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Friday, 17 July 2015

WRITING || Accepting Your 'Bikini Body'.

The mug I drink my afternoon tea out of is plain white and has the word 'Perfect' written across it in Times New Roman. These mugs are a bit of a running joke in my family - my Dad has 'Silver Fox', my Mother is 'Always Right', my little brother is 'Wonder Boy', while my sister has 'High Maintenance'. It's a bit of a ritual of mine when writing a blog post - make a cup of tea and the words will follow. So today I went to the cupboard and actually found that this mug was the perfect starting place. Bear with me.
I was inspired to write this post by an article in this month's Elle magazine. Beauty Director, Sophie Beresiner - whose career I've been following since her LOOK days and am always stalking her Instagram - wrote the thought-provoking '(Beach) Body Confidence'. This article really struck a cord with me because Beresiner grapples with that Supermodel's 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels' comment and her own relationship with Bikini season. Because for so many years of my life, I also felt far from 'perfect'.
I am only twenty years old and I dread putting on a bikini - having said that, I've come a hell of a long way since my angsty teen years. Nowadays, I'd say I'm pretty body confident. But the fact that I'm still perturbed by two pieces of miniscule material is kind of sad, isn't it? But I speak with confidence when I say that I'm not alone. Like most girls, my teenage years were plagued with insecurity and erratic calorie counting that would never amount to anything. It saddens me to look back on all the time I spent worrying about my appearance - it took me way too long to realise that those people in the gym weren't actually looking at me. I'm happy to say that I've since grown out of that adolescent constant state of self-consciousness. I did eventually lose that puppy fat but I've also accepted that I'm never going to look like a Victoria's Secret model in a swimsuit - because hey, Victoria's Secret models don't even look like Victoria's Secret models. 
I've noticed that magazines and pop culture have also come a long way in the past 10 years. Elle is publishing pressing articles like '(Beach) Body Confidence', Vogue no longer signs models under the age of sixteen or those exhibiting disordered eating, and the rise of bloggers means that content is much more focused on the everyday, accessible woman. Young girls are being educated about misleading advertising which is so so important - I feel like I would have really benefited from that kind of reality check at the impressionable age of thirteen. On the other hand, the rise of social media has put a new kind of pressure on young girls i.e. achieving the hugely coveted and almost unnatural 'thigh gap' which dominates Tumblr and Pinterest
'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels' - even typing that years after it first made headlines still sends shivers down my spine. But now that I'm older and wiser, I can say that I totally disagree. Good food is one of life's pleasures. And I'd rather be a little bigger and enjoy my sugary coffees than tiny and caffeine deprived. Because life without coffee isn't much of a life now, is it? All jokes aside, this is a topic I feel really passionate about because I've been there. Too many times to count, in fact. When I was studying for my A-Levels and stressed out beyond anything I could have ever anticipated, I used controlling my calorie intake as a coping mechanism. My life was ruled by food which is tricky when you think about how many occasions revolve around Birthday cakes, Christmas dinner, chocolate at Easter - the list is endless. But the quote that really hit home from the Elle article had to be, 'I'm only likely to be in a bikini one week out of 52, at the very most. But joyous meals with my friends? Those happen all year long. One week on a beach does not justify my turning down a cupcake.' Beresiner speaks for a whole legion of women here. In fact, I'm proud to say I'd pick a slice of Gails' carrot cake over the idyllic bikini body any day because whatever happens, perfection is unattainable. And that's a comfort really.


What I really want to emphasise here is that worrying about what you look like in a bikini just isn't worth it. And if you're anything like me, then these insecurities will fade with time. It took me seven years of self-consciousness to realise that everyone is actually so engrossed in their own internal monologues - what's going on in their day/what they're reading/going to eat for lunch/when they can go home - to notice what you're wearing. And if you're on the beach or holidaying by a pool, most people are too happy to be relaxing by a body of water to even register what you look like in that bikini. 
I've included the above photograph because I'm wearing one of my favourite crop tops. If you'd have told me I'd be happily wearing a belly-bearing crop top (yet alone have it as a wardrobe staple) three years ago, I would have laughed in your face. For me, this was always my 'problem area'. To be honest, I'd be lying if I said I don't have my insecurities. Of course I do, and that's not because I'm preoccupied with looking like society's glorified image of the 'perfect' female figure, it's because I'm human. I have the occasional 'fat day' but those have been few and far between thankfully. These days, I find I'm most 'body' confident when I'm feeling happy in other areas of my life. Because when I've had a bad day, it's easy to also start hating on my appearance - it makes sense really. So when I'm performing well at uni and/or at work, when I'm seeing my friends regularly, and when I prioritise time to paint my nails in the evening I tend to be more confident within myself - sometimes the little, trivial things make a world of difference. 
So relish that bikini - you're wearing it because you're on holiday, or the weather's warm, or maybe you're treating yourself to a nice healthy tanning session. And you know what? Everything tastes as good as skinny feels. So pass the cupcakes and enjoy.
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