The weather is getting warmer, thankfully, as I've had two winters in a row, having just moved from the Northern hemisphere to the Southern! I have big plans to spend a lot of time soaking up the sun (sunscreen slathered on, of course) at the beach with my family. I'm excited. I love the beach, I love the sun and sand, I love the warmth and saltiness. However, I'm keenly aware that being at the beach means wearing bathers/a swimsuit/togs/whatever you call that bit of material you squeeze into when swimming. And all around me are reminders that "Bikini Season is Approaching" and encouragements to get my body "Bikini Ready".
On the one hand, its all a bit ridiculous, isn't it? All this fuss over a bit of nylon and spandex. So much hype about stomachs and arms and bums. I mean, we've all got stomachs and bums, amiright? And yet, on the other hand, getting into that swimsuit (or perhaps not), whether it be a bikini or a full-body wet suit, is a choice often dictated, not by our sensibilities, but our insecurities.
Surely, there are practical elements in the choice, one of mine being: "Is my child going to pull this strap off and expose me to the entire beach? Perhaps I will stay away from a top that stays put with the help of a mere string."
But if we're honest, thoughts fill our heads about people seeing our bodies in the swimsuit.
Does my stomach stick out?
This tankini top highlights my waist, which is my best feature.
Do I have dimples on the backs of my legs?
Should I wear shorts to cover my booty?
I like showing this amount of cleavage, but is it too much?
My stomach is just flat enough to pull this off.
I'm a curvy woman, and am happy to flaunt it.
There is no way I am taking off my T-shirt, because I am not toned enough.
So, yes, it does matter that bikini season is upon us. It matters because, for so many of us, this act of putting on the bathers dredges up - in a panic-attack or in nagging thoughts - fears, pride, insecurities, self-loathing, the desire to be noticed, and more. Let me tell you, the worst way I handle this dilemma is by brushing it off and telling myself to get over it. So instead, I am trying to train myself to turn to the One that made not just my spirit, but my body. To ask him to convict me of self-centeredness or of self-deprecation. To pray for that elusive mixture of confidence in who I am now but also a spirit of personal humility. To ask him to remind me of the good and greater things of the day - time with my family, the spectacular ocean views, the ability to swim and run on the sand. And, sometimes, to ask for his help in making changes in my daily habits.
Let me clearly say that when it comes to what you wear to the beach, other important factors are at play, questions of personal modesty and comfort should certainly be considered; but I also think we need to examine our hearts. Have I let the world tell me what looks good on the beach? Have I felt lacking, as a person and woman, because I don't look a certain way? Have I felt critical, judgmental, or jealous of other women and their bathing suit choices? Have I spent way too much time exercising and obsessing over looking good in my new bikini?
It's not grand and glorious to be discussing how we feel about wearing a bikini to the beach, is it? In fact, I've had to stop myself from deleting what I've written because it feels silly, superficial, and just plain weird to be talking about the inner battles we fight over a bikini. But it is a reality, and it is a reality that Jesus knows about, cares about, and can work in if we invite him to do so.
Emily has worked in student ministry and is a Personal Fitness Trainer and Health Coach, who loves bringing those two passions together. She is also a wife to one of the coolest dudes around and mother to the other coolest dude in town.