With less than forty-eight hours left on the clock, I rushed into the store dragging my seven-year-old son behind me. We were heading to a water park in two days and I needed a new swimsuit. Having looked at the scale with disdain that morning, getting a root canal sounded like a whole lot more fun than the task set before me.
I followed my senses to their section and frantically grabbed every black one that sported the proper size on the little ring around the hanger’s neck. Pointing to the couch, I motioned for less-than-thrilled son to have a seat. I opened the dressing room door, took a deep breath, then stared at my hanging bounty.
Is it hot in here?
Two minutes in and I was already sweating. I’d like to say it was because of how fast I raced through the store. But truth is, it was my nerves.
Agh! There has got to be a better way to do this. Next year I’m totally shopping online.
Intermixed with my son’s yelling, “Mom! Mom… Are you done yet? This is borrrring.” I heard other female sighs, moans and groans coming from the stalls around me
I tried on a swim dress that looked so super cute on the hanger. It was polka dot and I thought it would be sweet (in a 1960s, teen sweetheart sort of way). I was always a big fan of Gidget reruns. I was excited about my find, until I got it on. Then, I laughed out loud. Sally Fields circa 1966 I was not.
As I systematically ruled out tankini after one-piece, my brain riddled around two questions:
1) Why (for the love of Pete) did we have to plan a trip to a water park before Memorial Day? Isn’t it just rude to require a swimsuit to be worn before anyone’s had a chance to get a tan? And,
2) Why do I hate trying on swimsuits so, so, so much?
For the next few days, I sat at an indoor water park staring at my orange–I mean self-tanned, bronze (No, I should mean orange)–legs thinking about the answers. I observed other water park patrons, noting their choice of swimming attire and watching the ways they used body parts or other articles of clothing to cover their own bathing suit selections.
Why Do We Struggle With Our Bodies So Much?
Statistically, most of the women there must have felt just as insecure as I was. Did you know that 91% of women report that they are unhappy with the way they look, physically? Many of the women splashing around me had probably let out their groans of swimsuit-shopping agony.
I watched the woman in the size two bikini. I fought my natural tendency to compare myself to her and her twenty-two-year-old-never-had-a-baby physique. Then, I remembered what I was like at twenty-two, pre-babies, pre-marriage, and was jolted back to the reality that she still struggles.
Then I watched the woman in the size 18 swimsuit–the one that I actually never saw because it remained hidden under her shorts and t-shirt–even in the deepest part of the wave pool. Those clothes had to have been uncomfortable when wet, but I’d guess she was convinced that a little discomfort is better than baring it all.
Second only to New Year’s resolution time, this is the season when gyms get crowded, diet companies enroll thousands, and women all over the continent start skipping dessert and taking the stairs. Why? Because every woman thinks about how she looks in a bathing suit. And, at some level, most women wish they looked different.
So, we buy the pills, drink the skinny powdered solution, and do crunches ’til we cry. We try every external method of addressing the problem available. But does it work?
I don’t think so. Even if we could get our bodies into magazine perfect shape…we would still struggle.
Experts say WHAT?
I read a blog post from Pyschology Today that blamed our “inner body bully” for torturing us during swimsuit season. The article said that even the most “athletic and shapely women” struggle. She then recounted working for an entertainment group where professional performers required to wear flesh-colored spandex uni-tards would cry, scream and throw fits over their (perfect by culture’s standards) bodies.
She then talked about how we all struggle with body image.
Her thesis: It’s not about our body.
Thanks, that’s what I’ve been trying to say!
But, then, what surprised me was how she ended the piece. After her brilliant conclusion that our body image is an internal struggle, she encouraged her readers with four tips for the summer. They can be summarized as follows: buy a swimsuit that fits you, buy colorful accessories, exercise in the pool, and eat well?
Seriously? If the problem has nothing to do with our actual appearance, how “helpful” is a solution comprised: shop for cute jewelry, eat carrots and do water aerobics?
Is anyone else confused?
Some of you will be preparing your abs or rear view, or trying to lose five pounds before that dreaded pool opening or beach party. I could tell you how to do that–but I won’t. Because that information is everywhere…
Is Your Heart Ready for Summer?
Instead of getting our physical selves ready for swimsuit season. Maybe this year we should work on getting our hearts ready for swimsuit season instead?
How do we handle situations like comparing ourselves to the other women in the water slide line or even just facing the three-way mirror and fluorescent lights wearing a swim dress that was so much cuter on the hanger? That’s what I hope we can talk about all summer long.
Chances are, you know someone who struggles with the way she looks.
It’s even more likely that you have one friend who has already lamented that she is dreading swimsuit season.
Would you consider sharing this blog and podcast with her?
Are you ready for personalized help with your body image? Christian body image coach, Heather Creekmore is accepting clients. Learn more about one-on-one Christian body image coaching.