Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks, or post childbirth, or when you don’t look like an anorexic model often leads to unnecessary self-doubts and body image issues for many women. How many of you can relate to this? Also, has anyone considered that just putting on a bikini becomes such a needlessly difficult thing to do precisely because many of us have body image issues?

Wearing a Bikini When You Have Stretch Marks: Body Positivity while Travelling:: LIKE IT? PIN IT!

Wearing a Bikini when you have stretch marks: Why many of us have low esteem when it comes to our bodies?

This is a no-brainer really. It’s a culmination of social conditioning that comes from media and society. Media tells you to get your body ‘bikini ready.’ Just google it, and you will find countless articles. Everywhere you look, you continuously see only one kind of female body that is considered beautiful. This body consists of a tiny waist, endless legs, a big bust paired with a firm, round (not too big) butt. This is rather unrealistic for most (if not all) women. I really take care of my body but I am not even close to looking like that.

Our ‘well-intending’ friends, partners and family can also easily raise self-doubts in us with a simple comment like “You sure you wanna wear that?” Or something like “Girl, you need to lose weight if you wanna look good in that!”

Islas Rosarios, Cartagena. That place where everyone is so freakishly perfect that your self-esteem in a bikini really takes a hit.

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: What Popular culture does to women

I am going to come clean and admit that initially, I always wanted to look a certain way when I wore a bikini. I was a rather shallow person who wouldn’t want to wear a bikini unless I was within the range of what society and media portray as an acceptable bikini body.Why did I feel and behave this way? Why did I starve myself to look a certain way? Is it simply because I was/am superficial and shallow? I would like to think not.

While my family never made me less about my body, I had toxic relationships with men who made me feel inadequate. I was also strongly influenced by both popular culture and social media to look a certain way.  In fact, it was because of my relationships and media that I got stretch marks in the first place. I started to diet a lot, lost a lot of weight and got several stretch marks all over my body. Besides my stomach and waist, I have stretch marks on the upper part of my breasts, thighs and even shoulders. I am like a tigress, only waaaay slower.

The time when I showed up at a beach without any swimsuit -_- SMH – Canggu, Bali

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: What we women need to understand

We need to reject what we see on Instagram, magazines and TV. Women must know and believe that there isn’t anything such as just one ‘bikini body.’ All bodies are bikini bodies. What you need to do to have a bikini body is simply put on a bikini. And there you go, that’s your bikini body. We must reclaim the phrase ‘bikini body’ and make it our own. Women should start believing that any body with a bikini on is a bikini body. There is absolutely no thing as ‘bikini ready.’ You just need to be ready to put on a damn swimsuit! It shouldn’t have to be that hard.

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: Embracing your body and loving yourself

I do not want to say something sappy like “learn to love your imperfections.” Because here is the thing: Having stretch marks, scars, weighing more than you think you should, does not make your body imperfect. Your body is different from that supermodel, your next door neighbour. Your body is different from mine. And, we are all perfect.

Note: When I say this I don’t want to suggest that having unhealthy eating habits that lead to anorexia or morbid obesity is okay. It is not. Not because that makes your body imperfect. It’s because such habits can really harm your health and your mental/emotional well-being as well. If you see yourself suffering with eating disorder, using a body positivity message is not constructive. See a doctor, get help and be the healthy, beautiful you that you deserve to be.

At Nusa Penida: I foolishly forgot to bring my swimsuit (yet again). So, thsi really nice girl lend me the extra she had.

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: Staying body positive when travelling

If you travel like I do (only carry-on luggage and on budget), you may find it hard to look like the way you want to. I still findmyself struggling with body image issues while travelling as I feel like I look like a slob most of the time. This becomes particularly difficult when I go to the beach. Normally, I am a racial minority at the beach, and so, I obviously stand out. This makes me super conscious when I am wearing a bikini and all my stretch marks and body fat are out on display.

However, from my own experience, most people don’t care. They just want to have a good time at the beach. For those who do stare (or point/snicker at me), I don’t get bothered by them anymore. I know not everyone can simply ignore these people. If such is the case with you, just tell yourself that these douchebags have no right to make you feel anything less than fabulous on your vacation. They don’t deserve your attention. And you certainly do not need to feel conscious about your body because of them. While you can always move away from them, why should you? Instead, give them a big smile, it really unnerves them!

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: Staying body positive as a solo traveller

Chilling alone @ Greece

I love travelling solo and won’t have it any other way. However, when at times I am feeling under-confident about my body, I

feel like I could really do with a friend’s reassurance. I realise that when I say this it sounds like I am seeking validation from someone else and that shouldn’t be the case. That said, going to the beach/pool with a friend can be a lot less intimidating if you are worried about your stretch marks or scars or weight. If someone stares or points at you, you have the comfort of knowing your friend has got your back. You can simply ignore them and keep chatting and enjoying with the company you have.

But what happens when you travel solo? Well, you have to let yourself relax is what I learned from my past travels. I shut the world out and just enjoy the experience. If someone comes and chats with me, I engage with them. If not, I revel in being on my own in a beautiful place. Shut the judgemental haters out and relax! My only concern at the beach is someone stealing my stuff and not people noticing my stretch marks!

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: How to gradually find confidence and get comfortable

At Kawasan Falls, Cebu, in my handy sarong.

Reading this blog alone cannot give you confidence to wear a bikini today. No blog will. If you find one, share it with me. It is a gradual process that starts with self acceptance and self love. The key point here is that you shouldn’t wear a bikini to prove a point if you are not comfortable in it! Wearing a bikini should not be a punishment. Only wear it when you are comfortable.

If you are feeling conscious about your tummy fat and/or stretch marks, you can always wear a tankini or a high waisted bikini until you feel you are ready to transition to a bikini. Moreover, consider keeping a sarong or a quick-dry light beach dress handy if you don’t want to walk around on the beach/poolside in a bikini. This is also a great option when you might not have a place to change by the beach and have to travel back to your hotel. For instance, I simply wore my sarong over my bikini back to the hotel after visiting the Kawasan Falls in Cebu.

It takes time to gain confidence when social media and people around you make you feel like don’t have the body for a bikini. It’s even harder if you come from a comparatively conservative culture. The bottom line is you don’t have to wear a bikini if you don’t want to! But let not the reason for that be you feeling unattractive in your body. I reiterate, your body is awesome the way it is.

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: My journey of learning to love my body while travelling

I never wear a bikini when I don’t travel because I don’t have ready access to a beach or pool where I live. Moreover, in my home country, wearing a bikini is uncommon. So, all my bikini-wearing experiences has been during travelling. And this had surely helped me grow out of my body image issues and become an overall confident traveller.

The first time I went to a beach where wearing a bikini was normal, I was too shy to wear one. That was more of a cultural thing than a body image thing. The first time I did wear a bikini, I was with a guy at Barcelona, who, lets just say, had high expectations from me looking a certain way. I, in my youthful stupidity, really liked the guy, and literally starved myself to look ‘good’ in a bikini because he would see me in it. Embarrassing, I know.

Valencia, Spain

Time passed and I grew wiser and older. I soon found myself at a beach in Valencia once again with a great fellow. But three things were largely different this time. 1. While I was still not a 100% confident about my body, my body image issues weren’t as alarming as before. 2. I no longer cared about looking a certain way for a man. 3. The guy I was with did not have nor did he expect me to live up to unrealistic expectations of beauty. We got stared at more than I do as a solo brown woman at a European beach because we were an inter-racial pair. But as far as my insecurities with the stretch marks go, I didn’t think about them even once.

At Halong Bay. 2017 was the year when I tried to handle depression by over-eating.

Then came the year 2017. When due to many reasons (mostly PTSD), I started to over-eat. As an obvious result, I gained a lot of weight. In November 2017, despite knowing that my hotel in Cambodia has a pool, I did not take my swimsuit as I was too embarrassed to wear a bikini. My bikini was also too small for me then. And I refused to buy a bigger sized bikini like it would be the worst defeat in my life if I did. So low was my self confidence that when a handsome Canadian kept hitting on me, my brain could not process that anyone can like ‘fat me.’ And so, I completely ignored the guy. I so, so regret that!

By March 2018, I had gone back to eating healthy and had lost some of the kilos I had gained. Still, my confidence was nowhere near what I had in Valencia. So when I found myself at Manly beach in Sydney in March last year, I wore a tankini. I had a bikini in my luggage but I was too afraid to put it on. I started to focus more on self-loving and eating healthy (with an occasional treat every 3-4th day).

By July 2018, I was back to wearing a bikini. I did so proudly and without a care in the world in Cartagena, Colombia to Franz Josef in New Zealand to Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. 

At Manly Beach, Sydney, wearing a tankini.

Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks: What to take away from this post

I wore my first ever bikini nearly five years ago. My personal journey with a bikini and my body while travelling have had its ups and downs. Now, for over 9 months or so, I wear a bikini without hesitation. I also happily devour not-so-healthy food I love as long as I balance it out with something healthy. In other words, I eat healthy for being healthy. I don’t starve or deprive myself of things I love because I want to look ‘socially acceptable’ in a bikini.

I also cannot care less about my stretch marks.  The internet is abundant with articles about how to conceal your stretch marks and tummy fat, like this one. They make it sound like having stretch marks is a terrible thing. It isn’t, they are a part of what makes us, us. I am not about flaunting them but I am not about hiding them either. They are a part of me, and that’s all.

At Valencia, Spain: The time when I let my hair loose (both literally and metaphorically), and didn’t give two hoots about my stretch marks, fat or other supposed ‘flaws’ with my body.

Lastly, I want to say that solo travelling has taught me how to love my body. It has taught me that I mustn’t change my body for men. I mustn’t change my body for society or to fit into social media standards. Travelling solo has taught me that there is no correct bikini body. Bikini bodies come in all shapes, sizes, ages and colours. In fact, bikini bodies have stretch marks, and scars from surgeries, self-harm, accidents or just from daily life. Bikini bodies have tummy fat and thigh fat and jiggly skin. Bikini bodies have body hair, vaginal hair, and armpit hair. All bodies are bikini bodies. Wearing a bikini when you have stretch marks/scars/tummy fat shouldn’t be a distressing task. It should be a merely act of putting on beach/swimwear. We are all beautiful.

Wearing a Bikini When You Have Stretch Marks: Body Positivity while Travelling:: LIKE IT? PIN IT!

For more posts on what solo travelling taught me and my experiences as a solo traveller, see my Solo Travellers Stories section.
This post was partly inspired by an article by a fellow blogger Tabitha who wrote about overcoming her weight insecurities  during a visit to the Blue Lagoon, Iceland. Click here to read the post.

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