“So many selfies, yet so little knowledge of self…” – someone cool, somewhere

The season of T-shirt tans, flip-flop burns, 2 ice-creams in a row and sand in every place has begun, along with an assortment of feelings about wearing a bikini for the first time in months in front of hoards of holiday-makers at the already-overcrowded beaches. It’s the season that our exercise routines are built around, and the only time many of our near-translucent non-limb body parts see the sunshine; Bikini Season is in full-swing and is taking no prisoners!

Donning a bikini for the first time in months was harder than it should have been – largely thanks to a culture that has become more image-driven than ever before. We have become preoccupied (read: obsessed) with how we look, of looking ‘perfect’ all the time, and of documenting this ‘perfection’ on every social networking platform plaguing our times (if it’s not Instagrammed, then was it really done?). Further, our idea of ‘beauty’ has become pigeon-holed more and more over the years, and slowly the very essence of the everyday woman has been bastardised into that of an underweight 12 year old experimenting with makeup for the first time.

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In an ideal world, beauty should be defined by your personality, integrity and who you are in the moments when you are lost in the throes of laughter and joy. 

In this Age of Narcissism, our minds have been photoshopped into thinking that ‘likes’ are more important than liking yourself when you’re alone, and that ‘follows’ are more significant than following your heart. We are lost in our screens and the virtual realities we have built – why not try get lost in the wonder of the tangible magic that makes up living life to the fullest? The hollow materialism which forms the base of many people’s lives is packaged by flawless (staged) selfies of us “living, loving and laughing” our way through life, and we seem to place significant emphasis on valuable possessions, but we lack the values of integrity and self-worth; why else would it be so difficult for most people to love themselves (and life) just the way they are?

This lack of self-worth and confidence becomes abundantly-clear on the beach, where many women refuse to uncover themselves, or even to don a bikini in the first place, due to their misperceptions about how a woman’s body should look. And boy do we take judgment seriously – even though we know full well that people will often judge you regardless of how you look (judgers gonna judge!). Very early on I figured that learning to love myself – cellulite and all – was going to be FAR easier than to waste 2 hours a day on my hair and makeup (only for it to melt off later), an hour a day counting calories (and still feeling guilty when eating my ‘scheduled treat’) and 2 hours a day killing myself at the gym (only to feel guilty even when a rest day rolls around). Because even then will people judge. It seems to be an inherent part of humanity, or just a nasty way of projecting one’s infirmities.

Chasing aesthetic perfection is an infinite loop of inadequacy, and there are FAR better things to strive for, such as being the kind of woman who is inspired by (not threatened)  other strong women, the kind of woman who gives other women a smile (and not elevator-eyes) when walking by, and the kind of woman who will compliment another woman genuinely (instead of gossiping about her). A kind and happy woman – regardless of aesthetics – who is authentically confident in her own skin will ALWAYS be more attractive than an aesthetically-‘perfect’ woman who clearly has self-worth issues. And nothing is sadder than seeing the potential of a woman who embodies strength and femininity wasted simply because she doesn’t see her own worth.

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My 2017 Inspiration has been Rolene Strauss.  After winning Miss World in 2014 – and taking 2 years off to travel as a result – she returned to finish her medical degree this year at UFS. Only, she also became a mother at the beginning of this year and juggled her final year of medicine with that and with exercising almost every day to get back to her pre-baby body ASAP. Her determination to lead a balanced life – whilst caring for a baby – during her final year of medicine is a huge inspiration. 

I think it’s pivotal to represent women more realistically – especially if that includes cellulite, a softer tummy (ever heard of a uterus and hormones?), squishier thighs and a bouncier bum and arms. Being anthropologically-equipped to bear children, these representations will be those of bountiful fruition and femininity – a concept we should learn to celebrate and see as just as beautiful as the make-up clad scarecrows that are seen in most marketing schemes these days. If all we ever see are Photoshopped women (see the before and afters below) – free from fat-rolls, wrinkles, bad skin, cellulite and flaws – then of course we are going to feel inadequate when looking in the mirror, and this is a colossal shame which has far too much power in misleading women all around the world.

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So…instead of spending hours choosing an outfit that you’re bound to criticise anyway, choose clothes that fit properly and make you feel beautiful, hold your chin up high, and rock it. Instead of feeling guilty every time you have a treat, enjoy that treat and then focus on nourishing your body in other ways too. Instead of avoiding your bikini, look in the mirror and make peace with your body, and then seek a cozzie that accentuates your beautiful curves. Instead of finding every last thing to criticise when peering at yourself in the mirror, find 2 things to praise. Instead of spending hours posing for the ‘right picture’, put your phone away and enrich your spirit by being genuinely happy in the moment – you’ll probably look better and more content doing so! And instead of listening to all the judgmental NONSENSE that plagues us on social media, focus on your other senses – igniting your 5 senses by feeling, tasting, seeing, hearing and smelling the vibrant Summertime, and using your common sense when it comes down to how you’re going to choose to build yourself up this Summer.

 

“By choosing healthy over skinny you are choosing self-love over self-judgment.”
– Steve Maraboli

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