Swimsuit season can be a stressful time for many people. Ads inundating us with messages about what a "beach body" looks like give the impression our bodies aren't already acceptable as they are. Well, one woman named Lesley Miller has had enough.
At 21, Miller bought her very first bikini, and when her photo was posted on the Love What Really Matters Facebook page, it quickly went viral with over 30,000 likes and 2,800 comments. The post was accompanied by a body positive caption in which Miller recalls her struggles with self-esteem, bullying, weight, and self-harming.
"I've spent the past 18 years of my life waiting. I kept my body covered up and hidden away. I told myself that one day I would finally let myself be seen; I would finally do all of the things I dreamed of when I was enough. Thin enough, happy enough, confident enough. When my body looked the way that it was 'supposed' to. I fought my body every step of the way, continually ashamed and silent. When I was three my classmates asked why I was so much bigger than them. Why I didn't wear the same smock they did. When I was seven, I lied to the lady at Weight Watchers, desperate to sit in on meetings full of middle aged women trying to shed a few pounds. When I was nine I went to weight loss camp and stood in line the first week to take my 'before' photo. When I was eleven the surgeon cut into my stomach, and he told me how happy I would finally be. I was the youngest person to have weight loss surgery. When I was fifteen, I started cutting into my own skin. I thought I deserved it. When I was twenty, I lost half my body weight in nine months, my worth for the day solely determined by the number on the scale being lower than the day before. And then I got tired of waiting. So now I'm twenty one and I bought my first bikini. EVER. You can see it all. Weird bulges and rolls of fat. Hanging excess skin. Stretch marks, cellulite, surgical and self harm scars. Awkward protrusion on my abdomen from my lap band. I want to learn to love all of myself, not just the parts I've been told are 'acceptable.' Because the secret is, I was always enough. And you are too."
Miller's body positive message is really resonating with people, as Miller is receiving an outpouring of support.
One Facebook commenter wrote, "Thank you for sharing your story. There are bits of all of us in your story." Another thanked Miller, "Love yourself!! You are an inspiration to others. Thank you for sharing and live each day to the fullest!!"
When we're used to seeing diet and exercise advertisements come bathing suit season, Miller's post is a breath of fresh air. What's even better is that we are seeing more and more big names championing body positivity instead of "perfect" beach bodies, too. ModCloth launched its swimsuit campaign with the message that confidence looks great on everyone. Women at BuzzFeed recreated Sports Illustrated swimsuit covers to celebrate different shapes, sizes, abilities and ethnicities.