If there’s one sure way to make yourself feel like crap, just try on some swimwear.
I’ve spent the past month hunting down gear for my upcoming Europe trip. I expect that some of my travel days will be spent submerged in the thermal pools of Iceland and the saunas of Sweden, and for that, I will need a new bathing suit.
Unfortunately for me, finding swimwear that fits my body shape is about as easy as securing a spot in the Russian figure skating olympics team.
With a EU size 8-10 waist, size 10-12 hips, and D-cup breasts, everything I try on is either tight around the bust but loose around the waist, or vice-versa.
Swimwear becomes even more of a problem. There is no way a one-piece would fit my various measurements, so my only choice is a 2-piece outfit where I buy the top and bottoms separately. Even then, it’s a long search through many racks of swimwear before I can find a bikini top with underwire that will actually give me some support.
But bikini tops pose another problem: I’m not entirely comfortable showing so much skin.
I don’t consider myself overweight, but I don’t think I’m particularly skinny either. As every girl knows – bikinis mean that every flabby area of stomach fat is suddenly on display.
Fiji 2015: The only full-body shot that I have ever posted of myself in a bathing suit
I searched through department stores, boutique stores, and scoured the internet in my quest to find swimwear that would fit my seemingly rare body shape, but everything I found online was being modelled by a size 8 blonde with stilts for legs.
There’s no way in hell those swimsuits would look the same on me – a short, busty, imperfect human – as it did on them.
My Europe trip departure date grew dangerously near, and I knew I could no longer be picky. I strode into Bloomingdale’s in SoHo, grabbed 8 items that I thought might look ok, and locked myself in the change room.
As I suspected, the one-pieces were a failure. None of them fit like they were supposed to. I tossed them aside.
The tankini I had picked out looked ok, but the v-neck halter and generic blue wavy pattern looked like something that every middle-aged woman at a swimming pool would be wearing. It didn’t match my style, so I knew I wouldn’t feel good wearing it. I decided it wasn’t for me.
Then I tried on the remaining bikini tops, one of which I admitted looked pretty nice.
The size I’d picked up was slightly too small, but the pattern was funky and it gave my boobs a satisfying amount of coverage and support. It didn’t solve the problem of my stomach being on display, but I liked it more than anything else I’d tried on.
The bikini I picked out
I took some photos of my reflection in the change room mirror, put my clothes back on, and then walked out of the store to meet up with Robert in a nearby cafe.
I handed him my phone and he swiped through the photos I’d taken. He decided that the bikini top was his favourite, too, and added “you look great in it!”. After some resistance on my part, he then said three things that really made me reconsider how I felt about buying it:
1. “I have body image issues, too.”
I never thought that men would care that much about their bodies when they strip down to board shorts, but my husband kindly reminded me that they do. There are plenty of men who feel just as self-conscious as most women do.
It made me feel a little better to know that I’m far from the only one with swimwear and body image issues.
2. “You won’t be surrounded by swimwear models.”
When you’re in a store and seeing the swimwear displayed on models and mannequins, it’s easy to imagine that everyone else will look like that in swimwear, but Robert pointed out that this is totally not the case.
There are in fact very few people who look like swimwear models, and unless you’re heading to a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, then you’re not going to be surrounded by them. You’ll be surrounded by other normal-looking people.
3. “You’ll mostly be lying down or submerged in water.”
When you’re scrutinising your reflection in a change room, with the harsh top-down lighting making all your imperfections more visible than they should be, then of course you’re going to feel like you look crap.
But this is an isolated situation. When you’re laying flat on a beach towel or are submerged in water, those imperfections will suddenly disappear.
After considering all of this, I went back in, picked up the correct size, and bought it.
My new bikini top
I’m still not perfectly happy with the way my body looks, but at least now that I’ve posted this photo, I can no longer be afraid of anyone discovering what I “really” look like. Here it is, for all the world to see.
And the advice I would give to any of you who might also feel self-conscious about your bodies is this: When you’re looking at photos of popular Instagrammers with their picture perfect bikini bodies, remember that these are a rare few people.
These people do not represent the majority. The majority don’t look as though their bodies have been sculpted by Michelangelo.
To show you what some more real people look like, check out the following babes totally rocking their swimwear on their travels.
“My body has changed a lot after my accident and its been a long struggle to accept it and to smile at the person looking back at me in the mirror. But what matters the most is to be happy with yourself, carry yourself right and be the fabulous you that you are, no matter what size!”
“When you can learn to love yourself and your body the way it is, you’ll have reached an internal peace not many women ever get to experience.
Self-love is truly the best type of love, so whether you’re 10 pounds or 30 pounds heavier than your ‘ideal’ size, realize that the weight you carry is packed with memories of delicious foods you’ve eaten, beers you’ve tasted, and unhealthy, regret-free splurges in foreign countries.
And that’s beautiful.”
“Pay less attention to the media and focus on the parts of yourself that you love. And a good fake tan makes everything better!”
“Self-acceptance is the key to a happy life.”
“I tend to approach the body image issue rationally rather than emotionally. In my mind, if I treat my body right – give it plenty of exercise and healthy foods, and don’t abuse it with lots of alcohol or sugar – then I’ve done all that I can do.
The way my body looks is partially a reflection of how I treat it, but also affected by variables out of my control – so why stress over it?”
“Everyone is self conscious sometimes. Don’t let that hold you back from having incredible adventures. At the end of the day it’s the memories that matter, not the model-esque photos for Instagram.”