As I roll over in bed, I squint open my eyes to a text from 8:12 am that reads, “Surf today?”

Sigh. Once again, he’s asking me to go surfing.

The view outside my window looks like a beautiful, sunny morning in Hawai’i. I open up my surf report app and the conditions are how I like it: small waves, windless skies. It’s a prime day to go surfing, yet I’ am not feeling at my prime.

As I continue to lay in bed, I ponder the time that has passed since I was last in the water. I miss the cool embrace of the ocean as the sun beams upon my skin. Yet, on days such as this, I cannot bear to slip into one of my bikinis and go before people feeling like crap.

My guy friend relentlessly invites me to go surfing, but I continually formulated excuses to turn the offer down. To be honest, I am far better than my friend at surfing, and I often wonder if he only asks me to go surfing with him because I do not laugh at his poor attempts. The problem is, during this time, I slumped into the mindset of not feeling comfortable surfing out of fear of how others perceive my body.

Growing up in Hawai’i, I spent my youth in the ocean and atop mountains. With year-round summer weather, the outdoors was a common solution to fill the time of the day. Yet, the beauty of my surroundings often coexisted with ugly views of my body. Living in paradise, people are expected to mesh with the beauty and be a contribution to it.

While many do want to show off their body, the overall accepted truth is that the heat and humidity often make clothing unbearable in Hawai’i. In a sense, it is more of a taboo to wear an excess of clothing rather than too little clothing. PTo make things more pathetically complicated, people often do not go out if the clothing they wear will create tan lines. There are tricky “rules of beauty” recognized that are known widespread across Hawai’i, but won’t most people are not willing to admit the problems created by the issue of this unrealistic body standard.

The Perfect Beach Body

In Hawai’i, the ideal body type is a combination of tan, skinny and curvy, with silky skin. When I stand before the mirror, the desire to carry all those attributes wrestles within me. “If only I was more…” I wonder as I turn different angles and allow my eyes to scrutinize myself.

The unrealistic beauty standards fuel my dissatisfaction of my body. Living in a society constantly exposing bodies, it’s easy for me to compare my body to the body sitting next to me. And when I’m alone, I feel compelled to open up Instagram, scrolling through photos of even more gorgeous bodies.

The negative perception of my body infects my emotional well-being, poisoning my choices and decisions. Most people consider me a fairly confident and independent person. They are not aware of the constant feeling of inadequacy that gnaws at the back of my mind. Although I always subtly seek after beauty standards, I never want to admit my vexing feelings regarding my body image.

At this point, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on quality razors and hair bleaches. I’ve spent hours under the sun to become darker. I’ve chosen to skip a meal to prevent a pound of weight gain. I’ve abused my body at a young age all for the sake of being “presentable.”

It’s hard to admit all of this because no one sees me this way. I enjoy promoting body positivity, and I do my best to not criticize other’s bodies. I fear admitting my insecurities because I do not want others to do the same to themselves. I believe it’s important to recognize how huge an issue body image is, however. One report estimates that around 91 percent are “unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape.”

Every Body is Beautiful

According to Psychology Today, body image is a representation you create of your body that may not be how others perceive your body. Our body image can be altered by “emotions, moods, early experiences, attitudes of our parents, and much more” and strongly impact behavior.

In the moment my friend texted me, although I loved surfing, I did not feel comfortable in my skin. My low self-perception of my body prevented me from doing something that I love. It forced me to stay home many times when I wanted to be in the ocean, surfing and enjoying myself.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our bodies are beautiful. They are all unlike one another. Society has constructed the ideal body type and many of us have succumbed to seeking this standard. I’m guilty of falling into this pit of despair, but today I seek to find solace and embrace my body. It takes small steps of courage to overcome the fear and shame.

Loving our bodies for what they are is liberating. Excuse me as I check my surf report app.o32o32o