Getting into a bikini used to bring about an unprecedented level of dread for me.
Actually, it started way before I even got into said bikini.
It started at the store, combing through the racks trying to pick a few suits that I’d pray would be remotely forgiving. Full coverage bottoms. The top must have an adjustable back strap. Absolutely no cut outs. Dark colors were a must.
You get it.
Then I’d head to the dressing room and prepare to see myself in a whole light. No, really, that dressing room lighting leaves nothing to the imagination. No dimple, wrinkle, stretch mark, or hair went unseen.
Nine times out of ten I’d end up leaving the store empty-handed and arrive at the beach, pool party, or boat in the same pilly Target bikini from who knows when. And then the comparison would begin as I mentally left the party and became fully absorbed in how I looked versus every other woman there. I felt envy, shame, and fear that everyone at the party was making the same mental notes about me.
Life is really different now.
You probably won’t see me posting bikini selfies on Instagram because that’s just not me, but I don’t hate being a bathing suit anymore.
In fact, my swimsuit sessions aren’t really about being in a swimsuit at all. If I’m in a swimsuit, I’m probably thinking about how happy I am to be on vacation, or how good it feels to feel the wind/sun/water on my skin.
I have to say, it’s nice to have a drama-free relationship to the changing of seasons. I don’t miss that sense of existential dread that I used to associate with 3 months of the year or a certain type of clothing. But it took time and work to get to this place.
Here are a handful of mantras that have helped and do help me stay sane in the season of the summer body:
I don’t have to love my body to respect it.
Learn to treat bad body image days like bad hair days.
Just because you have a bad hair day doesn’t mean you schedule an emergency haircut or shave your head. Similarly, commit to practicing body respect (whatever that means to you) even when you’re having a bad body image day or days.
I’m at home in my body.
Like it or not, your body is your home. It’s the vehicle that takes you through life.
Body positivity or body love may feel like a stretch, and that’s ok. Try body neutrality and respect on for size to help you stay sane in the season of the summer bod. How can you transform negative thoughts about your body into sentiments that are more neutral or objective? Can you add in some gratitude for good measure?
Even Kim K. has bad body image days.
If pool parties or beach days turn into comparison sessions for you, think about how you can turn jealousy into unlimited empathy.
Chances are, the woman you’re comparing yourself to has had a body image day in her time. She may even be having one right now, regardless of what she looks like.
No one I care about cares how I look in a bikini.
So the truth is that most of the time, people are thinking about themselves. (source) And in the limited time that your loved ones are thinking about you, they’re probably thinking about who you are as a person, not what your skin suit looks like in a stringy nylon/spandex blend.
The truth is, you deserve to feel comfortable (or at least neutral) in every season and in any item of clothing that you want to put on. And the other truth is that those feelings have less to do with how you look and more to do with how you think and feel.