A couple of years ago I went on a girls trip with 3 of my dearest girlfriends to the beach. Somehow, much to my chagrin, the deal was made that we all were to wear bikinis. “Just suck it up and wear them. Don’t worry about what you look like, just do it,” one of them said, I don’t remember who. (I remember exactly who.) At the time I was about 25 pounds heavier and had not worn a bikini since having children so the idea of this made my fingers numb, my head spin, and for a little while I hated my friends for having this idea. But I decided to go for it. And you know what? I survived it. Not only did I survive it, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I was able to soak up a little extra vitamin D, and it was kind of liberating. We have decided to make it an annual girls’ trip, and it has become an important time for me.
Recently, I had the privilege of spending time in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The sand there is fantastic, actually. It is soft, like powder. Being on the beach, especially one in a different country with many international guests, it makes the prudish body shaming of which we Americans suffer rather obvious. We obsess over what’s hanging out of our bathing suits and the opinions of strangers. I can tell you, I saw plenty of women wearing swim suits that most Americans would say they “shouldn’t.” But why shouldn’t they? I saw women in thongs, or nearly thongs, with an over abundance of imperfect flesh out there for all to see. And so what. They rocked it. They didn’t scurry quickly from water to towel. That’s what they wanted to wear, or not wear, and what made them feel best. I saw a woman in her 60s going topless every day. Good for her. Why not? So I saw a little more ass cheek or boob than I am used to. I survived it. And so did each of those liberated women. There were rotund rumps all around, and you could tell that whatever wasn’t covered was out there unapologetically. It was not magazine perfection; it was not toned, but it was out there nonetheless in the sand and sun. There were also women, obviously American without even speaking with them, hiding their body in the conservative swimming tent. It made me sad for us. It made me realize some of our needless shame.
So as you prepare for summer and swim suit season, just go for it. If you find a bathing suit that you love but you worry about that one area shows too much? Who cares. Rock that bathing suit and love every minute of it. If the thought of wearing a smaller swim suit gives you hives, think about why before you say absolutely not. Is it because of what other people will think? More importantly, is it because of what complete strangers might think? If so, why do they hold that weight over you? Most of the time the other people at the beach are people you will never see again. Let yourself be a little more free than your normal. Just give it a shot for a little bit. Dip your toe in the water of bikini freedom.
Then, when you see that you will survive, let that freedom spill over into your life away from the beach. Don’t shame yourself. It can be one of the hardest things not to do. I bet you do it without even realizing it. But let this freedom springboard into other areas of your life. Do the things you have wanted to do but afraid of what others might think. Yes, we humans are social beings—we want to be accepted as part of the group. But when the group has become hyper judgmental, the sacrifice of acceptance is too much.
So wear the proverbial teeny bikini of life! Get out of your comfort zone! Do something that makes you uncomfortable! And when you survive, as you inevitably will, celebrate that freedom you experienced. You will have a life of richer experience for it.
I have stopped wanting to hide who I am, both figuratively and literally including at the beach in a swim suit. When I find something that I enjoy, that really makes me happy, I want to hang on to it dearly. And while being in a bikini doesn’t necessarily make me happy, being confident in who I am does. But it took an uncomfortable push to get me started.
There is a time and place for everything. I’m not suggesting you pilot a movement for Thong Thursdays. But at the beach, when you wear your swim suit, just be aware of why you might be feeling uncomfortable. Is it because you’ve got voices from your past saying you aren’t good enough or that you’ve done something wrong? Or your own harsh self talk saying there is something inadequate about yourself? Is it the consumer magazines saying you have to have the perfect body first? We women share these blogs and memes about celebrating our curves, and not having to have the perfect body, and not shaming ourselves, but then we still try and cover up our imperfections when it comes right down to it. It’s time to ante up! If you feel it, do something about it. Show yourself you are proud of who you are, not just your unique and perfectly flawed inner beauty, but also be proud of your perfectly flawed outer beauty as well. Tell those voices in your head to eff off. Enjoy yourself now, how you are this moment.
There are precious few people whose opinions of me carry any weight. I would hope that if they made the cut to mean that much to me, that they would see past my flaws—both my actual imperfections and the ones that only exist in my head. My people will always matter to me, no matter what. Whether it’s their ass hanging out of their swim suit or the dark secret they carry, their flaws will not make me care about them any less. All I can do is hope they return that favor to me.
So ladies, if your friends aren’t pushing you out of your comfort zone, let me. Once this summer, I challenge you to bare a little more of yourself. Do it for you only. You are beautiful. The flaws you see in yourself aren’t repulsive. Do it in this concrete way, and then see how you can do it in your every day life.
I hope to see a lot more of you this summer. 😉