Love Your Body

Michelle Elman on the bikini photo that's inspiring women to love their bodies

If you find yourself thinking twice about putting on a bikini this summer, look to this inspiring Instagram post.

PEOPLE WITH SCARS CAN’T WEAR BIKINIS This is what I have believed for the last 21 years of my life and when asked in January why I never wear bikinis, this horrible sentence came out of my mouth. I was shocked - at myself! I had had 15 surgeries, a brain tumour, a punctured intestine, an obstructed bowel, a cyst in brain and have lived for the last 21 years with a condition called Hydrocephalus yet somehow my scars have always been the hardest part. They make already awkward moments in your adolescence even more uncomfortable - like taking your top off for the first time in front of your boyfriend, and made me feel even more isolated in a world where I felt no one could understand. At age 7, I tried on my first bikini and after receiving a range of reactions from disgust to pity, it soon became easier to hide away and be doomed to a life of tankinis and one-pieces. Why did I believe this? Because over the years, I have learnt that my scars make people uncomfortable. I had become ashamed of my body and soon other people’s disgust became my own and this was allowed to be the case because of one simple reason - I had no one to talk to about it. Well in January, I started to talk about it - all of it, and I want other people to join in on the conversation. Every human has scars, whether there are emotional and physical - they are part of our story and we should be proud of them. About a month ago, I finally faced up to wearing a bikini and although, I love my body thoroughly and have for many years - this was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, yet once it was on, it was one of the most liberating feelings to know that I wasn’t letting two pieces of material stop me from being comfortable in my own body. My belief is that no one should have to feel ashamed of their body, whether you have stretch marks or a C-section scar so... THIS summer, let’s stand up and be proud of our scars and what they represent - a story! Tag a friend below and lets make this the summer of scars! #scarrednotscared

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After years of working up the courage to wear a two-piece, British body-confidence coach Michelle Elman posted a photo of herself in a bikini, which reveals the deep scars she carries from 15 surgeries she’s had since childhood.

“Was I terrified? Yes, but not about all the comments I’d get,” Elman told TODAY.com. “I was scared that the boy I’m interested in was going to see it! But I did it anyway.”

While Elman has lived through a brain tumor, punctured intestine, brain cyst, an obstructed bowel and undergone more than a dozen operations — plus she has lived for 21 years with a condition called hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain) — it is the scars that have been the hardest part for her, she said.

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Now, her photo has gone viral, with the support of body-positivity role models, including size-22 model Tess Holliday, and Zooey Deschanel.

While Elman was bracing for a negative backlash, she was happily surprised by the overwhelmingly positive comments.

“I knew there was a need for a voice in terms of scars, but the lack of negative response has been astounding,” she told TODAY.com. “I want people to look at the post and realize that they can do it. I tick all the boxes in being overweight, scarred, mixed race and disabled, and it is in these differences we should be proud.”

Elman, who turns 22 next month, has a degree in psychology, is accredited by five boards, and launched her body-confidence coaching business, Mindset for Life, this year. She coaches both in person and from afar, via Skype.

While her young age could be yet another obstacle to overcome in starting her business, Elman — who speaks with maturity far beyond her years — has turned that, too, into a positive.

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“People aren’t intimidated by me,” she said. “When you reach a certain age, people think, the therapist is this perfect person. I don’t preach perfection.”

Take this bikini post, for example. “Fear is just a sensation in your body, and then you put label on it," she said. "Call it excitement, and you take power away from it.”

For the time being, Elman is just taking in the experience and is glad the message is having such an impact. “What amazed me is the number of people who have got into the pool because of one picture,” she said. “People have messaged me saying they have got into the pool for the first time in 10 years.”

“The biggest purpose of the campaign was to let those who feel isolated in their body-confidence issues know they aren't alone and to show that body confidence and your body aren’t actually correlated — they are separate issues,” she added. “There are fat people with confidence and there are skinny people without confidence and the same goes with scars!”

Will this post help you face your own body-image issues head-on? Tell us in the comments below.

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