I spent the past weekend shopping for a swimsuit. I have been going through a period of feeling a little depressed lately, and swimsuit shopping certainly wasn’t something I was looking forward to. I don’t have big plans to swim this summer, but for the few times I will need to, I decided I’d better grab a suit before they sell out. (Why do they stop selling swimsuits in June?)
Summer has always been a tougher time for me. I have somehow come to consider summer a season for the wealthy and the skinny; those individuals who have lake houses, boats, and travel to the beach wearing bikinis and running carefree in their short shorts. I know this isn’t true, but a wounded part of me still believes that if I were thinner, summer would be more fun, and I would be happier.
Wearing shorts has always been an uncomfortable experience for me. In fact, it’s 90 degrees out today and I still haven’t worked up the courage to bring mine out of storage. The idea of it is very unsettling, especially after this weekend’s swimsuit expedition.
I share on this blog about finding beauty in all shapes, sizes, and images, but sweet friends, I have to admit summer really trips my body image triggers. I am 37 years old and the skin on my back is not holding the shape it used to. The curves around my belly are softer than I would like, despite the hours clocked at the gym. Summer offers no place to hide. We go from covering our precious bodies with layers and heavy coats to stripping down to basically our underwear and bras with flip flops and sunglasses. I don’t navigate this transition well.
In her book, The Nesting Place, Myquillyn Smith says this about wearing a bikini to the pool: “It’s not because I think I look great in it. It’s because I’m finally okay that I don’t.” I share this statement because I think it is inspiring. The idea that we can wear a swimsuit or a pair of shorts and not worry about how we appear is a freedom I want to know. However, I would ask Myquillyn why she thinks she doesn’t look good in the bikini. Is it because she doesn’t look like the swimsuit models we see in the summer magazines, or is it because she doesn’t care for a particular part of her body?
If we feel we don’t look great in a swimsuit because we don’t match the images we see in the media, then I think we need to dig deeper because there is much beauty to be found in bodies that don’t have long slender thighs and flat tummies. This requires the very tough work of changing our definition of beauty. If we simply don’t care for a certain body part or feel uncomfortable frolicking around in a swimsuit, that is where grace and understanding come into play. We are not going to love everything about our bodies, especially as we age and things begin to change. In those cases, we give ourselves grace and move on.
The bottom line is this—and I am preaching this to myself, sisters—it really isn’t about what matters from my perspective, it is about what matters from God’s. In light of eternity, the way my body appears in a swimsuit or a pair of shorts is very trivial. That is not to say we are shallow or we should feel shameful for caring. But if I allow myself to get lost in my own corner of the world, stressed about how my body looks all the time, I am missing the point. There is beauty in all bodies, but there is a deeper more eternal beauty in the depths of our souls.
1 Peter 3 says beauty should not come from outward adornment, rather it should come from your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. Sisters, if our purpose here on earth is to love others and win them over for Christ, then let’s put more emphasis on adoring ourselves with Godly character than we do on outward appearances.
I know all too well the heartache of not liking that reflection in the mirror. The horrible feeling of standing in a fitting room staring at my swimsuit body feeling broken, uncomfortable, and ashamed. It’s painful; but staying in that dark place is more painful. So I am pressing in. I am fighting to find beauty in my body as it is, but I am also diligently seeking the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That is where the real healing happens. That is where we find perspective for tough days, or summer seasons.
Do you love summer?
Are any parts of this season hard for you?