'Bikini Season' Isn't Going to Wreck My Summer Ever Again

woman looking at a mannequin bikiniGlimpse at any fashion or fitness magazine between April and September, and you're sure to find headlines blarring at you to eat this and exercise that way to get the "perfect beach body." Don't have one? Well, okay, no worries -- there's the "right" bathing suit for your (lesser-than) body type that'll help you fake it!





That's the disturbing messaging women are barraged with summer after summer, and Bustle writer Marie Southard Ospina hit the nail on the head when, in a piece about these so-called "right swimsuits," she writes:

I’d be lying if I said that all the talk of finding a “flattering” swimsuit “for your body” doesn’t affect me. These days, though, it doesn’t affect me in a, “You need to amp up your workout routine and get that belly toned before you dare step out into the world,” way. It’s more of a, “I can’t believe we’ve been so brainwashed into thinking that humans who are fuller-figured don’t have the right to enjoy summer like everyone else,” kind of way.

It's not just "fuller-figured" or "plus-sized" women who are victims of this unbelievable brainwashing. If your body is "post-baby" or "curvy," if you have cellulite, a small bust, a flatter booty, body acne, or basically anything that would be airbrushed or amplified for the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition, you probably experience at least a little insecurity if not full-blown self-consciousness in a bathing suit. 

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And what the hell kind of way is that to spend the longest, most relaxing, sunkissed days of the year?! 

I've admittedly bought into this totally messed up message since I was first called "fat" at 10 years old. Positive that "fat" (or even formerly fat) girls don't dare wear bikinis, I didn't even consider one until the summer after my freshman year of college. That was when, at 19, after years of modest weight loss followed by gains tied to hormonal imbalance and birth control, I hit my "goal weight." I got there not by hitting the gym hard but by counting Weight Watchers Points, and thus, I wasn't as strong or fit as I am these days. But hey, the scale claimed I was a success story! And the sizing on my clothes did, too.

I was buying skirts and dresses at EXPRESS in 0s and 2s! Shocked and thrilled, I thought I'd try a bikini. (Even though my internal dialogue was pretty much, "OMG. Wait. Me? In a bikini? Uh, well, I guess ...") I found one that didn't cut into my hips in an unflattering way or ride too low so as to sit right under that lower belly pooch we all have at any size. And I felt cute (not gorgeous, sexy, or beautiful by far, but meh, okay, good enough, basically) in it -- at first.

That is until I got out on the beach and suddenly felt like an imposter. What the heck was I thinking wearing a bikini? My body just wasn't lean, tight, toned, tan enough. It wasn't right for a bikini.

Now, a little over a decade later, I know better. I know that the bar for what we think we need to look like on the beach or by the pool is set at an absolutely unrealistic, unattainable level.

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Friends of mine who've had several babies and run marathons and look like supermodels-turned-superheroes in my eyes are afraid to wear bikinis. Their husbands tell them they look beautiful, and they don't believe them. Some make a habit of covering up, refusing to get into the surf or pool or pose with friends or family in a photograph because they don't believe their body is up to par for summer.

How downright depressing is THAT?

It's actually outrageous, and it's a toxic trap none of us should allow ourselves to fall into anymore. Life's too short to be hung up on looking "right" that we cheat ourselves out of pleasure and relaxation and pure joy.

After wearing that bikini and feeling like a total phony, I decided I'd have to be a card-carrying, strictly "flattering" one-piece kinda girl. These days, though I do love and gravitate to retro, Marilyn Monroe-ish one-pieces, I don't believe that's the only kind of bathing suit I can, should, or will ever wear. There are just two criteria for the "right swimsuit" for my body now: It has to be comfortable and make me feel pretty.

Key word: me. Because I've spent the better part of my 31 years worrying what other people think about my "beach body" than how I feel. And after all of that worrying, it's time I wear what I like and love how I look and own my enjoyment of the blissful sun, balmy temperatures, and sea air of these spring and summer days. There really are far too few of 'em, you know?

How have body insecurities stood in the way of you enjoying your summer in the past?

Image via iStock.com/Carol_Anne

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