From Our Readers
Updated May 03, 2016 5:29 am
Getty / H. Armstrong Roberts

With summer right around the corner and mentions of “bikini bodies” (whatever that means) on every magazine, it’s time to take a pause to say thank you to our bodies. As someone who spends the majority of her time publicly in a swimsuit while working on a boat as a traveling nanny, I have quickly learned the importance of self-love.

In the first few weeks of my job, I closely observed fellow pool-goers and beach-attenders, incessantly comparing other women’s bodies to my own. I mentally noted each woman’s desirable feature as I critiqued my body. Her stomach is so much flatter than mine. I wish I had a legs like her. Maybe my butt wouldn’t be so wiggly if I hadn’t had eaten those Cadbury eggs last night. I began to feel bummed out every time I had to put my swimsuit on as my toxic thoughts consumed my brain. I had set an unobtainable standard for myself and was too blind to see it.

Eventually, I started to hear other women around me complain about their bodies as well. It acted as a wake-up call, and I listened to each coworker’s statement with disbelief. It was hard understand why these women with great bodies were being so hard on themselves, when I had previously compared myself to them and felt like I’d come up short. I felt sad that this was what we had reduced our time and energy to, slowly picking ourselves apart. With each women’s declaration against her body, I began to grow outraged. I was tired of a society that conditioned women to think that the average woman’s body looked like a Victoria’s Secret Angel and that we, as women, believed it. The longer I spent in my swimsuit, the more I realized that there is no such thing as an “ideal” body, despite what the media has told us since we were little girls.

Every body is different and none of us are perfect. While it is important to take care of our bodies and keep them healthy, it is also important to be kind to ourselves! I may not love certain things about my body, but at the end of the day, who cares!? My new swimsuit manifesto is this: I will love and appreciate my body, regardless of shape or size, for giving me the ability to move and participate, and for giving me the ability to live. Our bodies allow us to partake in this world. They are working and breathing, giving us the opportunity to adventure and explore, carrying us through our experiences. When I realized this, I was able to move out of my head and into my beautiful body, with every scar and dimple and roll.

I believe that the sooner we can learn to love our bodies for letting us participate, the sooner we will be able to fully engage in life. All the energy I had spent trying to pretend like my stomach didn’t roll when I sat down was distracting me from noticing other aspects of my life around me. I am happier when I can focus on the beauty of the beach and not whether my collar bones look defined or not. I am more at ease talking to people when I’m not agonizing over how every inch of my body appears. I am able to experience life in its entirety rather than worry about my body, which is the one thing that carries me through these experiences in the first place.

Loving your body isn’t always easy. There are days I still find myself struggling to think kind thoughts about myself. It is a practice, though. Little by little, we have to learn to change our thoughts and by doing so, we will begin to empower ourselves to not only be present in our own lives but to also stand up to a culture that has told us how to look as women for far too long. So, the next time you put on a swimsuit or start to dissect yourself in the mirror, please remember this: your body lets you be alive. Remember all the wonderful things it lets you experience and feel, and say thank you — because it is beautiful exactly the way it is.

Hannah Loporchio is a recent college graduate who is currently taking a gap-year to travel the world. When she isn’t petting sharks in the Caribbean, you can find her at home in Los Angeles with her cat-son, Wilder. She hopes to figure out her life before her impending quarter-life crisis. You can re-affirm her humor and read her tweets about her neighbor’s wheelchair dog here. Follow her on Instagram, and read her blog.