In my years since college, I have gone through a major inner transformation — from feeling like I had to dress myself to feel confident, to learning to embrace + celebrate my body whether I’m naked or in one of my favorite bikinis! After college, as I started my business I did a lot of soul searching and began to find that I wasn’t focused on being just the ‘pretty’ girl that I wanted to be when I was young. As young girls, many of us are focused on our outer appearances to feel confident and beautiful. Now, I realized I wanted to be the successful entrepreneur, the inspiring friend, the smart woman, the risk taker — the vibrantly alive soul. With this realization, I found how little my body type, shape or size was tied into ANY of my goals. . . It wasn’t an overnight switch, but instead a conscious effort to understand that my worth wasn’t tied to the way my body looked and also, that women I found beautiful, sexy and inspiring didn’t all look one certain way. They were different sizes, skin colors, body types and ages.
Moving to Hawai’i has been a huge part of my shift towards body positivity and self love! Since moving here, I have learned what true beauty is, why size doesn’t matter (even in a cheeky bikini) and how to be truly confident in your skin! Today I am so proud to share my story on the Aerie Blog. In this same fashion, I often find myself sharing pep talks on my Instagram because I see such a need for the conversation that Aerie is having with the #AerieREAL campaign! We need less body shaming and more self love. More understanding that YES our bodies are beautiful, but also, that our worth doesn’t equate to our outside appearance.
My perspective has shifted drastically for the better since moving to Hawai’i and I hope by sharing how, that it will inspire a bit of change in yours too!
Here’s how Hawaii taught me to love my body:
Be Thankful for Your Body
Before moving to Hawaii, I would find myself dressing my body in order to feel confident or thinking ‘I would look good in that if I didn’t have these love handles.’ Yet here in Hawaii, after a lot of self-discovery, I’ve found myself seeing my body not as a defining factor of who I am as a person, but instead as the vessel that allows me to live life; to experience so much. Here, I’m constantly doing something outside and this has made me realize that my body doesn’t need to look a certain way to allow for amazing experiences. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be strong and willing.
So next time you’re putting on a bikini or slipping into a pair of hiking shorts – instead of wishing that your body didn’t look the way it does, remember to be thankful that your body is enabling you to try surfing for the first time, or hike that mountain or experience whatever we’re about to experience. I find with women across the board: women who are smaller, plus size women, women who are in between, women who are aging and new moms — every woman has imperfections and something they don’t view as perfect. And guess what? That’s okay. We’re humans and we’re beautiful — in this moment — the way we look + feel RIGHT NOW. When you make the mental shift to view your body through a lens of gratitude – our cellulite, love handles or lack of a booty – seem to fade away.
Size Does Not Matter
Two years ago, when we packed up all of our belongings and moved to this little island in the sea, I had a wildly different perspective on size and the role it played in the value of my body (and myself). When we first moved here we would frequent the beach, still feeling like we were on vacation; I was in complete awe and kept thinking, ‘Do we really live here?’ (YES, Elana. HELL YES you do.) On those early beach trips, I would notice women in cheeky bikinis that weren’t perfectly tiny or sculpted – SHOCKING!
I was so inspired by their “courage” because I always felt that to dawn a swimsuit and feel comfortable you had to have zero cellulite, have tiny little thighs and perky boobs. Swimwear never made me feel comfortable, let alone beautiful! Women in Hawaii wear what they want with pride in their bodies and it’s been absolutely inspiring! There is no expectation of perfection. There is only an an invitation to show up as you are. Experiencing the confidence of women here first hand initially brought a ‘go girl!’ smile to my face. Then, the confidence started sinking in more and becoming contagious. Little by little, I started looking at my body differently and started to love my curves more, my smaller chest, my imperfect but perfectly strong legs. Everything around me told me that size does not matter, that you’re beautiful just the way you are. I started the inner work that it takes to have outer confidence!
This brings me to my next ‘aha’ moment. . .
Confidence Is Sexy
Societal norms taught me that to be sexy you had to look a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way. You had to look like the sculpted, made up, photoshopped images that you see across glossy magazine pages. Thank goodness that Hawai’i has taught me other wise. Living here has given me a whole different perspective on what ‘sexy’ looks like. It’s made me realize sexy is strength, it’s courage, it’s fully owning your story and being proud of who you are. Sexy looks like women celebrating themselves, inside and out, and rocking the bikini now (not five pounds from now)! Having a good sense of humor, not taking yourself too seriously, quick wit — this is sexy. I find it sexy to show up to life with confidence!
Beautiful Women Are Happy Women
Not the other way around! We’ve heard this messaging in advertising but after being on this island for many moons now, Hawaii has truly opened my eyes and enlightened me on this. When I first moved here, I would only notice gals on the beach who had these tiny, fit, perky bodies. I would look down at my very friendly thighs, always rubbing up on one another, and my soft belly that rolled when I sat down – not hating what I saw, but not owning it as entirely beautiful.
Slowly, beach trip after beach trip, I started to notice something different. Something incredible. I started to notice that the most beautiful women were the happy ones. They were the girls splashing around in the waves with their sisters, not glued to their phone. Or the mamas playing with their little ones as the waves kissed their ankles. Or the women jumping up to spike the volleyball back where it came from. The greatest beauty on the beach was those fully engaging in life! And they came in all sizes, ages, colors and body types.
Hawai’i has taught me many things, but mostly, that life is about so much more than our imperfections. There is so much to experience and explore in this world and deciding to start your journey to self love RIGHT NOW is our key to it all! Don’t deny yourself another day of joy, of acceptance, of confidence. You are an incredible, beautiful woman inside and out! You deserve to be celebrated! So here I am cheersing you from the Big Island — encouraging you to take a lesson from the beautiful islands of Hawai’i. You are worthy of self love + respect right here, right now!