Everyone wants to know the secret to having a perfect beach body. Well, I did anyway. We’re sold the perfect body every day in ads, movies and filtered Instagram photos. The pressure to have everything tight and toned before hitting the tide can be paralyzing. To avoid this, some people even deny themselves the experience of playing in the sand and sun altogether.
I understand this fear all too well. Wearing a bikini that would show all of my wobbly bits? No, thank you.
I recently went to Hawaii and decided that I wanted to face this fear head on. My body and I have been through a lot together. Why was I so ashamed of it? It was time to publicly announce to the world that my body and I love each other, no matter what anyone else thought.
Along my journey from bikini to beach, I discovered these four secrets to loving your beach body:
1. Stop the comparing
Theodore Roosevelt famously stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Let that sink in a minute. You could be sitting in your car, singing along to the radio (that’s still a thing, right?) and loving life when suddenly someone pulls up next to you in a nicer car. If you’re self-conscious about wealth, you may suddenly feel embarrassed or ashamed. You were happy just seconds before … where did the joy go?
Equating ourselves to others is an exercise in futility. We never win. It doesn't matter whether or not you have the nicer car (or flatter abs). What's important is whether or not you feel insecure enough to have to compare yourself to others. We do it in a desperate attempt to determine our self-worth.
As I prepared for my beach body debut, I reminded myself that there are two kinds of people: Those who are insecure and compare themselves to others, and those who are grateful enough to appreciate what they have. Only one of these people will feel joy as the waves lap at their feet. I chose not to compare and not worry about those that do.
2. Nix the negative thoughts
This takes practice. First, you need to recognize when you’re attacking yourself, and then train yourself to challenge those conditioned beliefs. You need to change the conversation and start an internal dialogue.
Having lost a significant amount of weight over the last year, I have some extra skin. Usually, I’m quite comfortable with it. But when shopping for the perfect swimsuit, the negative thoughts came crashing in.
"Skinny-fat. Skinny-fat!" My brain shouted at me, "You're too skinny, AND you're too fat."
"Now wait a minute," said my heart, "This is my one and only body! It's not fat or skinny. It's just me. It's perfectly me, and I love it."
"Impossible!" Replied my brain. "Look how bony and fat you are! Your wobbly bits are disgusting. You're disgusting."
"No," said my heart, "No, no. Our body doesn't make us unlovable. Our body is what makes us human: perfectly flawed. It will never be more worthy of love than it already is; and if we don’t celebrate life now, the chance may pass us by.”
I challenged the negative thoughts and confronted the real problem. Confidence regained, I chose an adorable suit for the beach. Body acceptance is an internal struggle that takes conscious training. It's not easy, but it can be done if we listen to what's going on inside us.
3. Find a swimsuit you love
It doesn’t matter if it’s men’s board shorts or a string bikini covered in Hello Kitty (I personally love me some boldly colored Tommy Hilfiger). If you love it, wear it. You’re not comparing yourself to others, so why not choose something that makes you happy?
To get that suit you love, you’re going to have to try some on. I tried several and quickly found out what I was looking for in my soul mate swimsuit. I wanted bottom with a wide strap; strings were just not for me. I also wanted something a little unconventional but had no danger of side-boob. And after some trial and error, I got a feel for what I was looking for and started actually enjoying the experience. I even ventured into unique one pieces.
4. Don't be afraid to be confident
It’s interesting how we all want to feel powerful, confident and really own our self-worth, but then cower at showing it. What if people judge and think we're obnoxious? Or worse, totally undeserving of our self-confidence? What if we stand out and look foolish instead of bold? We'd rather blend in the background as opposed to risk finding out we don't deserve love and acceptance.
We can all be bold, own our self-worth and be confident, no matter what size swimsuit we wear. Whether people see me or not is irrelevant to whether or not I'm willing to be seen. In fact, I don't know if anyone even took a second glance, but it doesn't matter. I choose to not be invisible.
If only people with “perfect bodies” went to the beach, only 1% of the world’s population would get to enjoy the roaring waves, the sand beneath our toes and scenic sunsets. Your body is its own kind of beach body; perfect in its own right.
I walked along the water, hair wild and midriff bare. I felt exhilarating joy at finally overcoming this fear. What had I been so scared of … not being loved?
I loved myself more than ever before.