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Josh Smith becomes an ambassador for Place2Be

Presenter, Journalist, and former Celebrity and Entertainment Director at GLAMOUR UK, Josh Smith has become Place2Be’s newest charity ambassador.

Josh smiling on the beach

As a celebrity interviewer - interviewing everyone from Oprah to Victoria Beckham - Josh Smith has become known for his open and honest interviews around mental health. As he is announced as an ambassador for Place2Be, he pens a heartfelt essay on living your truth, after previously writing about ‘coming out’ at school for the charity.

Josh first became a supporter of Place2Be last year and has spent the last few months getting involved in various campaigns and helping us raise our profile.

Josh will work with Place2Be to raise awareness of the mental health challenges experienced in UK schools, helping to reduce the stigma and barriers around seeking support and speaking out. Like Place2Be, Josh believes no young person should have to face mental health struggles alone.

In this article for Place2Be, Josh shares his own reflections on the importance of being accepted; of having a trusted support network and safety net in order to be your whole self. As we return to our schools and workplaces, this essay encourages you to live your life authentically; to embrace your gender, sexuality, religion, your race or whatever you may feel you are not accepted for…

Live your truth: an essay on self-acceptance by Josh Smith 

Living your truth, living authentically as you, respecting yourself and all the aspects that make you special, from your flaws to your strengths, is one of the hardest things to do. Even far into adulthood, walking through life and accepting your individuality is an ongoing negotiation between respecting yourself and preventing yourself from succumbing to the social pressures around you.

The environment of schools makes this even harder with the pressure cooker of peer pressure, the desire to confirm and the ‘need’ to fit in. I remember walking the corridors at my secondary school, as a closeted gay boy, feeling like I had to hide my truth in order to be ‘accepted’. I was conscious about the way I walked – ‘don’t sashay around, you won’t look masculine, walk like everyone else, Josh’ - the way I talked – ‘try to conceal your high pitched voice, Josh,’ and the way I looked – ‘just fit in and get on with it, Josh.’ As a result, I felt like the exterior self I was trying to fashion was at odds with my internal self and looking back now I realise I was not a happy person because of it. I wish I had walked down these corridors owning my truth, future me would have been so thankful.

There were times when I felt like there was no other option but to change myself. There were the times I was called names in the corridor or the classroom and openly mocked in front of others. I remember my PE teacher belittling my shot put technique in front of an entire class, calling it ‘girly’ because I flicked my wrist down after throwing it. He replicated it in front of everyone in my class for a, ‘joke’ and as the laughter rippled around my peers, I not only felt isolated but I also thought to myself, ‘I need to act more masculine if I am ever going to fit in.’

I would fake interest in things to just join conversations, even going as far as to lie about things I did outside of school just to feel like I could be part of something. I even had faux relationships with girls and kissed girls at parties to keep up a pretense. It was only behind closed doors, at home, watching things like Will and Grace and listening to the cheesiest pop music that I felt the most me. Being gay in a world that was not necessarily ready for it meant every move I made had to be carefully considered in order to not give myself over to further torment or bullying.

I tried to turn the volume of myself down to be accepted but ultimately, I was not accepting myself. I was not living authentically and purposely trying to destroy the parts of me that made me special. These parts are the things that have made me the person I am today, enabled me to build a successful career and a happy life. Being the loudest, boldest version of myself is now THE only answer. Being truly proud of myself is THE only option. 

You should never live your life for others, you should speak your truth in spite of their criticisms and not let these criticisms prevent you from living freely. Learning that you should not only be accepted, but respected, for every aspect of you, and not in spite of what you may think is a ‘flaw’ is the most freeing thing of all, too.

I will never forget a piece of advice the actress Hayley Atwell gave me after an interview. “You take YOU wherever you go, so keep setting the tone you want,” she told me and in that very moment I realised I had stopped myself from doing this throughout my life. I used to enter rooms, especially when I was younger, and conform to the tone dictated by others - realising I had the power to control my own experiences from within was one of the most liberating moments in my life.

If you are reading this and are struggling to truly be you find the ‘safe spaces’ where you can be yourself. Be it within friendship groups, open and honest dialogue with your parents or family, or your Place2be counsellor if you are lucky enough to have one in your school. Live truthfully in these safe spaces and eventually you won’t be able to stop being you in every aspect of your life. If you feel like you don’t have role models to look up to, find them. As much as social media can be a negative place it can be a positive one too, there is a role model for everyone out there.

As we return to schools, our workplaces and back into social occasions after six months sitting with ourselves ask yourself, is prescribing to uniformity and conformity really going to best serve YOU? You may find yourself back in a uniform that is designed to make you equal with everyone else and make you fit in with everyone else, but uniformity does not make you an individual. So, go forth and live your life by offering your authentic self first and foremost in every moment. Your individuality is your greatest asset and looking after your individuality is the best thing you can do for your mental health.

Live your truth in the corridors of life you are walking down today and the corridors of your future. Live your truth today for future you, future you will be thankful, I promise.

Josh's signature

If you’re worried about a child or young person or have any worries yourself, take a look at our advice page on where to get help and support.

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