How to Look Good in a Bathing Suit

The woman at the gym was at least 10 years younger than I. She was tall and thin and wore two pairs of shorts: a spandex kind and a running type. I hadn't noticed it at first but she was tugging on the spandex as she climbed onto the treadmill. Her legs were as beautiful as she was but that wasn't enough.

A woman came into Smitten a few Sundays ago and told me she'd gained 35 pounds after she quit smoking. She was in her mid 60's with dark, expressive eyes and fabulous hair. In spite of her "larger" size, she was beautiful. But she hated her body.  And even though everything she tried on looked good on her, it wasn't enough.

I had never worn running shorts, even in the summer, until six years ago when the guy I was dating at the time asked why I didn't. I told him that I didn't think my legs were good enough and he looked at me like I was crazy. I don't remember his words but I walked away from the conversation and bought my first pair of running shorts. 

I marvel at my daughter's body. Since she's often naked, I can really see what her body looks like, lots of softness and round lines, no hard muscles. But she doesn't mind, of course. She's happy to be walking around without clothes on. With her toddler belly rolling like Santa's at Christmas, she has no idea that in all likelihood she will learn to hate her body like most women.

- art by Feminist Lisa Frank

- art by Feminist Lisa Frank

Who do we think we are that we can get away with hating our bodies the way that we do? They keep going even though we don't feed them well, disparage them in public (and private) or deliberately hurt them. Our bodies get us to work, the hospital and the vet. For many of us, they give us independence, the ability to walk away when something goes bad. And yet women know that because their body fails to live up the an idealized image of beauty that we didn't create, it is permissible to hate.

Who are we if we hate a piece of ourselves? Certainly not the confident, capable women we want to be. Self-confidence cannot exist alongside hate for a part of ourself. I say "no" to that hate. You are enough right now. With my no-longer-perky breasts and soft stomach, I am enough. My legs aren't perfect but they are strong. They get me where I need to go and carry my daughter when she's tired. I will keep wearing those running shorts.

Your body will never be the idealized version of perfect that so many of us covet. But you are perfect with all your imperfections, just the way you are now. So walk around the house in a bathing suit for a week before you decide to wear one to the beach. Do what you need to do (and that's a good first start) but this swimsuit season, let's step into our own power and speak a message of self-love, not hate. Heck, it's the least we can do.