Even though she’s a member of the politically involved Schwarzenegger-Shriver family, Katherine Schwarzenegger is avoiding the “crazy” parts of the 2016 presidential election.
Schwarzenegger, 26, who spent the summer talking to women across the country as part of T.J. Maxx’s “Road to Real” campaign, is concentrating on the positive parts of this year’s election – not Republican candidate Donald Trump‘s body shaming comments.
“I think it’s a crazy time, and I think the election is obviously one that’s incredibly historical,” she carefully tells PEOPLE. “I try to look at all these positives that came out of this election, and the fact that we have a woman running for president is amazing. I try to focus on the breakthroughs that are being made, and not the silly, crazy comments being made by someone else.”
Schwarzenegger dealt with her own body image issues growing up – she previously told USA Today she remembers feeling “fat and ugly” as early as fourth grade – and penned a book about how she found self-confidence.
“With the amount of pressure that’s on women to look a certain way, I really wanted to share my experiences that I’ve had as a young girl growing up in Los Angeles,” she says. “It’s such an important topic, and it’s one that affects women of all ages, even if you’re 8 years old or 60. I wanted to share with girls that you’re not alone.”
On her tour around the country, Schwarzenegger found many other women who had their own challenges with body image — “I’ve yet to meet a woman where that topic doesn’t come up” — but what stood out in her conversations with over 500 women in 60 different cities was their perseverance.
VIDEO: TJ Maxx’s Road to Real with Katherine Schwarzenegger
“These women have been through it all. They’ve had such hard and challenging lives, and just to see how optimistic they are about their futures and the good in humanity was just so refreshing to hear,” she says. “As we were traveling to all these places over the summer there was a huge amount of gun violence going on in the news and different things going on in the world, and just to see the amount of optimism that people were expressing in different cities was really amazing.”
Schwarzenegger says her experience with “Road to Real” was life changing.
“It’s inspiring to see all the different roles [women] play on a daily basis: mother, breadwinner, caretaker,” she says. “I think it would be impossible to have an experience like that and not have it change you as a person. It changed how I live my life, how I want to live my life, the people in my life and how I want to interact with them.”