Ash Barty Opens Up About ‘Massive Insecurities’ Surrounding Her Body Image

In a bid to help others grappling with their own insecurities, former World No 1 Ash Barty has shared her own experience with body image throughout her teens.

She’s an Australian icon and one of the greatest sportspeople to ever take to the world stage, not just in the realm of tennis. A showcase not only of discipline and resilience, Ash Barty is also an example of camaraderie and the power of sport to unite the world and its people. For those of us who had the privilege to watch her star ascension in real time, culminating with the win of the Australian Open this January before her retirement, seeing her athletic prowess on the court made our lives a lucky one. And while Barty was, for the most part, all smiles and unshakeable confidence, she’s had to battle her own demons for some time. 

As the tennis star and former World No 1 has now expressed, she’s long suffered from body image issues that began as a young player, even continuing as she began her professional career and cemented her place within the top ranks of the world game. The admission comes from her upcoming memoir, My Dream Time, in which Barty opens up about “massive insecurities” surrounding her body and how she “hated” the impact training had on it, which was only made worse by comfort eating while homesick on the tour. 

“I had massive insecurities about my body, which developed, as they often do for girls, when I was around 13, maybe even younger,” says Barty. “It was definitely daunting as a young girl.”  Barty explained that she often compared herself to other players, who she called “aesthetically beautiful goddesses,” and that she would hide away to get changed in private while they walked openly around the locker room. Not only that, she also compared herself to girls her own age and found the contrast shocking as she saw herself as having the body of a strong athlete. 

“I couldn’t celebrate being unique because I was too worried about being seen to be different – not just by the public but by those around me. When I was 15 and won that wildcard entry into the Australian Open, I remember talking to people about the thrill of it all, but I never mentioned the terror. I didn’t tell anyone what I felt like sharing a locker room with women who had trained their entire lives to be lean and strong.”

Thankfully, Barty soon saw the gift and power in her body, particularly one that helped her reach new feats in the sport. “I ended up changing my thinking and in the last three years of my career I trained in a way that made my body a weapon,” she wrote. “When I played my best I knew girls could not get the ball past me. I may not look like everyone else but it was really invigorating to know I had trained my body to do exactly what it needs to do.”

Speaking about her insecurities in an interview with News Corp, Barty expressed that she “went through that like a lot of people do and a big part of my passion now is to encourage girls and boys to be comfortable in themselves.”

“It helped me realise that imperfections are part of all of us and they are ok. By sharing some of my insecurities hopefully it can help them realise a lot of people go through it.”

Ash barty

As well as seeing Barty open up about her own struggles, her memoir also discusses her tennis career, waning motivation and the red flag that told her it was time to retire from the sport she loved so much. My Dream Time: A Memoir of Tennis & Teamwork is available to purchase on November 2 from HarperCollins. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or disordered eating, help is available. Contact the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673.

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