Bathing Suit Anxiety – Body Talk

bikini
What can I say about learning to love your body that hasn’t been said before? We all know that numbers shouldn’t mean a thing. That self-deprecating and depriving yourself of food only leads to stuffing your face in front of the TV. That the media is bad. That being healthy is more important than being skinny. We get it. 

But do we remember it when me most need to?

Next week I leave for a week-long vacation at a Jamaican resort with my entire family. Excited doesn’t begin to explain what I’m feeling inside. The beach is my happy place.

Yet, here I am again, close to tears, as I try on my various bathing suits. A wave of rage and hate rolls over me as I scrutinize every inch of cellulite, every stretch mark, and every extra inch of fat that hangs over the thin layers of spandex. 

I’ve come a long way since I was the 22-year-old girl who ate under 500 calories a day, glued herself to the treadmill for hours and thought maybe she might be worthy of a happy life if I was just 115 pounds.

In the past 10 years I’ve grown out of my need to achieve the “perfect” body. I found happiness in my 150 pounds, in life and in love and matured. 

But then why does that starving girl take over my body while I’m in the dressing room of Old Navy, pinching at my hips and thighs and telling myself I look disgusting? She makes me feel like the girl writhing on the couch in pain on Sunday morning, complaining of the worst hangover ever and exclaiming, “I will never drink again!”. Yes you will. 

No matter how many inspirational quotes on body image and self-love that we pin on Pinterest, no matter how strong and muscular we make our bodies, no matter how often we flaunt about self confidently, that self-doubt always finds a way to creep back in.

I fill my head with these thoughts because when I’m trying on bathing suits I picture the perfect woman lounging on the perfect beach.

You’ve seen her too. she’s in every single advertisement, commercial, magazine, weight loss article, celebrity gossip magazine. She’s ingrained in our brain since childhood, haunting us, telling us, ” I have it all! men want me, women was to be like me. I rule everything and I’m so happy!”

Lies. Deep down we know she’s lying to us, right?

She’s not happy. Being happy means that you must feel. And she can’t feel because she’s merely an object to be admired. A pretty little thing for us all to gawk at and admire. Her toned legs and perky breasts are no different from a sand sculpture on the beach. 

No one looks like her on the beach. The beach is messy. If she were real, she’d be smothered in greasy spf 50 sun tan lotion, with sand lodged in places unmentionable. The wind and salty air will have created a rat’s nest of her hair. (Seriously have you ever seen “mermaid curls” on the actual beach?) She’d be bored out of her mind trying to sit and look pretty, missing out on all the fun. 

By comparing ourselves to her we are participating in self objectification.

We are viewing ourselves as objects, making it impossible for us to be anything but. We are socialized to think we will always be less than if we are not perfect. Perfect isn’t for humans. 

You know what makes me feel beautiful at the beach? Playing in the waves, body surfing, sailing, getting lost in a good beach read, acting silly with my husband at the swim up bar, running on the beach. This is what makes me beautiful.

Yet  those thoughts never cross my mind while staring at my reflection in the dressing room back at home.

While trying on your bathing suit, focus on all the fun you will be having in it, rather than what your reflection is telling you. Step away from the mirrors and reflect on your memories and hopes of adventure instead. 

I always stress before a vacation but once I’m on vacation I’m having way too much fun to be bothered about the way I look in my bathing suit.
 
So I must limit the time of scrutinizing of myself. I’m not an object to be studied. I should stop the examination after I discover a suit has a nice pattern or color, covers the pieces I want covered and will stay put while I’m swimming and running. I must stop treating my body in a bikini like an object and more like a vessel for allowing me to have fun. 
 
I don’t want to bring home memories of regret of sitting in my beach chair agonizing over my stretch marks and fat rolls. 
I want to remember how good those multiple desserts at the buffet tasted and the endless frozen drinks cooled me down. I want to remember acting like kids again in the ocean with my siblings and husband and the the way my husband looked at me over cocktails.
 
I want to remember the way the sun and the ocean air and the fun with my loved ones made me feel simply beautiful.  
 
Mr. Thomas & Me