For many of us getting into a swimsuit feels more vulnerable than spilling our deepest, wildest secrets. It feels more vulnerable than being naked in front of our significant others, maybe even for the first time.
It’s an act soaked in anxiety and self-doubt. It’s an act marred by negative thoughts, shoulds and unattainable expectations.
I used to dread swimsuit weather (which, when you live in Florida, is like eight months out of the year). I worried that I wasn’t thin (or tan) enough. My stomach wasn’t flat or toned. My thighs touched.
I worried what others would think when they laid eyes on my imperfect body. Umm, she definitely shouldn’t be wearing a two-piece. Wow, someone needs a tan. She needs to lose weight. ASAP.
I felt shame about my physical appearance. And this shame spun a web of slimy stories.
Bestselling author Shauna Niequist can relate. She reveals her own sense of shame about swimsuit season in her beautiful collection of essays called Bread & Wine: A Lover Letter to Life Around the Table. She writes:
That’s what shame does, though. It whispers to us that everyone is as obsessed with our failings as we are. It insists that there is, in fact, a watchdog group devoted completely to my weight or her wrinkles or his shrinking bank account. Shame tricks us into believing there’s a cable channel that runs video footage of us in our underpants twenty-four hours a day, and that all of the people we respect have seen it. Shame tells us hat we’re wrong for having the audacity to be happy when we’re clearly terrible. Shame wants us to be deeply apologetic for just daring to exist.
Summer is Shauna’s favorite time of year. But her shame suggested she cover up, “stay inside, stay invisible.”
But staying covered, staying inside, also means missing out. For Shauna it meant missing the beach, boogie boarding, plunges off the back of the boat and watching her kids have fun.
Do you consider covering up and staying inside (and invisible)?
Because if you do, you’re probably missing out on many joys, too.
And the biggest one may be a quiet inner peace with your body (and yourself) as you’re swimming in the ocean; feeling the sand between your toes; barbecuing with your loved ones; breathing in the breeze at the park; licking ice cream off your cone and fingers; laughing, as the sun kisses your face.
This summer consider making yourself a critical (and meaningful) promise, like Shauna did.
So this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to swim. I’m going to paddleboard. I’m going to make sand castles and make-believe and make memories with my kids. I’m going to cannonball into the icy lake water. I’m going to live in the body God made me, not because it’s perfect but because it’s mine. And I’m going to be thankful for health and for the ability to run and move and dance and swim.
She also talks about what she’s not going to do, including following our society’s obsession with smallness (for women).
I’m not going to give in to the cultural pressure that says women’s bodies are only beautiful when they’re very, very small. I’m going to take up every inch of space I need…I’m going to allow my shoulders to feel the sun, and even (gasp!) my thighs, instead of making sure I’m always, always safely covered and out of your view.
And this is what I’m not going to do: I’m not going to hide. I’m not going to bow out of things I love to do because I’m afraid people won’t love me when they see my underbutt.
This is the promise I’m making: this summer, I’m not going to be ashamed of my body. Or at the very least, I’m not going to let a lifetime of shame about my body get in the way of living in a rich, wild, grateful, wide-open way.
Think about all the things you want to do this summer, and all the negative things you refuse to worry about. Make a list, if you like.
I know that the anxiety we feel about our bodies won’t be erased with one positive thought or a list of enjoyable activities.
But it’s a start. It’s a reminder of what truly makes us happy in life. It’s a reminder to let go of restrictive standards. It’s a promise to yourself that can bring you peace.
I hope this summer you, too, try to stop hiding and start savoring. Give yourself the permission to take up as much space as you need, and have fun.
*** Book Giveaway Winner ***
The winner of a copy of The Declaration of You is (which was selected using random.org): Julia, who left this comment:
“One of my big likes is exploring Chicago (I have lived here for 2 and a half years). I love exploring new neighborhoods and just taking walks when the weather is nice – I feel like I’m part of the city!”
Thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway. I loved reading your Big Likes!