#AerieREAL girl Elana shares her journey to loving the swim she’s in!
“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 just being 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 empowering 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 dazzling didn’t all look one certain way. They were different sizes, skin colors, body types and ages.
Moving to Hawai’i to 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! Now, I 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.”
“Before moving to Hawai’i, 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 Hawai’i, 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. 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, or 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.”
“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 or myself. When we first moved here we would frequent the beach, still feeling like we were on vacation; I was still in complete awe and kept thinking, ‘Do we really live here?’ (YES, Elana. HELL YES you do.) On those 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 and have tiny little thighs. Swimwear never made me feel comfortable, let alone beautiful! Women in Hawai’i wear what they want with pride in their bodies and it’s been absolutely inspiring! Experiencing their confidence first hand first made my smile, then started sinking in more and more. 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!
I thought 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. Hawai’i 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, Hawai’i 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 fully 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!”
Post your unretouched swim photos with #AerieREAL & we’ll donate $1 (up to $15K) to the National Eating Disorder Association for every new share!