Before I begin, I think I should give some context on my own personal self-image and myself. Mainly, because how can I offer personal opinion on an important topic without explaining my own background. I consider myself to be healthy and strong. I like myself and how I look. I work out; I eat when I’m hungry and sometimes when I’m not. I love food of all types; and there are days when I hate my stomach or my arms but overall and in comparison to others, I am secure with myself.

Right now, I am studying abroad in Costa Rica, I am in a bathing suit more often than not and I am eating a diet my body is not used to. Have I gained weight? I don’t know, I haven’t weighed myself, and I don’t really plan on it. I may never know if I’ve changed that little scary number on that powerful little scale. But I feel good, I’m still as strong as I was before I began studying abroad, I can still do a headstand and I still have the same amount of energy I always have.

In my experience, I’ve found that it’s rare to encounter someone who openly likes his or her body. I mean full-fledged body love; where the person, more days than not, truly believes themselves to be beautiful. We are literally told we’re not good enough all the time, our poor subconscious minds are scrambling to make sense of the media being fed to us. And even here in Costa Rica where we should be more concerned about learning the culture and having fun on beautiful beaches, we’re pinching fat on our sides and scrutinizing the person in the mirror staring back at us.

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Like I said as a twenty-one year old woman, I find myself constantly discussing weight, diets, self-esteem and body image with other people, both women and men of all ages. We inadvertently listen to the media’s messages (that are unavoidable, I understand) and apply what the media says to the way we see our bodies, faces, and basically our overall aesthetic. We talk about what we like about ourselves, what we hate, and most say that they think they need to work out more or eat less.

But like I said before, I and many of the other lovely women that are on this program with me are in bathing suits very often; almost every weekend. Because of the different diet, many girls either fear that they will or already have gained weight but, honestly, I haven’t noticed weight gain in any of them. You are working against the world here, you had to fight off self-hate at home and you have to fight it off here miles and miles away.

People we see as perfect probably see themselves as anything but. We tear our own bodies down as we tell our friends (who are usually the same size as us) that they don’t need to lose weight because they look great, so why don’t we tell that to ourselves?  And in Costa Rica, in a new foreign place, where the food is plentiful and the clothing coverage bikini-sized, I understand we are all feeling incredibly vulnerable. But I’m listening to beautiful, wonderful people tear down their strong, beautiful, and wonderful bodies. The message I’m trying to leave here is to just like yourself in all your shapes and forms. Don’t be frustrated when the self-love doesn’t come; and truthfully I can’t tell you how to get to that point of security, but the ocean and the mountains and the culture is waiting, and your body and your bravery brought you here to this new, unfamiliar place. Come on Ladies and Gentlemen; give yourselves a pat on the back and a tiny bit of self-love. Work out if you want, eat when you’re hungry; you are more than the numbers, dress sizes and bikinis. You are you, and you are in Costa Rica!

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