It’s graffitied on the wall of the girl’s bathroom. It’s scrawled in Sharpie on a pink Post-it note in a locker. It’s repeated over and over—but as summer strips us down to swimsuits and bikinis, it’s still so hard to believe:
Summer signals the onset of swimsuit season. In today’s media-driven society, where bikinis grow skimpier and billboard models only grow skinnier, summer can also mean a rush of insecurities and body image worries. Summer peels away our protective layers, leaving us vulnerable to unattainable beauty ideals that only lead to discontent with ourselves and our bodies.
Open a fashion magazine to any page to see a voluptuous model, the very emblem of sexuality and youth, with a 17-inch waist—gloriously Photoshopped, of course. Every ordinary human being not proportioned like a goddess feels automatically inadequate.
Both genders experience self-doubt. Barbie’s waist has been shrinking, but G.I. Joe’s biceps have been growing. Whether it’s unreasonably thin women or unnaturally muscled men, the media has distorted our perceptions of normality and increased our tendency to judge the book by its cover.
Every day, teens are bombarded by unrealistic images of beautiful and “sexy” men and women that we feel compelled to emulate. In an increasingly appearance-oriented culture where swimsuits only get more revealing, everyone is insecure about how he or she looks, no matter how healthy or beautiful he or she actually is.
Frequently, these insecurities hold us back—leaving us lingering on the outskirts of the pool or slightly more socially inhibited. At worst, a study conducted by psychologists at Flinders University in Australia shows that women have lower self esteem after swimsuit shopping and are more likely to engage in so called “fat talks,” which consist of girls competitively disparaging their own bodies.
Maybe I’m an idealist, but to me, summer represents carefree youth, with no room for such insecurities. Summer should be the antithesis of holding back—a time of fun, relaxation and self discovery at the most important growth period in our lives. We shouldn’t head to the pool worrying about how others will judge our thigh flab or ab muscles (or if you’re like me, lack thereof).
As the trending phrase hit singer Drake recently popularized expresses, “You only live once.” With this limited time, limited youth that we possess, fully appreciate yourself—your health, your worth, your beauty. Stop comparing yourself to others and media-driven images, and instead, learn to love your body and yourself. Find positive aspects in everyone. Learn to accept others how they are and it will be easier to accept yourself. Believe the Post-it note and not the appearance-driven images of the media.
Beauty is loving yourself, not in a narcissistic way, but realizing your own self-worth. Beauty, as cliché as it sounds, is from the inside out. Beauty is the moment you jump into the pool in one fluid movement, the moment you seize the day and embrace your youth in the glory of summer, uninhibited by how you perceive your body.
You have one body. Appreciate it. You have one life. Live it.