It seems that almost every woman I know, of any size, starts to have panic attacks the first time she sees swimsuits out on the floor of her favorite store.
Let me preface this by saying that I don't personally spend much time at lakes, rivers, oceans, pools or water parks. It has nothing to do with my size or how I feel about wearing a bathing suit. I am half Irish and half German so my skin can only achieve two colors: translucent and lobster. I've tried every sunscreen in the world and nothing works. But don't cry for me Argentina, I don't really enjoy being in the sun so it all works out. I'm a chlorinated, heated water, ambient temperature controlled, indoor pool kind of girl – I'm not high maintenance, I'm highly maintained.
That being said, I will strut around my gym in a bathing suit with no worries. Here are a few reasons why:
1. It's my BODY. I live with it 100% of the time. It does awesome things for me like breathing, and walking, and swimming and I decided long ago that I am not going to allow anyone to convince me to hate or be ashamed of something that I am with 100% of the time for the rest of my life. I get to choose how I feel about my body – nobody else can make me feel good or bad, it's on me.
2. Because it's a pool and when you go to the pool, you wear a swimsuit. It's not for vanity – it's practical. The last time I was at the gym ready to make use of the pool there was a "thin to average size" (probably a size 8 or 10) woman in a large t-shirt with a towel wrapped around her legs and all the way to her ankles. She scooted to the edge of the pool and, in a move that I can only describe as ninja-esque, threw the towel behind her as she jumped into the water as fast as she could whilst grabbing a kickboard off the side. But her Crouching Tiger Hidden Swimwear moves could not mask the fact that she was wearing control top pantyhose under her suit. She looked at me and said "Nobody should have to see these legs without hose on". Before I could reply, she realized that her shirt was caught on the side railing, then her pantyhose got caught on her kickboard. While I swam laps she spent most of the time dealing with being in the water with a giant shirt and pantyhose. I am simply not willing to put up with that kind of inconvenience, or have my technique interrupted by a ginormous swatch of cloth which, when it is wet, hides nothing anyway; and pantyhose which I will not wear under any circumstances in the world, ever.
3. I do not care if people are offended by my body. People are allowed to be offended by whatever they want and it's really none of my business. I'm offended by people who I perceive to be too easily offended, but it turns out nobody gives a damn which is as it should be. It is my BODY, if we all treated each other with basic human respect it would be impossible to be offended by someone else's body. The very idea is ludicrous to me. Regardless, it is not my job to protect people's delicate sensibilities – there are at least three alternate cardinal directions in which they can look if they don't want to look at me, they are free to choose one.
4. Hypocrisy is an ugly thing. It always seems like the same group of people who are telling me that I should lose weight and are subsequently offended by my body in a swimsuit. While I would prefer that they just shut up, I insist that they choose – you can't complain about my weight and then complain about what I do to stay fit.
5. It is maddening to me that the diet industry makes 40 BILLION dollars a year convincing women to hate themselves. They create fear and uncertainty by saying things like "Swimsuit season is just around the corner, are you ready to wear a swimsuit?" Well, let's see here… Swimsuit? Check. Body to put it on? Check. Yup, I'm all set thanks. Plus I think I'll keep my money you bloodsucking leeches.
6. People can see me. So they know how big I am whether I'm in a swimsuit, or jeans and a t-shirt. If they are shocked at my size in a swimsuit, they should have been paying better attention. That's just a big sack of not-my-problem.
I realize that my swimsuit preferences are not everyone's which is awesome. Not everyone, regardless of size, is comfortable with how much skin a swimsuit shows. Here are some more ideas to help you stop obsessing and start having fun in the sun (or the oh-so-flattering incandescent glow of the overhead lights at the gym).
1. Alternative Swimsuits. These are often created for women who want to keep to specific religious clothing guidelines or who just want a more modest look. I did a quick Google search and found http://www.modestkini.com/. I'm not affiliated with them at all so I make no guarantees, but it will give you an idea of what's out there (and some of their plus size swimwear is actually modeled by plus-sized women. Woot!)
2. Fabulous Cover ups: If there's a particular part of your body that you prefer to keep covered for whatever reason, an (aptly-named) cover-up might be just the thing. Here are some examples (again, no affiliation, check out the vendors before you buy!)
3. Safety in numbers. Go with a group of people who make you feel good about yourself and focus on the fun and not on any body insecurities you might have. Think about how fantastic your body feels when you are swimming, or going down a water slide, or splashing in the waves.
4. Reality check. One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain "I've had thousands of problems in my life, most of which never actually happened" When I'm worrying about something I try to remember that I am wasting energy on something that is not actually part of reality. So instead I…
5. …Expect the best, plan for the worst. Think about what your true fears are about going out in a swimsuit. Write them down and then create a plan to deal with each of them. Are you afraid people will say something mean to you? Create some scripting and practice it until you feel comfortable (you might check out my "How Dare You" post). Afraid of chafing? Hie thee to Google and read up on the various lotions, powders etc. that can help with that, or look into swimsuits that can help. Worried people will talk about you behind your back? Maybe get over that – I actually think that's the best possible outcome because frankly I don't want to hear it anyway.
In the end of course it's your choice. For my part, I'm not willing to allow my options for fun, activity, movement etc. to be controlled by what other people might think or say. If my own fears or insecurities are getting in the way I try to find a way over (modest swimsuit), under (cover up), or through (F this, I'm wearing a two-piece) the fear and insecurity because I've found that very often the pure joy lies just on the other side.
Image via Karkas/Shutterstock.com.
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