I put on a bathing suit for the first time this season. It’s a new suit, even though I have several already. This year I needed a different size, and I’ll be honest–I am none too happy that I finally had to accept this.
When we finally made it to the lake, I was sure to pick an open spot, but one that was not too close to anyone else. As I unpacked our stuff, I couldn’t help but notice the slim, toned woman down the way. She was already nice and tan and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I silently judged her and her toned abs.
I set up our area, but eventually there was nothing else to do, and I had to just rip off the band-aid, or in this case, my ankle length swim suit cover up. I sat down, sucked in and disrobed. I thought I was going to pass out there, in the heat, holding my breath, praying my muffin top wouldn’t pop over. Over the years, I have discovered a trick to laying just right, allowing all the bits and bulges to fall backwards, creating a more appealing illusion. I kept peeking at the woman down the way, wondering if she thought I shouldn’t be wearing this bathing suit. Was I still sucking in??
As the afternoon wore on, I became more aware of how hot I was and cared less about the jiggle in my posterior. At one point, while attempting to discreetly sop up the swamp that had gathered in my belly button, I noticed a mom and her little girl walking in my direction. It was clear this was a mission to the bathroom and it needed to be completed STAT! As I watched them, I began to admire the mom’s swim suit. I LOVED IT! It was so trendy; super cute with fringe – something I could NEVER pull off. I laid back down, smiling at how adorable they were together only to hear the mom tell her daughter:
“I really wish you could just hold it! Mamma doesn’t like all this walking around! Do you know how FAT I feel right now?!”
And on their way back,
“Your Daddy should have just brought you! I should never have come down here. Daddy can swim with you and I don’t have to be so fat in a bathing suit.”
I felt so guilty in that moment. Why do we do this to ourselves? More importantly, why do we do this to our children? As parents, we become outraged at the thought of bullying at the lunch table or on the playground, yet we as moms are the worst offenders at teaching our children very ugly words and ideas when it comes to body image. If you pause just for a moment and think about it “skinny” is just as vile of a word as “fat.” When we make comments about ourselves, even though they are in no way directed at our children, we are subliminally teaching our children that skinny is good and fat is bad. Instead of reinforcing being healthy and confident, we’re instilling impossible metrics our children–especially our girls–will spend a lifetime trying to achieve. We are missing out on prime opportunities to reinforce a positive outlook and self-esteem by being so consumed in how we look in a bathing suit.
At the end of the day, who really cares if your boobs are bigger than mine or if my arm shakes less than yours? Clearly from the story above, what I thought about how that mom looked in her suit was drastically different than what she thought about herself. I find it so interesting that for 9 months out of the year, we work to empower women, build each other up, reinforce good books and articles to read, support each other where we know others need support, but as soon as it warms up–the gloves come off. We no longer focus on others and instead begin to mentally attack ourselves about what a failure we are in the dressing room instead of the rockstar we are in the boardroom or the playroom.
So lets make a deal: Let’s agree to have fun this summer! Lets encourage each other when we agree to go to the pool or the lake or the beach. Think about how far a compliment goes when it’s said to you. Suit up and swim and boat and play in the sand! I don’t want to waste another summer worrying about what I look like or what you look like because my kids need to see someone being happy and having fun. So, here’s my summer challenge: suit up and say nothing about your appearance. If you want to take it up another level, say something nice, out loud, about yourself in front of your kids. Even if you don’t want too. Then grab some popsicles and remind yourself to focus on what really matters.