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Surfer Bethany Hamilton, who survived a 2003 shark attack resulting in the loss of her left arm, says she is determined to "let go of lies and embrace my God-given gifts and beauties" in a candid post about body image and "our cultural obsession for the [perfect] body."
Hamilton, 31, posted a photo of herself in a bikini, clutching her pink surfboard. In her caption, the mother of three delivered some "real talk on body love and true value from my opinion."
"I found that where we place our worth has a huge impact on our confidence and self-image," Hamilton wrote. "I’ve been thinking about our cultural obsession for the perf body. Especially here on Instagram. All of the platforms. And magazines. It’s invasive and it’s seems to be EVERYWHERE... Not to mention the overload of Photoshop filters and fake accessories to the bod."
Musing on how this "obsession" affects people, Hamilton added that "perfection in the physical is often overly celebrated in my opinion. And we’ve grown numb or used to it and many of us have adopted the ideal."
She went on to argue that "true beauty" is represented by qualities like "kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness, faithfulness, determination, honesty, loveliness, just being a good friend and human and all of the true good that we have to offer this world," rather than one's physical appearance.
While Hamilton, whose story has inspired the films Soul Surfer and Unstoppable, admitted that she too is vulnerable to feeling pressure from society to look a certain way, she strives to focus on the positives in her life.
"To say I’m not affected by it would be a lie," she shared. "But I really do my best to let go of lies and embrace my God-given gifts and beauties... And how do I do that?
"I start by thanking God for my body and focusing on my abilities in both mind and body," the devout Christian wrote. "My ability to surf. To serve my family. To grow and birth children (I could go on and on about this one!). To love others. To bring hope to a hurting, fearful and challenged world.
"I also focus on my health. I eat nourishing food, and I get movement yet not overdoing it and I make sleep a priority. I also use natural skincare and avoid toxic anything. Good health will set us up for natural beauty and for a healthy mind too.
"I pray for my worries and struggles," she continued. "I breath and rest and do my best to avoid overloading my plate to minimize stress and overwhelm.
"I also focus on where my identity lies. I trust that I’m loved and accepted by God.
"Life is so much more than the perfect body and to those of you out there really struggling. I feel for you and yes... the cultural pressure is real."
Hamilton, who welcomed her third son, Micah, in February, urged her followers to curb their time on social media and to avoid falling into the pitfalls of "self-abuse" and "eating disorders."
"I encourage you to say no to self-abuse," she wrote. "Say no to eating disorders. Say no to accepting the pressure and the lies. I encourage you to spend less time on social media (yes, get off this place!) and more time with those who love you and time doing things you love. And spend more time in nature! You can also learn about heathy living.
"You can choose to celebrate your true beauty," she said in conclusion. "And know you are loved. You have purpose in this life. You can focus a little less on yourself and instead look for ways to help and love on others. You can shine in so many meaningful ways. You can bring hope and light by being real and honest. So I encourage you to be brave enough to say no to the lies and instead be truest beautiful YOU. And be persistent for as long as it takes to overcome."
Hamilton's empowering message struck a chord with many, including fellow surfer Sage Erickson.
"Always felt insecure about my big surf arms and shoulders... but going down the reasons why they help me and how strength supports so many other parts of my life is truth!" she wrote.
"Thank you for this! I think most of us need this reminder," read another comment.
"I’m in the middle of a bad body struggle and this was so great to read," another supporter wrote. "You’re amazing and s great role model for all human beings, especially girls [of] all ages."
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