Welcome to this year’s beach body contest! How do you feel now?
This season’s unofficial largest championship is on. A few winners and quite a few losers are to be announced. How much body image pressure can you stand?
Talk about your body image. How do you feel now? Are you confident to enter the beach in a bikini or without a shirt, or do you hide away from it all due to a scar, a few extra kilos or a couple of stretch marks? Even though your body might be totally ordinary, is your body image giving you too many worries?
It is not just you. Fantastic people are making themselves invisible behind mobile screens, feeling sore of inadequacy in a flood of insta pics. As a young girl commented on a picture on a beach body perfect’s social media account: "You have such a nice body, I wish I had. I won't be wearing a bikini this year either. My self-confidence isn’t top notch.”
What if we agreed that what actually matters is what our bodies can do?
At the age of 20 a spinal cord injury eliminated my ability to walk. A family trip to Spain a couple of years later was a brutal meeting with the new reality. My only desire was to lie down in the shade of the hotel and read a book. I didn't quite see the point of going to the beach anymore.
That hurt, I must admit. I used to love the feeling of sand slipping between my toes as the waves were heading out into the ocean. I thought it was fantastic just to play beach volleyball and swim upstream all day long.
Now I felt stuck, trapped in my own body’s limitations. The wheelchair was spinning itself down into the little grains of sand and my bikini bottom was filled with what felt like the whole of Sahara as I pushed my butt around on the hot beach. I couldn’t do what I once loved. Reading a book in the shades was an alluring escape from it all.
But someone caring didn’t allow me to hide away. My siblings Anne and Kris picked me up and threw me into the sea. They carried me around on the beach as long as I could hold on to them. Their approach was pretty simple, the most important thing to them was us being together. They stepped in when my body stepped out.
To me it’s rather absurd that a beach body competition is all about being picture perfect, while what actually matters is how you can use your abilities. Next time you look at yourself with a critical eye, think of all the things your body can do. Think about all the opportunities it offers!
Despite how your bum and legs look, they can take you into the refreshing waves on the beach or up the stairs to the diving board to play in the pool. It's not the muffin tops that decide whether you can go for a walk in the dress you love, but your strong back and proud posture that carries you to the park. It is the shared love and generosity between a group of friends, not the stretch marks on your thigh, that determine what a good time you can have at a café. And it's not the bingo wings on your arms that determine how good you are at beer pong.
Take another look at the picture. Look at those legs. They’ve got their share of nasty comments from people thinking I shouldn’t wear skirts or show them off at the beach. These legs would probably not get many likes on the gram. Though, have another look at the whole picture. The scars show that I’ve learned something important about life. The upper body shows function. And the most important is that this body and mind together give me the opportunity to do whatever I want.
I hope you have a wonderful family and great friends to carry you wherever you can't go. It’s not how we get into the water or what we look like while doing it that matters. It’s what we do, and whom we do it with.
Relax, enjoy life and be proud of yourself. Happy summer holidays!
Have a great summer!