This morning I did something crazy. I tried on all of my bikinis, one after the other. Nope, I’m not drunk or super into torture, I’m just going to Hawaii in August and it seemed like the prudent thing to do: to see what I’m working with, to see if I need to buy another one. I mean, I only have two months! Can you think of a better use of time than to try on bikinis for a trip that doesn’t happen for two months? Work? Errands? LOL.
I decided to divide them into piles on my bed: good, okay and not gonna happen. And then I just did it. Just like that, one after another. At one point, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, this is not tragic. I mean, it’s definitely not good but it’s not a full-blown catastrophe. You don’t look perfect but you have two months to fix that.
And then what I’d done hit me. I’d given myself a backhanded compliment. I’d talked to myself like I was Regina George from Mean Girls talking to one of the plastics. Even though I’d dubbed myself “not tragic” (nice one, Me), I’d just told myself that my body was “not good” even though every bikini fit. I’d put the phrase “You don’t look perfect” into my fragile brain even though the ‘not gonna happen’ pile was non-existent. The oldest swimsuit in my closet is fifteen years old. And it fits. I’m in my late thirties and a bikini from when I was twenty-three fits me and all I can say to myself is that it’s “not good,” that I’M “not good?” Instead of patting myself on the back, I told myself I wasn’t perfect. I decided I’m not a “full-blown catastrophe.” Yay! How empowering!
Why would I be so mean to myself? Even if every bikini in my closet fit me like Barbie clothes on a Cabbage Patch Kid, I shouldn’t say those types of things to myself. It’s just a body. My body. I should give it some love.
And here’s the thing, I’m not supposed to be treating myself like that anymore. I made a pact. About a month ago, two things happened to me in one day. First, I read my friend Andreea’s blog about body image and I was so moved, I vowed to start accepting my body as it is right now instead of slamming myself every chance I get. (Please read her blog; it’s so good.) Then, my little sister texted me and said she was gonna start wearing sleeveless shirts once a week as a way of accepting and loving her body as it is. My sister has always hated her arms, even though they’re great: they rock some really pretty tattoos and they’re so strong that they can pick up anything, even me. She’s just always hated them. I’ve seen her wear three-quarter length sleeves in the oppressive August Texas heat. So, for her to declare this was inspiring. I figured if she could do it, I could too.
And then I tried on bikinis and it all flew out the window.
I’m not this hard on other people. I think women of all sizes are beautiful. One of my pet peeves is when people make fun of someone else for their weight but my super duper EXTREME pet peeve is when people make fun of themselves for their weight. Nothing makes me so eye-rolly. I have friends who are always putting themselves down because they don’t like their thighs or they think they have five pounds to lose. All of these gals are gorgeous and when they talk like that, it makes me feel like slapping a baby. (Okay, not really, you guys. I like babies. Geez.) Anyway, then I caught myself doing it and I realized that I’m a hypocrite. I’m not so high and mighty; I’m just as self-destructive as my pals. Even if I’m not saying it aloud, I’m still poisoning my brain with self-hatred bullshit.
I’m fed the fuck up with it. (Also fed up with people slapping babies. It’s time we took a stand.)
But, what do you do about it? I think the most important thing is to catch those thoughts as they happen and replace them with something positive. I read an article about Zosia Mamet where she said that she looks at herself in the mirror every morning and says, “You are beautiful and I love you.” I adore that because, um, WHY NOT love yourself? Aren’t you worthy of your own love? Think of all the people you’ve loved in your life. Surely you’re just as deserving as some of them. I mean, even if you truly suck, don’t you rate love as much as that dude you dated in college who cheated on you with your dumb friend Sally at a keg party? (Seriously, what was he thinking? Sally has been trying to figure out her major since 1997.)
When you catch yourself thinking, “My stomach is so bloated, I suck,” replace it with, “My boobs look amazing today and I’m awesome.” Why not? You’re the only one who will hear it so it won’t, like, mortify you at Starbucks. And, you know what? You’re the one who needs to hear it. Be your own cheerleader. (If you, like me, don’t exactly relate to the cheerleader image, picture a Nirvana cheerleader. Totally badass, right? Rah-rah rock, girl.)
Also, stop putting yourself down to other people. This one is way harder. If your friend says you look beautiful, don’t say, “Well, I’m up five pounds and there are 97 products in my hair and I’m so pale, I look like Gollum so basically I’m fat Gollum with bad hair.” Just say thank you and compliment her back. When you’re catching up with your out-of-town bestie, talk about books or current events or her children or your cats. Talk about anything but how you need to go on a juice fast or how gross your skin looks. Seriously. It’s not only self-destructive; it’s boring as hell. And if you don’t do it, they won’t either. Think about it. Do you really want to look back on your life and realize that you spent it listening to your gorgeous friends talk about how un-gorgeous they are? Do you want to remember good times or times when you felt badly about yourself because of some stupid reason like smile lines or an extra three pounds that no one even noticed? Think about how stupid that is!
I think it really can be that simple. Change the way you think and what you say. I’m not saying you have to stop trying to eat healthy or that you should become part of your couch. Of course you should eat healthy! Of course you should exercise! But maybe try doing it because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself.
You’re beautiful and I love you. You should love yourself too.
*Since this was written, the author has bought herself 2 bikinis but only because they were super cute and on sale, okaaay??!