by Ashley Geist
I recently engaged in a painful and torturous ritual familiar to many women; bathing suit shopping. While I’m being (a little) dramatic, this task is avoided by some, dreaded by many, and yet, at its very core, could be something enjoyable and joyous, and maybe even was to us, at one time.
If one is purchasing a bathing suit, we can make the assumption that this person will soon be enjoying a day at the pool or beach, making memories with small children at the waterpark, spending a day of leisure on a boat, attending water aerobics, going on vacation, hopping in the hot tub – in short, going to presumably have a good time and celebrate the fun and relaxation that is inherent in water and summertime activities.
Why then, does this task inspire and accompany countless diet ads and gym invitations, and carry with it, an exorbitant amount of fear and dare we say it, shame? I am all for moving our bodies and eating well, but I don’t believe in those things as punishment, or a means to an end of “body perfection” that doesn’t exist.
Something as mundane as buying a piece of clothing for an activity or task doesn’t become riddled with emotion by itself. For example, did your last sock purchase encourage you to re-think your recent life choices? (Me neither.)
The emotions we feel when looking in the mirror come from somewhere, but where? They come from marketing, oh the marketing….
Many companies spend boatloads of money to make us feel that our bodies are unworthy and flawed because there is a lot of money to be made from us feeling this way.
Perhaps an unkind remark or judgment from a stranger or worse yet, someone we love, still rings in our ears when we see our bodies reflected back to us in a mirror. Wherever the messages are coming from, they are powerful.
As I stood in front of my own mirror recently, trying on various swimming suits, I noticed things. I noticed more spider veins (genetic, they aren’t going anywhere). I noticed some new wrinkles and skin that creases more easily than before. I noticed some extra weight.
But that’s the problem with mirrors – they only tell part of the story.
I also remembered that in the last year, my body fought off Covid-19, the stomach flu, a respiratory infection, and healed from a bad cut (thank you, immune system)!
I learned to teach online, ventured into the world of providing online therapy, guided my students and clients through the uncharted waters of the Pandemic, supported and loved my family, and did my best.
What did your body help you accomplish this year? Mirrors don’t show us those things, so we need to tell ourselves.
One particular bathing suit I tried on was a grown-up version of one I had when I was probably about 5 years old. It was a blue and white checkered one piece with ruffles on the straps. It transported me to standing in the child version of that suit, in a child’s body, completely oblivious to my chubby legs or tummy and completely consumed with the smell of sunscreen, excitement, and the fun that would ensue in my tiny backyard kiddie pool.
Is it possible to reclaim that joy and fun that was once ours to experience, before the judgments and messages aimed at us took hold? Is it possible to say, “Not today!” to the subliminal messages that were heaped upon us, long before we were ever aware of them? I think it might be. At least I’m willing to try. I think the smell of sunscreen and the fun that awaits us is worth it.
Wishing you all the best,
Your Hubster - Ashley
The Wholehearted Box Project
Are you ready to dive headfirst into feeling confident and empowered in your own skin? Kick-off your summer fun with the Wholehearted Hub crew as we explore loving and caring for our bodies from a place of joy and celebration instead of guilt and obligation!
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XO, The Hubster Team