Why can't we be more proud of our bodies?
So, I'm cheating a bit with this shot, because really it should be one of me in a swimsuit (read on and you'll see why). But I've trawled through all my pictures from the past few years and there isn't ONE of me in either a bathing costume or a bikini.
Actually, it's not surprising there isn't a bikini shot, because it's been years since I've worn a two-piece in public. I decided long ago that my body, or rather, specifically the increasingly increasing, and wobbly, middle bit of it, wasn't fit for public consumption. So my bikinis were consigned to the charity shop and my holiday packing since then has consisted of one-pieces, more often than not with hidden tummy control. (Which unsurprisingly can often feel like wearing a waterproof corset. And don't get me started on getting the darn things back on if you have to go to the loo and they're wet.)
Anyway, that's what I want to write about today. Why it is we - and this could equally well apply to men, so I'd love to hear from you if it does - are so critical and self-conscious about our bodies? Why we can't be better at celebrating them, whatever shape and size they are? Thankful for their strength and fortitude and not constantly concerned about what other people might think of them, and us, if they're less than magazine-perfect slim.
I would say leave aside the fact that those magazine and advertising images are generally a) of much younger women, b) of models whose job it is to be super skinny, so almost certainly haven't eaten a meal of any sort, never mind a square one, in years and c) who have often been technically enhanced with picture-doctoring tools, so they don't even look like their images in real life. But actually, don't. It's really important to remember all that when we're setting any kind of realistic yard stick to measure ourselves by.
We are grown up women, and men, whose bodies naturally reflect the years, experiences, environments and challenges we've faced. We've had illnesses and injuries. We've carried and given birth to children (that's only the women, obviously). We have walked, run, sat, skipped, climbed, lifted and carried. We've eaten and drunk. Our skin has been exposed to the elements and to pollution. In short, we've lived.
And the longer we live, the less toned our stomachs and arms become, however many hours we spend exercising, the thicker our thighs get (ditto re the exercise) and the further our breasts and bottoms slide inexorably southwards.
And so what?
Having lost people of my age that I cared about deeply in the past couple of years, I am more aware than ever of what a privilege it is to grow older. So let's bloody revel in the bodies that have brought us this far. Let's be as healthy as we can, and yes, that involves doing regular exercise and sensible eating, but the benefits of that are as powerful psychologically as they are physically. Let's expose as much or little of ourselves as we feel comfortable and happy with (using appropriate sun screen protection obviously). Let's be bold and proud of the shape we are - whatever shape that is. Let's stop comparing ourselves to anybody else, young or old. Let's celebrate our individual, tenacious, beautiful, bodies and banish berating ourselves for being less than perfect (in who's eyes?) for good.
Oh, and if you want any reassurance about heading to the beach or pool in a bikini, have a look at the hashtag #proudinmybikini on Instagram. And if you think being body-conscious is the preserve of us more mature folk, check out blogger and young mum, Jess, who goes under the name of thefatfunnyone, and look at her recent Instagram posts in particular.
I'm off to Crete for a few days later this month, so time to put my be-bikini-bold challenge to the test. Stand by for the pics!
What's your holiday swimwear of choice? And how has your attitude towards your body changed as you've got older?
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