21-Year-Old Poses For A Photo In Her Very First Bikini. Now Her Image Is Inspiring Thousands.

Now that it’s summer, it’s impossible to go anywhere without being bombarded with advertisements of photoshopped models plastered on billboards, in magazines, and on the internet. And with so few images of real bodies out there, it’s difficult not to compare ourselves to these completely unrealistic bodies. Even though I know that these photos of models are all about angles, lighting, and photoshop, there’s something about the power of ads that seems to bring me under their spell again and again. And all of this is perhaps why a new study by Dove found that women’s body confidence is at an all-time low. It’s heartbreaking to know how many women are suffering because of this issue around the world. But fortunately there are brave women out there who are playing positive role models. And one such woman is 21-year-old Lesley Miller. The plus-size model started struggling with her body image at age three, and by 11 was the youngest person in history to have weight loss surgery. Now after dealing with body confidence for 18 years, she gathered her strength and bought her first bikini. But Lesley didn’t just stop there. She also posted a picture of herself wearing it on Facebook and even wrote a powerful message to accompany it. Leslie’s confidence is really inspiring. She’s not afraid to let the world see herself for who she is. She wrote about her bikini picture, “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.” Our bodies are unique—and every line, wrinkle, and scar tells a part of our story. We should love ourselves for who we are—after all, we’re all we’ve got. As Lesley says, “I was always enough. And you are too.” See Lesley’s photo and read her powerful message below.

“I’ve spent the past 18 years of my life waiting.

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. Thin enough, happy enough, confident enough. When my body looked the way that it was “supposed” to.

I fought my body every step of the way, continually ashamed and silent.

When I was three, my classmates asked why I was so much bigger than them. Why I didn’t wear the same smock they did.

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.

When I was nine, I went to weight loss camp and stood in line the first week to take my “before” photo.

When I was eleven, the surgeon cut into my stomach, and he told me how happy I would finally be. I was the youngest person to have weight loss surgery.

When I was fifteen, I started cutting into my own skin. I thought I deserved it.

When I was twenty, 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.

And then I got tired of waiting.

So now I’m twenty one and I bought my first bikini. EVER.

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.

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. :)”

If you’re as inspired as I am by Lesley’s powerful message, please share it with your friends!

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