With so-called bikini season just around the corner, the pressure of attaining your bikini body returns. The notion that our sense of confidence derives from the way we look continues to fester in our culture and individual mindsets. The pressure from the media to have this ideal body type is stronger than ever with the technology available to use today. We are constantly bombarded with ads in magazines and carefully crafted images on social media platforms. Industries that rely on people feeling bad about the way they look continue to thrive due to this perpetuated, toxic belief.
We are so often told that the solution to finding confidence about your body is coming to this epiphany that you don't have to have a bikini body to wear a bikini because all bodies are beautiful. Although it has good intent, there still exists an underlying message that bikini bodies are the most desirable. It is saying that you can feel confident with yourself, despite the fact that your body is not the ideal. It forms a sense of "otherism" in which you can feel good about your body, but what society deems as non-bikini bodies are still considered inferior.
Even when plus-sized bodies are featured in a positive light, it is always a very specific type of plus-size model. They have a minimal amount of belly rolls, no cellulite in sight, their weight is carried in all the right places and sometimes these models are not truly plus-sized. While companies are trying to be inclusive to of all body types, they fail to be inclusive enough. And the very fact that these women are referred to as plus-sized models continues this notion of otherism. If the media aims to show a holistic view of beauty, then they must portray all women authentically and embrace their diversities.
In contrast to plus-size acceptance is fitspo, or fitspiration. The rise of fitspo is potentially problematic due to the idea that you just have to put in the work to get your dream body ready for summer. Under the premise of living a healthy lifestyle, it continues to promote an end goal of shaping your body to the societal ideal. It indirectly appeals to the idea that if your body is not ideal, then you are just too unbothered to take of yourself.
Of course, it is important to take of your body by exercising and eating healthy. However, the way you look should not serve as the basis of how healthy or fit you are. Many women who do these things don't necessarily have a skinny, toned body because everyone is built differently. And vice versa, plenty of skinny, toned women barely do anything to maintain a healthy diet and exercise consistently.
You can certainly love your body while simultaneously want to work on it. Altering our bodies can be an empowering experience and boost our confidence, but it should be done for yourself– not to appeal to the way society wants you to look. You should be motivated to feel better about yourself, not out of disdain of what you look like now.
We need to take control of the dominant message of what beauty looks like away from companies that are selling you a product to conform to societal beauty standards. Self-love comes from within and is not something that can be validated by external forces. Let women encourage other women to feel confident with themselves and show the world the beauty all women have. This summer you should just wear whatever bathing suit you want because what matters is that you are able to love yourself and your body.