Bikini Body Series: How I'm Overcoming Absurd Body Standards
By Vanessa Palencia
I’ve never worn a bikini. I’ve always been too self-conscious, too intimidated, and felt too unworthy. When I was younger, I used to think I was too fat to wear one. I later lost all the weight, but then got pregnant shortly after. The stretch marks took their toll on my body and my skin didn’t bounce back, so I felt too ashamed to wear a bathing suit that displayed those ugly scars.
Fast forward to today and I’ve come so far from my previous ways of thinking. I’ve overcome the fear of flashing my stretch marks, and I’ve lost the weight again, but I still feel far from perfect.
Because currently, the standards for having a bikini body is completely unrealistic and unattainable. Yet that ideal body is drilled into every single woman’s brain, making them feel unworthy of slipping on a beautiful two-piece. Many women tend to believe that their stomachs must be flat, their muffin-tops nonexistent, their legs clear of cellulite, and their skin left unblemished and free of scars of any sorts. Many believe that you must be deemed flawless, or perfect, to sport a bikini. But let’s think about that for a second. You’re asking women….people….humanity....to be completely flawless to wear something so materialistic as a bikini. Since when has the human race ever demonstrated complete perfectionism? Since when have we ever been found completely faultless? But better yet, since when did we think it was appropriate to attach ourselves, a species far more intelligent than anything else on earth, to a piece of clothing?
So why do we force this ideal bikini body on everyone? It’s completely absurd. Yet as absurd as it sounds, it’s still something that deeply affects many women, including me. But the greatest revelation that I’ve had since I’ve embarked on my self-love journey over 6 months ago is that we can choose to redefine, or possibly eradicate, the bikini body ideal.
We can choose to see the scars, the stretch marks, and the wrinkles in the same way that we marvel at a weathered tree. That scar above your forehead? It tells a story about how you were a brave toddler willing to see the world as a big playground. Those stretch marks over your belly? It’s proof that you carried life within you for nine months. Or maybe it’s just proof that you’re human because your body has fluctuated in weight over the years. And your belly rolls? It’s a testament to the way you live your life: full of friends, family, laughter, and good food to nourish yourself.
A bikini body should be literally just that: a body in a bikini. Because by telling me that I need to get a “bikini body” before I can wear one is like telling me that I should be shamed for bearing a child and developing my stretch marks, shamed for having fat on my body because I don’t always want to eat a salad for lunch (sometimes a girl wants a burger!), and ridiculed for not being toned because I like to workout for my health and not to shape my body.
I look back at all those times that I turned away from buying a beautiful two-piece because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to wear one, and I’m saddened. I should have never felt humiliated over the way my body’s changed after my pregnancy throughout the years. I should never look at myself in disgust over the excess fat on my body. But while I understand that I have a choice to love myself and see myself in a more positive light, not many other women know that they do. This is why it’s crucial that we stop fixating on ‘bikini bodies’ and shifting our focus to loving and embracing ourselves and each other exactly as we are. Because in the end, both a thin body, a fat body, and all those in between are going to go through this beautiful life and age.
At this moment, I still haven’t worn a bathing suit, but I’m adding that to my bucket list. I know it seems silly but sporting a two piece bikini is a bold and daring act that I want to accomplish. Like I’ve said before, I’ve come a long way since my earlier days. I’ve made miraculous mindset shifts and I’ve now come to accept my body in more ways than I would have ever anticipated. But I also know that change comes about through action, so consider this my public intention to wear a bikini this summer.
Summer 2018, I’m coming for you.