Michelle Elman

How Wearing A Bikini Helped Me Gain My Power Back

"Why is she staring at me?" I asked my friend, standing in the hot springs in the middle of Tokyo, exposed.

"Why is she staring at me?" I asked my friend, standing in the hot springs in the middle of Tokyo, exposed. I had been there all day and was enjoying the tradition of the Japanese culture as you were supposed to -- naked.

We had come to the end of our day and by this point in my life, I was completely at peace in my body. Yet something had been bothering me. While I was enjoying the company of my friend, throughout the day there had been this young child who kept staring at me. When I got up to change hot springs, she stared. When I was talking to my friend, she stared and though I had noticed it, I couldn't understand it.

What was she staring at?

I had been thinking this to myself all day but finally growing frustrated, I turned to my friend and said it aloud.

"Is it because I am fatter than everyone else here? Do I have chocolate on my face? What is it?"

My friend, barely listening to me, dismissed it. So I walked over to the mirror and crumbled into a ball... of hysterical laughter. It was my scars! For the first day in my entire life, I had forgotten about my scars! How did that even happen? The scars which had been the center of my world for so many years were simply forgotten and instead, I resorted to an assumption many people make: their weight. For the first time in my life, I felt normal.

I will never understand what it was about that day that made me forget about my scars two years ago. Perhaps it was the liberating feeling of being naked all day, but for me, it was a life-changing moment.

If you have seen my post about showing my scars in my bikini, this may surprise you. Why had I had so much difficulty getting into a bikini when more than two years earlier, I was perfectly content with roaming around in public with two less items of clothing? Because it wasn't just about the nakedness of a bikini. The bikini had become a metaphor to me.

It was a symbol to me of why I will always be different, why I can't do what other people do and why I am not as capable as anyone else around me. It was another reason to separate me from the rest of the world for being "different." The difference between these two events was that you can shame someone for being in a bikini, you can't shame someone for being naked. In actuality, I've always felt very comfortable naked. Most people are when they've spent an extended time in hospital, and my 15 surgeries, brain tumor, punctured intestine, obstructed bowel, cyst in my brain and a condition called Hydrocephalus made me particularly experienced in this area. Those poorly named "dignity" robes aren't the best at covering your exposed arse when you are walking around the hospital. With usually only a curtain to shield you from the rest of the ward, your most intimate parts are often put on display. There comes a point in these hospital stays that you have a choice to either embrace your nudity or continuously waste your energy in vain trying to cover yourself and so at the age of 11, I welcomed that exhibitionist side to myself.

Michelle Elman

A bikini though, was different. It has become a symbol in our society, a piece of item you have to earn with having a body that is deemed "bikini-ready." To me, this is sad. People are wasting the most beautiful time of year not enjoying the beauty of the world because of other people's limitations and that is exactly why I shared that photo of myself on Instagram. I wanted to get out there and enjoy the sun and stop making the bikini the one reason they dreaded summer -- and that's exactly what happened.

I have been inundated with messages saying how people have put on a bikini for the first time and felt liberated doing so. Nothing makes me happier than reading about your amazing stories when so many women are standing up and showing that they are scarred, but not scared.

Michelle Elman