By Pearl Biggers, TIWP Student
Billboards, advertisements, and magazines scream at us: “Get your summer bod in only twenty days!” “How to shape up for summer time bikini season!” “Are you beach body ready?!” As we approach the summer months, we also approach the season of the ever illusive “bikini body.” Women force themselves to work twice as hard to conform to a standard imposed by some marketer—and feel twice as bad if they don’t. But here’s my question: why is my current body not enough? Why can’t I have a “bikini body” by simply putting a bikini on my body? Is it offensive to anyone that I don’t have a gap between my pasty thighs and that I seem to lack the appropriate level of ab-tone? Who knows, maybe I was just born with a winter-body instead… I refuse believe that I should have to change my physical form simply because the weather is changing.
But this eff-you-attitude toward the bikini body myth is difficult to maintain, particularly at a high-school age when the bandwagon spirit is at its highest. I, at seventeen-years-old, am constantly encouraged via subliminal or explicit messages to conform to body standards, or at least resign myself to insecurity if I do not. And because I am not able to magically transform my thighs into the width of my forearms, I have surrendered myself to this insecurity in the past. I still struggle with it regularly, and I rarely admit it for fear of seeming weak. But here I am saying it: I am insecure. And it does not make me weak, it makes me human. It makes me a victim, but it also makes me a survivor of the impossible standards imposed upon teenagers and upon women of all ages. It is by no fault of my own that I feel overly self-conscious of my body.
Again, I am a survivor, and so is anyone else who has struggled and fought with insecurity as a result of outside influences. Women of all ages who are trying to overcome this: I commend you. And I encourage you—keep fighting and help others who are in the same boat. You are stronger and braver and tougher than you know and do not forget it!
So I will not force myself to take up less space in the world. I will not shrink. I will not cut myself down. Maybe I don’t have a bikini body at the moment, but that’s only because I’m wearing jeans and a sweater. Hard though it may be, I will not turn a season of fun and freedom into one of guilt and shame.