How many times have you not gone to the beach or pool because you didn’t have a “bikini body”? How many times did you decide not to buy that swimsuit you wanted because you didn’t have the right “bikini body” for it? With summer in full swing, the dreaded “bikini body” goals and expectations are back. And it’s not just college women who have to contend with this beauty standard: on July 30, model Tess Holliday called out the National Enquirer on Instagram for publishing a list of “This Year’s 50 Best & Worst Beach Bodies” (gross).
“LOL I WAS VOTED THE WORST BEACH BODY THIS YEAR & IT MAKES ME MAD BC ITS 2021 AND WE ARE STILL PUBLISHING TRASH LIKE THIS?!!!” Holliday wrote in her caption. She added, “if you are seeing this & you’re fat as hell or just have a body that isn’t chiseled & traditionally “hot” & wanna go to the MF beach or put on a swimsuit: DO IT.”
Holliday was right. News flash: the expectations surrounding the term “bikini body” or “beach body” are harmful and not inclusive. My definition, and the true definition, of a “bikini body” is a body — any body — in a bikini. There is no one specific shape or size that is defined. Anybody that owns a bikini therefore has a bikini body, including you.
I was raised in a time where expectations of myself were curated from what was presented to me on the internet. When the UV index hit greater than seven and skies became clear, the term “bikini body” seemed to be the goal everyone was promoting and the goal everyone wanted. Swimsuit lines would say “show off your summer body” and fitness channels would campaign to get you in the gym by saying “get yourself bikini body ready,” such as this Protein World ad that promotes a body that is “beach-ready.” Maybe they didn’t mean harm, but when you grow up in an age where the “bikini body” presented to you on the internet is only one size and shape, there are harmful expectations created. The consequence: according to youth-led nonprofit DoSomething, 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies. I have been a part of that 91%. When summertime approached, I always wondered to myself “is my body good enough to go out in public in a bikini?”
Self-love is a journey that can be tiring and hard, but when you realize some of those expectations of yourself stem from a false reality on social media, then you start to understand the true meaning of “beauty.” Everybody’s mental health journey is unique. Loving yourself is easier said than done, but you’re not alone in your struggle with body positivity. According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives. It’s no secret that the presence of advertisements and social media play a huge role in this. From photoshopped pictures on Instagram to clothing campaigns that aren’t inclusive, college women are faced with instances of comparing and judging on an everyday basis. Our self-perception of beauty might be obscured by societal expectations of the “ideal” body type.
The struggle with body image is a common one, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a common part of your life. Just remember it’s okay if this is a process for you and that it may take some time for you to love your body in a bikini, or to realize these expectations in your head are created by an unrealistic narrative.
I have a bikini body. No, I don’t have a bikini body because I “worked” for it or because it is a certain size I must reach. I have a bikini body because I have a body that is worthy of wearing a bikini; it is worthy because it is the body that gives me life. I am still learning this lesson myself, but summer is here and I can’t wait to buy new swimsuits for my bikini body.
Buy that swimsuit you were eyeing the other day in the window of that store, because your body would fit it perfectly. Go to the beach with your friends and show off your bikini body. A bikini body isn’t one size fits all. How can a bikini body be just one size when bikinis themselves come in all shapes and sizes?