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Women need to ignore ?flaws, love themselves

"I am looking at that woman over there with the bikini top on," a female friend said to our group while camping, "and I'm thinking, I would never put myself out there like that."

I brought my gaze to the direction she was looking. The woman was wearing a bikini top, and her "belly" was hanging over her short-shorts. I concurred. I would never think about exposing my stomach in public.

"But good for her," my friend went on to say. "I think it is great that she obviously has a good image of her body and is comfortable showing it off." I thought about that statement for a while. My friend was absolutely right.

Why is it that we women have such a low self-image of the way we look? There are so many different shapes and sizes among us. Yet many of us seem to feel like we need that unrealistic Barbie-doll figure in order to consider ourselves worthy of other people looking at us, not to mention actually liking what we see in the mirror.

We compare ourselves, sneering at women who are "thinner" than us, and we struggle with the thought that we are not "good enough." Good enough for whom, I wonder? For society? For our peers? For ourselves? Have the models and superstars who are plastered all over the covers of magazines and on the Internet dictated how we're "supposed" to look? Have they become our role models? I don't know who made that decision for us, but I think it was a bad one.

It really bothers me that we have come to this. Our world is now focused on getting healthy and losing weight. Believe me, I am all about that, too – to a point.

Yes, most of us could probably use a little help choosing which foods to eat and which foods are best left untouched. And many of us probably need a lesson on how just walking to and from the store from our car is not considered adequate daily exercise. But we also do not need to be anorexic-looking either. You can be unhealthy by being underweight, too. I think some women forget that.

We want our scale to read a certain number, we want our clothes to have a tag that reads a size much smaller than should ever exist and we want to be able to wear skinny jeans. Who created skinny jeans, anyway?

I've been told that on European beaches, women walk around and put it all out there. It doesn't matter if you are tall, short, skinny or obese. It is an accepted practice and women seem to be much happier with their bodies. I'm not saying we need to go to that extreme of walking around practically naked, but wouldn't it be nice to have someone tell us we are beautiful and actually believe it ourselves?

We are always the first people to give compliments to each other, yet the last people to accept them. The brat deep inside our subconscious roars, "She is just saying that! It can't be true!"

I have never been overweight, yet like many women, I have never been comfortable with my body. I would love to see the day when I can finally relax and say, "Hey, I've had two kids and my body is not perfect, but I love myself anyway." And maybe if more of us did walk around with bikinis on, we would feel more comfortable with our curves, stretch marks and imperfections.

We need to take a stand. We need to take it now.

Lynn Lombard, who lives in Akron, wishes women could be comfortable with their bodies.