This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.
"How To Get A Beach Body: Take Your Body To The Beach"
These words came from a stranger I've never met and most likely never will. I don't know their name, where they come from, or a single detail about who they are, but when I stumbled across their simple text post on Tumblr, it completely altered not only my perception of myself but the people around me, as well.
I'd become a fairly dedicated Tumblr blogger, though at the time, I did much more reblogging of other people's content, rather than creating much of my own. Almost every night, I'd get lost for hours in the platform's infinite scroll, never catching back up to where I left off the day before. It was a complete coincidence that I even saw the post that revolutionized my body image. What could have so easily have been buried farther down the feed, under a stack of memes, photos from One Direction meet and greets, and (here's the kicker) images of beautiful women with unattainable features and figures, came up in the right place at the right time.
We all know that the internet can be used for both good and evil. We've all made the mistake of reading any comments section. We know that what happens in there can be depressing and harmful, perpetrated when someone gets a little too brave and a lot too opinionated behind the relative anonymity of their screen. There is no shortage of unwarranted opinions on who's gaining weight or not wearing clothes someone else finds suitable. Celebrities and the rest of us alike are criticized and torn down every day just because someone with bad intentions was given a space to publicize their opinions.
But that's not what the internet has to be. I, myself, have witnessed and participated in moments online when the intent was not only positive but absolutely beautiful. Communities use social media to raise awareness and money for neighbors down the street and abroad. Artists create and share incredible media with audiences that can reach to infinity. People meet and connect with others who support them through the ups and downs of the rest of their lives. I know this firsthand; I met some of my best friends on Tumblr — kind, intelligent, talented women who I know will never be more than a click away.
I don't know who wrote the post that made such an impression on me: It was at least three or four years ago now, and a Google search doesn't turn up a definitive answer for the original source of the statement. But the post, no longer than a tweet, made me stop scrolling (something I know even the most savvy of marketers have trouble doing with their content) for two reasons.
First, it impressed on me that my body is something that I own, not an ideal that I should strive to be. While there are entire industries built on the contrary, this one sentence reminded me that my body can change and evolve, but it will always be with me — on the beach or anywhere else. I don't have to be a certain size or shape to belong. If I want to take my body to the beach, I shouldn't let anyone stop me, and on top of that, every other body I see is worthy of praise and appreciation for what it does and where it takes someone. When I realized that any body is a "beach body," my confidence grew not only in view of myself, but also reflected in my view of others. I feel proud of the people around me and often think about how remarkable it is that we're all working towards loving ourselves more.
And second, I saw that, despite the negativity and body shaming I've seen online, there are people out there — complete strangers, even — who want to help us reverse what those industries have done to our confidence. The person who made that post didn't know who was going to see it, but I have a strong belief that they knew what reading that could mean to someone who did. That blogger decided to send out a positive message in a place where there can be so much negativity, hoping to build confidence instead of tear it down. From one stranger to another, I want to take this chance to say thank you for this sentence you wrote, perhaps just hoping to make a difference to someone. You sure did for me.
#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.