It was time: I needed some new swimsuits.
Off to the store I went, only to discover that the current trends in swimwear aren’t exactly my cup of tea. The tops had straps on the straps for the straps, cut-outs, bindings, deliberate peek-a-boo underboobness—it was all just so confusing. I mean, why pay the money for an escape room experience when you could just try to get in and out of these for free in a dressing room near you?
Also? I needed to breathe into a paper bag just thinking about the tan/burn lines I’d get in those overpriced lycra-blend spiderwebs.
Trust me when I say this is not me not thinking I didn't look good in the swimsuits because of how I view my body. I know it's usually the default to assume so, but that’s not the case here. I mean, c’mon, have you seen these things? MY BODY IS NOT TO BLAME.
While I wrestled myself in and out of these atrocities in a poorly lit dressing room, I could only laugh at how ridiculous the whole situation was. Not at my scarred, wrinkled, soft, stretch-marked, lumpy body—not that at all. I laughed at how all those crazy straps squeezed my skin into weird shapes (think: fleshy baby popovers) and at how difficult the designers made it for us to get in and out of them. Were they just playing tricks on us? They have to be playing tricks on us.
Anyway, this got me thinking.
I was recently reminded at how many women—particularly mothers—genuinely don't like their bodies. While making my way out of a multicolored tankini that made me look like I was stuck in a 1970's lawn chair, I decided to do something constructive for those women who might also be in changing rooms at the very same moment, or deliberately avoiding doing so. If you are one of those moms, I'm talking to you now.
The following is a list of reasons/excuses why you may not think your body is lovely.
Scroll down to the one(s) that you have heard yourself think/believe, and read my reason as to why this is baloney. Allow me to negate your excuse(s) because you are, in fact, lovely.
But before I get to that, please allow me to address two things:
One: The kids are listening
Whatever you are muttering to yourself in the dressing room or saying to a friend on the phone or “joking” about with your spouse/partner, your kids will hear it. They think you are lovely. If you insult yourself, their reasoning will likely be, well if she thinks that way about herself maybe I should think the same way about myself. Do you want the day to come when you overhear your daughter tell a friend she needs to lose at least 10 pounds before swimsuit season? Prevent it by really paying attention to what they hear and see from you—even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it.
Two: You might think your body isn’t lovely because someone told you it isn’t or wasn’t or never will be. Those people are are jerks.
People who deserve your time and attention are kind to you. They treat you well. Make the deliberate choice to neither accept nor validate the bad/mean/rude/cutting things people say to you, because if they are doing so they are poopy people and their words need to be flushed away, down down down into the pipes deep deep underground. Why spend time in a septic tank with their gross words when you can be up here in the sunshine with me and the other people who think you’re lovely and want to remind you so at any chance?
Now hop to it, my friends, and let me debunk any negative messaging that’s floating around in that head of yours.
“I am too fat.”
Too fat for what? Can you physically get to the beach or pool? Do you want to enjoy the water, sunshine and waves? Then you’re just the right size to be there.
Too fat for who? If someone stares or says something rude about your weight, remember that they do so because of their own issues. It is not about you.
“I am too skinny.”
Too skinny for what? Can you physically get to the beach or pool? Do you want to enjoy the water, sunshine and waves? Then you’re just the right size to be there.
Too skinny for who? If someone stares or says something rude about your weight, remember that they do so because of their own issues. It is not about you.
“My butt is too big.”
Sir Mix-a-Lot disagrees so much he wrote a song. You might have heard it before.
“My butt is too small.”
When I was a kid I’d sit on everyone’s lap. I also had the flattest, most non-existent derriere around, so would accidentally give them Charlie horses when I did so, earning me the nickname Boney Butt. They could laugh allll they wanted, because that lack of booty allowed me some perks, like I had extra room for lots of candy in my back pockets and could fit into even the smallest spot on a park bench. Know what else you can use a flat butt for? Sitting at the beach. (Sitting is my favorite.)
“I have cellulite.”
So do 90% of the women on planet earth. It’s just how the connective tissue in our bodies is made and affected by our genetic makeup. Why pick and choose which lumps are good and which are bad on your body? Why not embrace them all? Or at least accept them and move on?
“I have stretch marks.”
Okay so your body accommodated for big life changes, like the hips of puberty or growing a human or producing gallons of free milk? THAT IS AMAZING STUFF. That’s like science-cool. Those are stripes of awesome: show them off!
“I have scars.”
Cool! Me, too! Some I earned, some I learned from, some I did not deserve but they prove I survived what gave them to me. It’s like a story on your body! Consider scars a library in a language only you know. Anyone can browse, but it’s up to you as to whether you want to translate the stories to share them with others.
“I have age spots.”
Hooray! You’re aging! It’s better than not aging!
(Dead people can’t go to the beach unless they’re in a super cheesy 80s movie or being sprinkled as ashes, neither scenario being particularly ideal for summertime fun.)
“I have a birthmark.”
Birthmarks are great because they’re like a built-in Rorschach test. When people look at yours, do they become a rude jerkface poopyhead? If so, they did not pass the test and can go away now, please and thank you. So handy!
“I have moles.”
Moles are basically cells so excited to spend time together that they clustered in tight and bubbled up to the top. How adorable is that? Most adults have anywhere from 10-40 of them, so you’re not the only one with skin hugs happening all over your birthday suit.
“I am hairy.”
To be hairy is to be human. Some choose to remove a little, others remove a lot, many more choose someplace in the middle. YOU DO YOU. Just remember that the push to keep women hairless is mostly coming from companies that profit from us doing so or a culture that has been deeply influenced by the whimsy of patriarchal desires. It has nothing to do with hygiene or medical necessity, so make a personal choice that has to do with your own happiness. No judgment here.
“I am wrinkly.”
WOO HOO that means you are getting older and therefore are not dead. THIS IS CAUSE FOR A CELEBRATION. Slap on a bikini and meet me at the pool! We'll wave our sags and wrinkles in the water as a festive greeting.
“I am too pale.”
Oh, I have been told this so often about my whiteout-white self since childhood, but ha ha on them because my living the SPF life means I still get carded at bars sometimes and I'm in my 40s. Embrace the pasty!
“I am too dark.”
A dark-skinned black friend of mine heard the exact same messages that I did from people about not exposing our skin: hers because it was too dark, mine (I’m white) because it was too pale. Conclusion: JUDGY PEOPLE ARE ANNOYING. Don't listen to them. Listen to me. Embrace the melanin! However much you have!
“My boobs are too big.”
Not anymore! Swimsuits are designed to fit even the largest of sweater puppets—many fabulous ones come in your exact bra size, too! Haul 'em up or squish them down, whatever you prefer.
“My boobs are too small.”
Less to get in the way of your swimming! How considerate of them!
“My boobs are uneven.”
Everybody’s are at least a little uneven. Heck every body is a little uneven. So you're just like everyone else!
“I don’t have boobs anymore/yet.”
Then you’ve been through a life-saving surgery or are going through a big life change. Either way, you are amazing and lovely and being boobless should never stop you from doing anything.
“My legs are veiny.”
Varicose veins happen because you’ve done a lot of walking, so they’re evidence of your many adventures—a road map of tales you could tell. Very cool!
“I am shaped like a fruit that I don’t want to be shaped like.”
Fruit is delicious, no matter the shape. And so are you.
“Swimsuits just don’t look good on me.”
You know how in high school or college there was the one person who was a little weird looking but then you got to know them and then you got to like them and then you got to love them and suddenly you caught yourself smiling when you looked at them because they were just so beautiful? It’s because you gave them a chance. You got to know what was inside of them, so they got lovelier and lovelier to your eyeballs over time.
Do this to yourself starting right now.
Stop focusing on that first impression or message that told you that you don’t look good in swimsuits. Get to know yourself and see how likeable you are and grow to love yourself and then try on those same swimsuits again. Maybe then your eyeballs will have adjusted in order to accurately see exactly how lovely you are.
I can see it. Your kids can see it. I hope you can, too, someday very soon.
A version of this post originally appeared on Let Me Start By Saying.