I distinctly remember going swimsuit shopping after becoming aware that the appearance of my body was something people would judge me on. One year, I was more concerned with colors and patterns and things that made me happy to look at. But the next, it was less about what made me happy and more about scrutinizing how my body looked in my swimsuit. I've talked about this before, and it's like your body isn't your own.
I've always had a volatile relationship with my body, but the past few years have been especially difficult. Thanks, in part, to anxiety and an imbalance in my gut, I gained a lot of weight. I've spent the last couple of years learning to love exercise again, and repairing my relationship with food and my body. So when Target invited me to go with them to Laguna to test drive their new swimsuit styles, it felt like time to face my fears. This year, I've made the resolution to do more things that scare me. And I couldn't imagine anything more terrifying than wearing a two-piece swimsuit in front of a bunch of people I had just met.
It should be noted that even though I haven't worn a two-piece suit for about five years, it's not like I went around wearing swimsuits all the time. I live in Los Angeles, but I avoid the beach. If I'm being honest with myself, my dislike of the beach/pool scenarios likely stems from the extreme discomfort I feel being clad in only a swimsuit.
In fact, the last time I wore a swimsuit of any kind was nearly three years ago. It was a one-piece, and I was on a trip with my friends in Miami. One day I was reduced to tears because I saw a picture of myself and was disgusted with the way I look. I hate using that word, but it's honest. I looked at myself and actively hated every part of my body. I didn't even see myself as a person, I was reduced to the sum of my cellulite, my belly, my stretch marks. Writing that is actually painful for me now.
I tried on the suit in privacy of my hotel room at first. Yeah, I've suffered from crippling self-consciousness about all parts of my body at one time or another—but it's my stomach that draws the majority of my ire. Adding to my anxiety: I had, against my better judgement, had both champagne and La Croix the previous day. Which is a stupid thing to care about but, you know, bloating.
I slipped into the two piece suit with the kind of skepticism I usually reserve for anything kale-related. I faced away from the mirror, so I could have a big reveal. "If you absolutely hate how it looks, you can just wear the one-piece," I monologued internally. But honestly, after the last time I wore a swimsuit, I wasn't sure I would even be able to muster the courage to wear that. I looked in the mirror, about one step away from peeking through my fingers because I was so nervous.
I looked… like me. In a swimsuit. I thought I looked good. It was like the scene in I Feel Pretty where Amy Schumer's character looks in the mirror and her perception of herself was drastically changed without her body changing.
But then came the more harrowing part: How would it photograph? I knew that I would need images for this story (pics or it didn't happen), plus I needed #content for my Instagram. No shame. I snapped a few selfies, flipped through them on my phone and was surprised to find that I liked the way I looked. Even my stomach. As someone who is very critical of myself, especially in photos, this felt like a breakthrough.
Then I was faced with the task of going out in public in my two-piece. The world didn't end. I didn't get struck by lightning. I was fine. I headed down to the beach with the group, where we all spent some time snapping pictures by the beach before going kayaking. Again, everything was fine.
After the kayaking, we went back to the hotel where I did a quick outfit change into the one-piece—not because I was eager to get out of my two-piece, but because some of the other women and I decided we were going to take some more photos, and I already got a great picture in the two-piece. Let me tell you, as someone who is incredibly self-critical and shy, this in and of itself felt like a huge feat.
My body positivity journey is far from over. My feelings about my body are not static; they fluctuate day to day and even moment to moment. The amount of time I've spent hating my body is ridiculous, and causes me so much anxiety, and is just generally not helpful. The way I look doesn't define my self-worth. That's a hard lesson to learn, especially when we live in a society that still has a long way to go in extricating women's self-worth from their looks. But every time I overcome something that scares me, every time I'm less critical of myself in real life and in photos, every time I look at my thighs and feel proud of how strong they are, I make progress.