MONMOUTH COUNTY - A Wall Township teenager says she wasn't going to let bullies get to her, and instead chose to embrace their criticism.
Carleigh O'Connell, 14, was the target of hurtful words about her figure scrawled on a concrete block at the end of a Manasquan jetty.
Friends told Carleigh that her "rear end" was the focus of the spray-painted graffiti on the large rock at the beach. She knew by the distinct spelling of her name that it was true. Upset, she went to her mom and got support for her next move.
Carleigh came out to the jetty in her bikini, stood on top of the rock, had a picture taken, and posted it on Instagram.
Her mom, Daryl O'Connell then posted the photo on Facebook Sunday asking others to like and share it. "I type this with tears in my eyes," she wrote. "Not tears of sadness or anger, for I will never give anyone that is mean that much power. Tears of joy knowing that my daughter can face negativity with a smile and sense of humor."
The picture has now been shared several thousand times, and Carleigh's supporters can't praise her enough.
"I think it's good that she took something that was so derogatory and that she stood up for herself," says Tochi Azu, of Union.
"I do believe body image is a major issue with girls, and I hope that just one person feels better about themselves after they see my story," Carleigh says.
Her mom says no perfect report card, high test score, athletic race or award could top the pride she feels right now.