I recently bought a bikini. No big deal, right?
I’m 30 years old, and it’s the first time I’ve done this. I, like many other women, have suffered from body image issues for probably my entire life, and sometimes it’s completely debilitating. Every day, for as long as I can remember, has been a battle because every day I put something on and wonder, “does this make me look fat?” “How can I hide the least flattering parts of my body?” “What if I suck it in a little bit?”. And if something doesn’t fit me the way I hoped or if there’s a bit too much muffin top, my heart drops because I think I look fat and unattractive. And worst of all, what if people look at me funny and think as I’m walking by, thinking: “she shouldn’t be wearing that; she’s fat; what the hell is she thinking; she’s gross and disgusting and why is she in public; she should have a paper bag over her face, isn’t she embarrassed; no one needs to see that,” and so on and so forth.
These are all clearly thoughts I’ve created myself, but having been quite a bit overweight in the past, it’s easy to fall into these thought patterns. I hadn’t always been heavy but I gained a lot of weight in my early twenties and I lost a lot of confidence, had major self esteem issues and became incredibly depressed. I had transformed into something I knew I wasn’t. Instead of doing something positive about it, I carried on with my bad habits and gained even more weight. It took standing on a scale sometime near the end of 2009 to finally do something about it. When I saw how much I weighed, my heart dropped; I knew — and still know — that weight is just a number, but I was tired of being so unhappy with myself. I associated, too much, my identity with my weight and its negativity and the only thing I wanted to do was get rid of it all.
…Long story short, when I’m not in front of a mirror, I often feel like I’m the person I was 40+ pounds heavier ago. And even if I was, so what, right? Our weight doesn’t define who we are as people. It’s taken considerable effort to not feel so negatively about the way I look, but I still feel that way on occasion (let’s be honest, though, who doesn’t).
Feeling comfortable buying a bikini took more guts — no pun intended — than usual. The first step in doing this was to stop comparing myself to women who are thinner than me and how they look in them. I’d always thought that in order to have a bikini body you had to have rock hard abs and a tiny waist without an ounce of fat on you. (Thank you, television, movies, magazines and the Internet for putting these unrealistic expectations on us common-folk and giving us body-image issues!). In discussing my hesitations about buying a bikini, a friend of mine told me it was ridiculous to feel this way, and it is, only because she’d felt the same way when she was buying her first bikini. She said to me, “Do you wanna know what happened when I got to the beach and put my bikini on?”
I grinned a little. I knew what the answer was going to be, but I asked anyway: “What?”
She told me, straight up. “Nothing. Nothing happened.” She said it was freeing and that she didn’t know why she’d been hesitant for so long. I can only trust this judgment, so a couple of days later I went browsing, which leads me to the second step.
Step two is finding a bikini you like and putting it on. Boom. Instant bikini body. It doesn’t matter what size you are. I found something that was perfect for me, so I bought it. I know that I’m cute but, more importantly, I know that I’m a likeable person and that no one’s going to notice my imperfections the way I do. People say nice things about me often and it’s okay for me to believe them and feel the same way about myself. It’s a constant work in progress, but I’m going in the right direction.
I’ve yet to go out wearing my bikini but, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve already won half the battle. I think that’s a pretty big deal.