‘Before Love Island, I Didn’t Really Scrutinise Myself’: Laura Anderson On How Trolling Has Impacted Her Mental Health

‘I realise now looks aren’t that important. I’m actually more confident with myself from the inside. I know I'm actually a really good person and that means more.’

Laura Anderson

by Georgia Aspinall |

‘Before Love Island, I always had an inner confidence. I was like “I look fab, I’ve got a good job, a boyfriend, I’m doing my thing”. I liked getting dressed up but I didn’t take many photos so I didn’t really scrutinize myself, or see myself from all these different angles nor have all these opinions. So coming off of Love Island, after seeing myself on TV and in all these articles online, starting taking more photos, you do naturally start to criticize yourself more. Because you suddenly have this brand all about how you look – so, it can be difficult.’

Laura Anderson, 31, appeared on Love Island in 2018 and made it all the way the final, finishing as runner-up with Paul Knops, behind Dani Dyer and Jack Fincham. She’s sat across from me on Zoom - 10 days before Christmas – looking as bright and bubbly as she did back in the villa, but with a newfound self-assurance that’s palpable through the screen.

We’re talking trolling, something Laura is more than familiar with. More than two years post-Love Island, she’s been through it all – from rightful criticism to recent controversies (On Instagram, Laura admitted she ‘felt guilty the whole time’ she was in Dubai - but also that it was her ‘only coping mechanism as a single occupant’) to vile abuse about her weight, age and lifestyle.

Before Love Island, I never thought of myself as “too” anything.

As an unwaveringly honest and outspoken Islander, she often takes trolls head on – sharing their messages anonymously with her 1.4million fans to help them understand how that kind of abuse makes a person feel. One might hope she wouldn’t have to do that given three people associated with Love Island have ended their lives, but it’s apparent trolling persists despite the #BeKind movement.

‘I’ve had a lot of negativity towards my weight and people calling me “Too skinny” or “Too old”,’ says Laura. ‘Before Love Island, I never thought of myself as “too” anything. There was definitely a point, probably about a year ago, where I was slightly addicted to checking and reading things. All of those Daily Mail articles, I got into a habit of reading all of those comments and they’re the worst – they’re so so bad.’

Laura Anderson
©James Rudland

Did that take a toll on her mental health? It certainly made her aware of the dangers of trolling. ‘Emotionally, you just start to question yourself,’ Laura explains. ‘Even though the comments are usually about your looks, you're feeling these feelings from the inside – and that is where the danger lies. Because as soon as things are stuck in your head, that is where it's dangerous.’

Particularly in lockdown, she says, having spent the duration of 2020 living alone. ‘I spend a lot of time by myself, and to be stuck in your own head repeating these negative words in your mind, it is a dangerous place. And we all know what we do when we feel bad. We mope about, don’t do much and feel worse – it’s a vicious cycle.’

To break that cycle then, Laura hunts for positive messages. ‘I'll read the positive comment twice, so it really gets in there and sort of eliminates the bad. Because before, I’d scroll through my comments and have so many positive but I would stop at the negative one. I don’t know what it was, are we just programmed to pick up on negativity? So I stopped doing that, and I would slowly read positive ones, twice over, and skim by the negative. It’s like tricking your brain into loving yourself, or at least trying.’

Laura Anderson
©James Rudland

And now, she’s found an inner confidence that’s even more valuable than her nonchalant mentality pre-Love Island, because her opinion of herself is purely based on who she is as a person.

‘When I post something on Instagram, or go to an event or if there’s big awards and you get papped, I know now it’s not real life,’ she explains. ‘Now I realise the amount of hair and makeup, styling and lighting and editing that goes into all these amazing pictures. And actually, I feel a lot more humbled.

‘I don't think I look amazing, I can see my flaws more, but I realise now looks aren’t that important,’ Laura continues. ‘I’m actually more confident in myself from the inside. I realise, “Oh, my God, I'm actually a really good person.” Because you meet all these celebs and you think, “Oh, wow, they're so amazing. They're so glamorous” and then sometimes, they're not actually that nice to chat to. So it helps me think “I'm actually better than them because I'm a nicer person”. And that means more to me, so I've actually done a full switch.’

Trolling can massively damage someone's mental health.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still see the incredible danger in trolling.

‘100% trolling can massively damage someone's mental health,’ Laura says. ‘Even more so for the younger generation, because they're just so bombarded with it and spend so much time on social media, looking at pictures, reading negative comments. So it is really difficult to get to the point where I feel like I am most of the time, it's hard work.

For young people then, she prays they will recognize the damage trolling can do and act pre-emptively to ensure it doesn’t impact their self-esteem, in the same way she reads positive comments twice or teaches herself to skim past negative ones, everyone should do that too.

‘I hope young girls listen to these chats, and realize it is a problem, it's not normal to read a negative comment from a stranger and actually believe it, so do something about it before it gets worse,’ Laura concludes. ‘And realise, we don’t always need to post a pretty picture. The best engagement I get is when I do something a bit silly, or my caption is something important and has some substance, instead of me just standing there. Let’s not focus too much on looks all the time.’

Read More:

Laura Anderson And Skinny Shaming: Why Do We Think It’s OK To Discuss Love Island Contestants' Bodies?

Zara McDermott: 'Nothing Can Prepare You For The Amount Of Trolling You’ll Get As A Love Island Contestant'

Why Are We So Fixated On The Age Of The Love Island Contestants?

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