This post won’t have a picture of me in a bikini. It’s not about what I look like. It’s about how I feel about what I look like.
There’s nothing that brings more dread come spring than the idea of bathing suit shopping. No matter what your size or shape, something about having every inch of your curves exposed or hugged with spandex shakes your confidence.
I like to think of myself as intelligent and not susceptible to advertising’s dirty tricks. And yet, as I stood in the mirror this week, trying on bathing suits in an attempt to walk that fine line between vulgar and mumsy, all I could think about was how I compared to the models displaying the suits online.
This is ridiculous behavior, I know. But apparently I suffer from the same negative body image that I hope never to instill in my daughters. Some of this was the depressive episode. Depression lies – twists reality until you struggle to trust your own thoughts. But I’ve honestly always been self-critical and dissatisfied with one or more parts of my body.
My husband was disappointed he missed the bathing suit fashion show. “I wish you could see you the way I see you,” he says. I do, too. He looks at me and sees the whole package. He sees how well I am proportioned, how beautiful my big, brown eyes are, and how my form curves in all the right places. I see the dimples on the back of my upper thigh, the loose skin remaining from my two pregnancies, and the extra pounds that snuck on during a well-deserved cheese bender.
Yes, I see you checking out that avitar on the right. I realize I’m saying all of this with a weight and body shape that many women envy. Perhaps some will dismiss this post as vain and silly. But I think it speaks to the scarcity culture that Brene Brown writes about in Daring Greatly. Never enough. We’re all programmed to believe that we never have enough, are never thin enough, are never good enough. And that our value is based on our accomplishments or attributes instead of being intrinsic to who we are. Additionally, in a culture where women are valued more for their appearance than their intellectual contributions to society, it’s hard not to get lost in society’s beauty standard.
I happened to text a couple of pictures to good friends of mine in a moment of vulnerability. I admitted my insecurities and they assured me I was beautiful. And though my husband had said the same thing, it was them I was able to really hear. These are women I believe to be stunning. And when I look at them, I don’t see flaws. I see their strengths. I see their glowing skin, their long, wavy hair, their luscious lips, and their deep brown eyes. I see their spirits, their histories, their stories. It is the culmination of all these that make them beautiful.
Our conversation redirected me to look at myself the same way I see them. It helped me shake free of the cultural bias and recognize my anxieties for what they were.
I hope you have women in your life like this. Women who make you feel as beautiful – because our culture sure isn’t going to do that for you. And if you don’t, seek them out. They are worth the hunt.
So. In case no one has told you lately? You are beautiful. Believe it.