Photos of women in bikinis are far from rare on social media, but there’s one in particular that’s put a smile on thousands of faces since it was uploaded last week.
The woman in the image, Lesley Miller, is 21 years old and only recently bought her first two-piece swimsuit.
This might not sound like a particularly momentous event, but for Miller it was. That colourful bikini signified an end to 18 years of waiting for her body to look a certain way — the way it was “supposed” to.
“I kept my body covered up and hidden away. I told myself that one day I would finally let myself be seen; I would finally do all of the things I dreamed of when I was enough,” Miller explained in a Facebook post.
“Thin enough, happy enough, confident enough.”
The Texas woman had felt ashamed of her body her whole life, recalling a moment when she was three years old and her classmates asked why she was so much bigger than them.
“When I was seven, I lied to the lady at Weight Watchers, desperate to sit in on meetings full of middle aged women trying to shed a few pounds,” she continued.
Watch: Meghan Ramsay on the effects of poor self esteem. (Post continues after video.)
At age nine, Miller went to a weight loss camp; at 11, she had a gastric band fitted, becoming the youngest person to have a surgical weight loss procedure.
It didn’t make her happy, though. As a teen, Miller began self-harming, convinced she deserved the pain somehow.
“When I was 20, I lost half my body weight in nine months, my worth for the day solely determined by the number on the scale being lower than the day before,” she wrote.
One year on, Miller has decided she’s sick of waiting. So she went out and bought that damn bikini, posed for a photo, and shared her story on the Love What Matters Facebook page for the world to see. There’s no more shame; only the desire to embrace who she is. (Post continues after gallery.)
“You can see it all. Weird bulges and rolls of fat. Hanging excess skin. Stretch marks, cellulite, surgical and self harm scars. Awkward protrusion on my abdomen from my lap band,” she explained.
“I want to learn to love all of myself, not just the parts I’ve been told are ‘acceptable.’ Because the secret is, I was always enough. And you are too.”
With more than 30,000 reactions, 1700 shares and 3000 loving, supportive comments from perfect strangers, it seems Miller’s message has hit a chord.
How do you feel about your body?
Featured image: Facebook