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The Shame We Feel

I’ve realized that the bikini holds a special place in our society. It’s not just a bathing suit. It’s a trophy we bestow upon some, and a treasure we withhold from others.

I started thinking about this when I saw a picture online of a large woman in a bikini.  The comments were varied, but there were quite a few people posting that she should cover up. More than quite a few really.

When I was looking at the pictures of this woman, the thing that struck me was that I don’t think she would have looked any different in a one piece.  It’s not like swimsuits hide anything.  Sure with a one piece people would see fabric where otherwise they see her skin, but did a two piece make her look thinner?  Did it transform her body?  Did it in some way make her body more palatable to those who feel offended by it?  Did it make her more worthy?

Honestly, I don’t think so.

So it got me to thinking.  Why do we conclude that an overweight woman can’t wear a two piece bathing suit if she really doesn’t look much better or worse in a one piece than a two piece?

I think I might have found my answer.

To me, a two piece bathing suit speaks of confidence.  It tells people that you are not ashamed of your body.  It tells the world that you are comfortable in your skin, and it is telling the world that you do not need to hide or blend in.

That is not the message our society wants to send to overweight people.

No, what our world tells them is that they need to hide themselves to make people around them comfortable.  It tells them that they cannot feel okay with themselves.  It tells them that they must blend in.

But I question that popularly held ‘wisdom.’

While I have no desire to wear a two piece bathing suit whether I weigh 100 pounds or 1,000 pounds, I am starting to think that maybe I don’t have to buy into society’s belief that I cannot be okay with myself as I am, and that I must feel shame.

In fact, it always strikes me as funny when I read comments where people say that overweight people have to feel shame in order to change and lose weight.  It makes me laugh because shame will stop us.  Every single time.  Shame is our greatest enemy if we want to make changes.  We can’t make changes until we accept ourselves and find our worth.  Otherwise we won’t believe we are worth the massive amount of effort that change requires.

We need to believe in our worth.  We need to accept ourselves.  We need to believe that we are worth the best we have to offer ourselves.  And we can’t do that if we are listening to all the negative messages around us.

So one piece, two piece, or even four piece bathing suits aside, if you feel you are required by some cultural law to hide your body because others don’t approve of its size, then I just ask you to consider that for a bit.  After all, they can avert their eyes if they don’t want to look, but you have to live with yourself every day.

The world will not convince you to love yourself.  Only you can do that.  The world will tell you that you have to conform to its values.  But you don’t need to listen.

I dare you to not feel the need to hide and blend in.  I dare you to respect your body enough to love it and not be ashamed of it.  I dare you to love your body for every single thing it does for you even if it doesn’t look like you want it to.

Put away the shame.  Remember that we all have struggles and no one is perfect.  And remember that despite all of those struggles and hardship, you deserve to feel good about yourself.

You are worthy.

The Shame We Feel

Amanda Knapp

Amanda Knapp is a mother, wife, writer, former writing teacher, and lover of the written word. She writes for Psych Central, Mothering, Catholic 365, and her own blog, .

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APA Reference
Knapp, A. (2018). The Shame We Feel. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 8 Jun 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Jun 2018
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