Are you self-conscious in a bathing suit? Join the club. It can help to remember that you are not alone. Bathing suits are funny things. At home, you see yourself naked. You know what you look like. Do you stand in front of the mirror and judge yourself? Or are you able to love the body you are in including its imperfections?
For most of us wearing a bathing suit is as close to naked as we get in public. What parts of your body do you try to hide? Why? How do you feel about those parts of your body? What are you afraid other people are thinking when they see you in your bathing suit? Do you think everyone is looking at you and judging you? Are these reactions simply a projection of what you do at home in front of the mirror?
I have avoided bathing suits for most of my life. As one who has gained and lost over 100 pounds four times in my life, I am well-versed in the bathing suit blues. If you were to meet me today, I would look like a normal-sized person to you. But when I put a bathing suit on, you can see that my skin did not shrink along with my pounds. I have wobbly, striated thighs that I cannot hide in a bathing suit. What to do? There is only one way to liberate myself from the tyranny of other people’s opinions of me and my dancing thighs, and that is to stop giving my power away to the opinion of others. Here are some things I am doing that are successfully reducing my bathing suit body blues:
- By spending more time at a local lake, I am noticing that the majority of people there will never be bathing suit models either. I also notice that everyone doesn’t turn and look at me in horror. They are all busy doing their thing, and I am just another “normal” body on the beach.
- I notice that many of the people who are not bathing beauties behave as though they are comfortable in their bodies. Also, some people who look really good seem to be obsessed with or uncomfortable about their bodies. In other words, there is not a direct correlation between looking bad and feeling bad.
- I remind myself that my striated thighs are simply a byproduct of my successful weight loss which I have figured out how to maintain. I see them through new eyes when I reframe them as my war wounds from a lifelong struggle with obesity that I have finally figured out how to deal with.
- The more time I spend in a bathing suit being just another body on the beach, the freer I become. Being in a bathing suit in public becomes normalized. My anxiety decreases as I engage in other activities rather than judging myself or worrying about what other people think of what I look like.
- I practice noticing when I am obsessing about my body and choose to stop by focusing instead on being more loving and compassionate towards myself.
- I remind myself that I live in a society that has a powerful taboo against overweight bodies that has warped our sense of what is normal. Indeed, we come in all shapes and sizes. While we have been brainwashed to reject non-bathing beauty bodies, we have the option of consciously overriding our programming and expanding our comfort zone around different types of bodies. I give myself permission to be happy and free in the body I have rather than rejecting my body and feeling miserable. In other words, I shift my focus to having a more kind and loving relationship with myself.
Worrying about how other people feel about us diminishes our ability to thrive and feel good about ourselves. It puts us at the effect of their perceptions. Whether or not someone is pleased by how you look in a bathing suit doesn’t have to make you feel bad about yourself. Remember, opinions are like noses–everyone has one. So, let people think what they think and go about your business of having a good time. Free yourself of the tyranny of opinions. They belong to another person, not to you. As author and spiritual teacher Terry Cole-Whittaker said, “What you think of me is none of my business.”
Next time you find yourself worrying about how you look in a bathing suit, do a reality check. In the moment you only have two choices: am I going to punish myself for not looking as good as I would like to or am I going to go out and have a good time with how my body is right now?
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