“I had spoken out to Seventeen magazine because they asked me, ‘What was your life like when you were 17?’ And I thought to myself, ‘Well, you could either lie or you could tell them the truth,'” Bellisario, 31, told PEOPLE while hosting fans at the brand new Disney Springs Orlando Origins shop.
“It was really important for me to tell the truth because there are so many young women and men who watch Pretty Little Liars,” she continues. “I didn’t want to exclude them from my story, which I think is a really positive story because I sought treatment, because I was supported by my friends and family, and I was able to get back to a healthy place.”
The actress feels being honest is even more important these days, when young women and girls are flooded with images of “perfect” bodies on social media.
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“My message would be — especially with social media — don’t believe what you see at all,” she says. “There are lots of apps you can get on your phone that can change the way your face looks and the way your body looks. We’re setting the bar at a very different place for what people think is a regular photo.”
“It’s sort of curated in a way that could create a false ideal for a woman’s body or a man’s body,” she continues. “I think it’s really dangerous territory.”
Bellisario says she hopes people will learn to not let the images affect how they see themselves.
“Treat them as you would if you looked at a magazine stand. You don’t know which one of these has been Photoshopped, you don’t know which one of these has been altered,” she says. “It’s important to look at them as beautiful images, but as not necessarily entirely accurate all the time.”