It's almost May, which means it's almost warm enough everywhere in the U.S. for people to start busting out the swim gear and heading to the lake or the river or the ocean. And that means it's also time for the Annual Body Image Battle a huge percentage of women wage with themselves when it comes to putting on a swimsuit.
Despite social discourse moving more and more toward body positivity and embracing ourselves no matter our size, a whole lot of us still feel self-conscious about our bodies. And nothing amplifies that self-consciousness like putting on a skin-tight swimsuit that exposes most of our skin suit to the world. Unless we are literally bikini models—and sometimes even if we are—standing in front of a mirror in a swimsuit prompts a million mental messages to kick in, with phrases like "muffin top," "saddlebags," "love handles," and "cottage cheese thighs," bouncing around like ping pong balls in our brain.
We are critical of our bodies partly because we compare ourselves to airbrushed bikini models—whether we want to or not—and partly because we fear the criticism and cruelty of other people. The former is something we each have to work through for ourselves, but a new video from vlogger Tiffany Jenkins perfectly illustrates why the criticisms of others shouldn't prevent us from putting on the suit and heading to the beach.
It's not just because we shouldn't listen to cruelty. It's because there is no one who isn't subject to judgment and criticism.
Jenkins wrote: "To all my beautiful friends: Please watch this, it's important. These are ACTUAL comments from the photos. The message here is clear. Effpeoplesopinionsofyou."
In her video, Jenkins shared real photos of real people in swimsuits that she saw on social media, along with the real comments people have left on those photos. Each of the photos shows a woman of a different size and shape, from extra endowed to basically average, including a couple of famous women who have been seen as sex symbols. And you know what? The comments are cruel on every single one of them.
So then Jenkins says, "It's the internet. Apparently, everyone is too fat for people of the internet. Let me just put up a picture of a thin bikini model, and then everybody will be happy and have no complaints."
HA. No. Even the super tanned, thin woman in a little bikini had people ridiculing her body in the comments.
Jenkins summed up the lesson perfectly. "Friends, people are always going to find something negative to say. So put on that damn bathing suit and get out in the sun and live your best life. Eff everybody."
Right on, Tiffany. Eff everybody who feels the need to make any judgment whatsoever about somebody's body. Literally every single human body is different, and the idea that only people with some kind of subjectively "perfect" body get to feel comfortable in a swimsuit is utterly ridiculous. Especially when even those with bikini model bodies still get criticized. Sure, they probably also get more compliments than others, but who flippin' cares. The beach isn't supposed to be a beauty pageant; it's a place to enjoy the sun and sand and sparkling water.
The number of people who could put on a swimsuit and have no one find something to criticize is zero, so we have got to stop looking for validation from others to determine whether or not we should go out in a swimsuit and enjoy ourselves. It's not always that simple. It's hard to embrace the bodies we're in when we have so many messages telling us they're not good enough, but the reality is this: We get one life here. We can spend it fretting over specific details of our bodies or we can spend it basking in the warm sun, splashing in the cool water, and flipping a mental middle finger to anyone who tries to steal that joy from us.
Our bodies are worthy of fun and joy, no matter their size or shape. No amount of social media b.s. can change that.
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