What is your definition of beauty? Is it the skinny and fit Victoria Secret model body we see on television? Is it the societal standard of “striking” we see on billboards and commercials? Or is beauty the genuine benevolence that someone extrudes? Is beauty the inner workings of the mind, one’s scars or the twinkle in someone’s eye when they talk about something they are passionate about? Well, our definition of beauty is empowerment, compassion, and authenticity in real hard-working women. For our December Girl of the Month, we feel that Michelle Elman exemplifies all these beautiful traits and more!
Michelle is a body confidence coach, creator of the Scarred Not Scared campaign and an award-winning body positive activist. Growing up in Hong Kong, she first became passionate about surgery scars due to her own personal experience of having undergone 15 surgeries (in the first 20 years of her life!) due to a brain tumor, a punctured intestine, an obstructed bowel, a cyst in her brain and a condition called Hydrocephalus. That’s more hospital stays, physical, emotional and mental pain than one person should have to endure. Did Michelle let it get her down? Well, inevitably, of course; but not for long.
At the young age of 15, Michelle started accepting her story, her scars, and her body. She did not want to invite more surgery, more pain or more hospital stays into her life, which forced her to accept her surgery scars. Michelle told us “I didn’t love them, I didn’t think they were beautiful but they weren’t going anywhere and I didn’t want that to distract from my entire life.” While in University, she started having conversations about not only her scars but her surgeries and personal stories for the first time in her life. “That’s when I started to unpick a lot of the body shame I had learned. From there, it was a ton of baby steps,” Elman says.
Michelle felt the world needed to be having more conversations about chronic pain, illness, and ultimately-scars (physical and mental). She created her campaign Scarred Not Scared in 2015 after noticing there wasn’t enough representation of these topics. Michelle began sharing her experiences using the hashtag #ScarredNotScared and posted her first bikini picture challenging the idea that “People With Scars Can’t Wear Bikinis.” Within 24 hours, the image had gone viral and eventually published in over 60 publications including MTV, Cosmopolitan, People, and Buzzfeed!
Honesty is Beauty
In a culture that is predominately focused on achieving that “perfect beach body” or finding happiness in acceptance from others, it is important to be honest with ourselves while holding others accountable. There are practical ways we can engage the media, ourselves and the world around us in ways that promote honest beauty, strength, and courage. The only way to start diversifying the idea of beauty and pushing for more diversity in our media is to speak out! We think Michelle has done an amazing job of doing just that.
“If you notice a lack of diversity in terms of race, shape, ability or sexuality, let the company know. We need to start noticing these things so that we can start changing them,” says Elman.
Social Media Presence
With such a large social platform, there can be positives and negatives. Positively, Michelle’s influence and social media presence has preceded to expand to over 190K followers from Los Angeles to London and Ireland to Italy and remains an active role in the body positive community. Unavoidably, however, social media and the strive for a “perfect” aesthetic can sometimes put a toll on our self-worth and self-esteem. Michelle gives advice on how to stop comparing ourselves to others and how to be confident in our own skin. In her book, ‘Am I Ugly?’ available now on Amazon, Michelle speaks on the complicated relationship between beauty and illness.
“Whenever I compare myself to others, I imagine myself as a horse with blinders on and I tell myself to stay in my own lane. What is meant for others will always be theirs and what is meant for me will eventually come to me!”
We couldn’t think of better advice.
To unplug from it all, Michelle likes to turn off her phone regularly, mainly on Sundays, for anywhere between 3-72 hours. She says, “I find even a couple of hours makes me happier, and also more productive. It helps me place myself as the priority in my life and not always be so instant at responding to everyone else’s needs.” Michelle reminds us that nothing is that urgent, everyone is a separate human being and it is important to give time to ourselves. The perfect motivation for a self-care Sunday!
“Be loving and compassionate towards yourself, even when that might seem to be the hardest task to do at the moment.”
Self-love and acceptance can be a vigorous task for anyone, male or female, especially when the ideal definition of beauty is misconstrued by social media, unrealistic societal standards or even our own insecurities. Psychologically, it is easy to forget how damaging this can be to our mental health. As a general collective, we need to change the conversations we have about others, and most importantly-ourselves. To us, beauty is not the size of your bikini, but the size of your heart. Beauty is authenticity, kindness, and compassion for yourself and others. Confidence is self-love. Acceptance is courage. Thank you, Michelle, for spreading your message and reminding us that we don’t need a “definition” to be beautiful. You can check out her website for more inspiration and all things body confidence!
The Pitusa Quiz
Star sign? Leo
Preferred workout? Dance Class
Favorite vacation destination? Phuket, Thailand
Any morning rituals? I write three things I am grateful for.
Coffee, tea or smoothie? Tea
Any guilty pleasures? Reality TV, although I don’t feel guilty
Favorite charity? Changing Faces
Favorite cocktail? Pornstar Martini
And quote? “Have the courage to be disliked.”
As an honor to this inspiring beauty, take 20% off Michelle’s selected styles and colors for the rest of December! Use code MICHELLE20 at checkout, and as you do, remember to have the courage to be disliked.