Liam Hackett, CEO and Founder of Ditch The Label, joins Happiful’s podcast to talk about surviving bullying, ditching labels and living a life that’s fearless
Upon finishing secondary school, Liam Hackett was, in his own words, “broken”. After many years of being bullied he was at an all time low, but also certain he didn’t want anyone else to endure the experiences he’d had.
As a result, Liam began Ditch The Label when he was just a teenager. “I came up with the idea of Ditch when I was 15. I'd been bullied for 10 years at school and for me it was a bit of escapism and a support network that I built for myself on MySpace.
“I started to talk about my experiences and I had hundreds of people message me to say that they were going through something similar,” he shares.
After University, Liam realised there was more to be done around bullying prevention and Ditch The Label has been operating as an international anti-bullying charity since 2012. Last year alone, they supported 3.6 million young poeple globally.
Everyone at Ditch is committed to the same beliefs and values Liam laid down when he established the initiative almost 15 years ago - the belief that we should inhabit a fair, equal world, free from all types of bullying.
“The name Ditch The Label was really inspired by the fact that a lot of people are bullied and targeted because of attitudes towards a part of their identity, whether it's race, sexuality, how they look or their disability.
“We’re all put in these invisible boxes, the first one is because of your gender, and you’re colour coded from day one as 'blue' or 'pink' and a lot of decisions are made for you by society,” Liam says.
“The idea behind Ditch is actually, let's just get rid of all that, none of that matters. It doesn't have to dictate who you are in the world. Society might make you feel like you have to be a certain way, but you don't.
“It’s all about reclaiming your own identity and being fearless.”
It’s been quite a process for Liam to find his own fearlessness, which is what makes him so well placed to help others. “When I finished school at 16, I was broken. I wouldn't have been able to have a conversation with you. I would walk around with my head down all the time and I had a really low opinion of myself,” he shares.
“I desperately wanted to change who I was because I never really fitted in at school and I was just so unhappy. I would self harm. I had some really dark thoughts.
I think we all have our own journey to reach fearlessness. And it takes a long time because you have to do so much work on yourself
“When I went to college, things started to really change for me because in the background I was building a community for myself online and surrounding myself with like minded people,” Liam continues.
“Also the feeling in college was so different because everybody wanted to be there. For the first time in my life I wasn't isolated or treated as somebody that people would target and bully.”
A move away from his hometown helped Liam to make further changes. “Eventually I moved away to Brighton to study and I think that's when I really found myself.
“I think we all have our own journey to reach fearlessness. And it takes a long time because you have to do so much work on yourself.”
Liam smiles.“You have to figure out who you are in the world. It takes a lot to actually be able to turn around and say ‘Do you know what? I don't really care what other people think or say, this is who I am and I'm not going to apologise for that.’”
Liam has written ‘Fearless: How To be your true confident self!’ to provide much needed information for young adults. The book covers wide ranging topics, from fears around not fitting in, being a failure and expressing ourselves to beauty ideals, unconscious bias and brain science.
Fearless: How to be your true confident self! is out now.