When I was a child, my mom would look at me and say, "you have a belly, suck it in!"
It was so embarrassing. Growing up in Los Angeles, my world was extremely body conscious. That was complicated by my father's extensive pornography magazine collection. From a very young age, I saw semi nude models, they were the standard I believed I needed to live up to. I wanted a tiny waist, large breasts, cellulite-free butt. Instead....
Fast forward to high school. I had small breasts and an athletic build. I've always made muscles, but not been hourglass shaped. I've generally been "normal sized" but not skinny. I'd never, ever worn a bikini, despite being in shape. I didn't deserve it!
Now I'm in my 40s. I'm in the best shape of my life, despite having had two children. My breasts are still a disappointment, but this summer I wore a bikini. 50% of this is attitude. One doesn't have to be a model to be allowed to wear a swimsuit. I never allowed myself to believe I could be beautiful to anyone.
As a college professor, I feel so sad for the girls in the university locker room with less than perfect, Victoria Secret model bodies. All the girls are so beautiful! I think back to how I used to beat myself up, and how wonderful my body really was, and I wish I could walk up to each of them and tell them that they are absolutely beautiful.