I Survived Swimsuit Shopping!
This is one person's story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.
Well, that time of year is upon us. The ol’ guess-I’ll-try-to-squeeze-my-body-into-an-unforgiving-spandex-tube time of year! Some people call it “summer.” I suspect those people don’t have body image issues.
Summer has plagued me in this way since I was a kid. I remember sitting at the town pool, watching most of the other kids run through sprinklers, perfect their cannonballs, or agonize over their swim tests. I wondered what it would be like to feel so carefree. I was usually hanging with my cadre of girls who were neurotic in the same way I was (and in the same way many girls are), whispering about whether we should shave our legs, perfect our tans, or lose a few “lbs” before daring to leave the house in a swimsuit. We were probably ten years old. (I know. Yikes.)
That early preoccupation with my body persisted throughout my teen years. It limited me from doing so many of the things I should have just dived into (diving into a pool being one of those things! Word play!) And it manifested in so many ways. When I was about 12 or 13, I started wearing these enormous shirts…like really big...because I was becoming more and more ashamed of my body. (It only sort of worked out while grunge was a thing. Then I had to figure out how to make do without my huge flannels.) When I was 14, I dropped out of a dance number in a school play because I was felt so insecure about having all those eyes on my body.
I’ll spare you the college years. Suffice it to say, this continued for a while longer with less-than-ideal consequences.
BUT! Adulthood brought the slow (but glorious) realization that life was way too short to worry about what other people thought of my body. I was tired of sitting on the sidelines when I knew my body could help me do amazing things. My body can bike and run and, yes, swim. It’s the vessel that allows me to move around the world having adventures. I decided to let it.
Which sounds like a fantastic epiphany (and it really was!). But that doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle.
So…cut to yesterday. I’ve had the same swimsuit for…what? 5, 6. 7 years? (Don’t worry about it guys, it wasn’t that gross. It was fine.) Anyway, when it finally ripped, I thought, okay, time to embark on the masochistic exercise that can be swimsuit shopping. And I was terrified. I spent the morning really fretting about how I was going to feel.
And was it rough? Yes, yes it was. (Although honestly, that was mostly because of the unflattering department store lights.) But do you know what else it was? Kind of great. I saw myself standing there in the suit I ultimately chose (polka dots!) and the first thing I thought was “This is cute and I look like I’m ready for the beach” not “I feel bad about myself.” Score!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s a lot of work to get past those feelings of insecurity, especially in this world that constantly reinforces bizarre, unrealistic beauty standards. But hang in there. Keep trying. Because you are worth it.