The fact that we’re already halfway through the summer season may come as a relief to some women. Because with the end of summer comes the end of so-called “bikini season,” which tends to separate the “body confident” from the “body insecure” in a truly startling way. But, if 21-year-old Michelle Elman has anything to say about it (and she does), bikini season shouldn’t be a time for high anxiety and low self-esteem, it should be a time for celebration. Especially when you’ve gone through as much as she has.
This week, Elman took to Instagram to prove that there’s no one body type for bikinis, by sharing a picture of herself in swimwear. Since birth, she has struggled with hydrocephalus, a condition that causes fluid to build up in the brain, forcing Elman to endure, “15 surgeries, a brain tumor, a punctured intestine, an obstructed bowel, [and] a cyst in brain.” As a result, Elman’s abdomen has been covered with scars for most of her life, scars that she desperately tried to hide even as a child.
“At age seven, I tried on my first bikini and after receiving a range of reactions from disgust to pity, it soon became easier to hide away and be doomed to a life of tankinis and one-pieces,” she wrote in a piece for Huffington Post UK. “I had become ashamed of my body and soon other people’s disgust became my own and this was allowed to be the case because of one simple reason – I had no one to talk to about it.”
Now, she’s clearly taking a different path. Here’s the picture she posted.
PEOPLE WITH SCARS CAN’T WEAR BIKINIS This is what I have believed for the last 21 years of my life and when asked in January why I never wear bikinis, this horrible sentence came out of my mouth. I was shocked – at myself! I had had 15 surgeries, a brain tumour, a punctured intestine, an obstructed bowel, a cyst in brain and have lived for the last 21 years with a condition called Hydrocephalus yet somehow my scars have always been the hardest part. They make already awkward moments in your adolescence even more uncomfortable – like taking your top off for the first time in front of your boyfriend, and made me feel even more isolated in a world where I felt no one could understand. At age 7, I tried on my first bikini and after receiving a range of reactions from disgust to pity, it soon became easier to hide away and be doomed to a life of tankinis and one-pieces. Why did I believe this? Because over the years, I have learnt that my scars make people uncomfortable. I had become ashamed of my body and soon other people’s disgust became my own and this was allowed to be the case because of one simple reason – I had no one to talk to about it. Well in January, I started to talk about it – all of it, and I want other people to join in on the conversation. Every human has scars, whether there are emotional and physical – they are part of our story and we should be proud of them. About a month ago, I finally faced up to wearing a bikini and although, I love my body thoroughly and have for many years – this was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, yet once it was on, it was one of the most liberating feelings to know that I wasn’t letting two pieces of material stop me from being comfortable in my own body. My belief is that no one should have to feel ashamed of their body, whether you have stretch marks or a C-section scar so… THIS summer, let’s stand up and be proud of our scars and what they represent – a story! Tag a friend below and lets make this the summer of scars! #scarrednotscared
These days, Elman isn’t just ready to talk about body positivity, she’s ready to shout about it from the rooftops. She’s started her own company, Mindset For Life, where she works as a “body confidence coach” working to serve a growing community of those who are #scarrednotscared. She’s also launched a video series offering advice on everything from telling boys about your scars to — of course — how to wear a bikini with confidence.
“Your confidence is actually costing you a lot more than you think,” Elman says in one video, touching on asking for raises or buying clothes that you ultimately don’t feel comfortable wearing. “Every investment you make in yourself is the best investment you’ll make. You’re your best asset.”
You tell ‘em, girl.
[Image via Instagram]