Summer is right around the corner! It’s time for you to head to Old Navy’s annual sale on flip flops and break out your bikinis. Maybe a trip to the beach?
Personally, I haven’t been the biggest fan of summer. The hot weather, humidity and minimal clothing has never been appealing to me. For the most part, I’ve never felt confident during the warmer weather. I still hate how sometimes my thighs rub together when I’m wearing shorts. I never thought I had that “summer body” everyone strives for.
Ever since I hit puberty, I was always a bit bigger than the rest of the girls my age. I had curves before most and I felt embarrassed. I tied a lot of things to my body, which all led to body confidence and self-esteem issues. Essentially, I began having a love-hate relationship with my body, and the hot weather was when I hated my body the most. I wanted to hide myself.
Unfortunately, a lot of people hate their bodies due to bad experiences when they were younger. Billboards, music videos, magazines and TV advertisements all showcase a standard of beautiful that is usually unattainable. The models of these ads are often tall, blonde and skinny, which then becomes the societal norm of what the ideal American woman should look like. Tons of girls struggle to see the natural beauty they possess, and they might even go to dangerous extremes to obtain that look.
It doesn’t help that companies like Victoria Secret refuse to acknowledge plus-size women in America. The average jean size of women in America is a size 12, and yet, the brand does not have these sizes offered in their stores. They do cater towards women with smaller assets, which is great, but clothing should be available on both ends of the spectrum. It doesn’t help when they promote this very sexualized image of what a man supposedly looks for in his partner.
During high school, I cried so many times dress shopping because I felt ashamed for having to go a size up. Nobody explained to me that it is due to my cup size. Nobody told me it was beautiful. I also had the traumatizing experience when a sales associate referred me to the clearance rack to find something “more suitable” for my size.
Sometimes even the words we say and how we approach a situation can contort our true intentions. Saying stuff along the lines of, “Are you sure you should be eating that?” or “Those jeans are looking a bit tight on you,” can trigger anxieties and raise questions of if someone thinks they are pretty enough. We are setting a standard for young girls that they will carry on for the rest of their lives. We are teaching them that looking a certain way can get you a partner and lead to a successful life. It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of pointing out the flaws in someone, we should be embracing the differences and qualities that make us all unique. There is not a single person who has the exact personality, style and mindset that you possess. We should be encouraging one another rather than trying to prevent individuals from expressing and embracing who they are. If an individual doesn’t like the way they look, I feel like it is that person’s choice to determine if they want to change their appearance, and not the societal pressures and standards we have set unknowingly.
This is also the opportunity to explain that body types are all different, and most of the time, it is out of the person’s hands. I never knew why I was a bit curvier than girls my age. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – that I understood the cause of my weight. I am all around healthy, even my weight, which fluctuates often and can be heavier, is considered average. After getting my diagnosis, I felt better about my weight. It is something I can’t control. I exercise, try to eat healthy and aim to live a happy life. However, it wasn’t until I was 17 and a senior in high school before I began to appreciate my body.
Aerie, the sister store to American Eagle, has already begun paving the way since 2014, when they began refusing to use photoshopped images. They have hired models that looked like the majority of women, not just the select few. They have also begun showcasing women with disabilities, natural beauty markings/scars and medical conditions. These are real women modeling clothing and challenging previous beauty standards. The efforts do not go unnoticed as many have applauded the company for redefining what a woman is.
Honestly, it all comes down to women supporting women. In a world where society is telling us to look a certain way, we should be fighting the status quo for a better future for the next generation. We should be leading by example through speaking out for what is right. Many have voiced their outrage, disgust and/or frustration with beauty standards and how unrealistic they can be. However, many do not take actions to fight it. It is time we take steps to ensure every girl can feel confident on the beach.
So, to the girl contemplating putting on that bikini, go for it. You’re going to look beautiful! And if you see that girl wearing a bikini, compliment her. If you put good into the world, it will come back to bless you. We don’t need to hold massive marches or boycotts to make a drastic change. It can all come down to how we treat one another by building each other up, rather than tearing each other down.
The body you have is truly the only summer body you need.
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