion for wanting to make a difference.”
The idea to stand in a crowd in her underwear came about organically as West was touring with her activist group The Liberators International, which aims to bring positive shared experiences to different communities.
“I didn’t know how much impact this video was going to make when the idea came to mind,” she says. “I also didn’t know that I was going to do it in London when we were on tour – it just organically unfolded that way. All I knew was that I’d be stepping outside my own comfort zone, and that others would be able to recognize that vulnerability.”
When West initially stepped out into the crowd and began undressing, she was afraid her experiment would be a failure.
“My biggest fear was that no one was going to draw a love heart on me, and then feeling that there was something wrong with me because of it,” she says. “Feeling unworthy of receiving love was a reoccurring theme during the roughest parts of my eating disorder, so by pursing the experiment even with my fears of judgment, I knew it would be more authentic, emotional and impactful.”
“It not only made me relate to myself in a whole new way,” she continued, “but also strengthened the message that I was standing for not only myself, but anyone who has ever been confronted with self-doubt around the way they look.”
Fortunately, when West took off her blindfold it became apparent that others had embraced her message.
“To open my eyes to a crowd of people applauding me and then looking down at my body covered in hearts representing their love and support was indescribable,” she says. “I knew that everyone that had drawn a heart would have had to confront their own fears of being judged by others, and maybe held their own stories in relation to body image. It was an incredibly humbling experience.”
The Australia-based activist hopes that anyone who sees the video of her brave experiment will be influenced to embrace self-love.
“I just hope that the video inspires others to be courageous in their own lives, and reflect on the relationship that they have with themselves knowing that, as cliché as it may sound, we are perfect just the way that we are.”