by - July 08, 2016

I've never had a body that any magazine or swimwear ad has ever told me looks good in a bathing suit - and for years, that kept me from wearing one. I remember being about 13 and going to a family pool party with my swimsuit on underneath a big, baggy t-shirt that I insisted on wearing in the pool and tugging down to cover my butt when I got out. There's a picture of me that day, in the pool, waving at the camera with a big dorky smile on my face, and I know that I was having fun. But I also know that I was always aware of my body. And, I mean, at 13... Of course you're aware of your body. Things are changing and sprouting and everything is a little bit freakin' weird, so it's no wonder we all walk around with a hyper-awareness of our bodies. But at the same time, I think that's one of the biggest formative times when we start to look at our bodies in a negative way - and to start making some of our decisions based on how we look.

This summer, at 33 years old and with a lot of years spent avoiding wearing a swimsuit at all or quickly hurrying myself into oversized t-shirts or shorts as soon as I got out of the water, I'm saying screw it and I'm deciding to not just accept my body, but make sure that I stop letting it be the reason that I don't do things that I want to do. And I'm not going to read articles about how to get a bikini body, because I already know the steps. Have a body, put a bikini on it, and throw your middle finger up to anyone who tell you that you shouldn't wear something because you're not perfect.

It's on that note that I wanted to write a little something... and issue a bit of a dare. Both to my readers and myself.

In the past few weeks, I've seen some really encouraging and inspiring posts by vloggers and bloggers that I love about body positivity. I wanted to share two of them with you guys (and you may have already experienced them) because they very much informed both my decision to write this post, but also my decision to actively try to change the way I think about my body this summer. Check out this plus sized swimwear video by vintageortacky on Youtube as well as this blog post by Natalie over at Ivory Avenue about wearing a bikini for the first time in 5 years.

In recent years, there's been a shift where the fat shaming of the past became a little more socially unacceptable, so people have switched to what I think of as health shaming, insisting that their judgement of other people's bodies is out of concern for that person's health rather than their appearance. I am NOT okay with this. You can't look at someone and get a picture of their overall health, you don't know what they're going through physically or emotionally or what their actual level of health and fitness is and the steps that they're taking to make healthy choices. You don't know if the woman who is size 2 is healthy or not, and you don't know if the woman who's size 20 is healthy or not. There's a narrow version of health and beauty that has been fed to us by an industry that makes billions of dollars from it, but that has nothing to do with reality and instead shoves everyone into a narrow, ridiculous box based on their size.

Because I feel like it's important, I do want to say that self care is absolutely important. Making healthy choices when it comes to diet and exercise are things that you won't ever regret and will undoubtedly actually help you to feel better about yourself both emotionally and physically in the end. There are a million reasons that we make unhealthy decisions, a million factors that contribute to how we live our lives, and sometimes it truly is a privilege to be able to make healthy decisions easily. So while self care is important, we have to stop policing people's decisions and deciding for them what they should do without ever knowing or being able to truly understand their situation. 

This is me walking along Venice Beach with my toes in the sand a couple of years ago. 
Even if it had been July rather than November, it's unlikely I would have been comfortable wearing a bathing suit there.
Posting this picture is really difficult for me, because I don't tend to like full body shots of myself.
This is exactly why I'm posting it.

Beauty isn't about being a specific size. It isn't about being a specific shape. It isn't limited by race or pigmentation. It isn't about a person's expression of their sexual or gender identity. It isn't about whether or not you've been able to get your "pre-baby body" back after you've had children. It isn't about personal style or whether you wear makeup or not. And whether or not you feel beautiful or confident in yourself, you should be allowed - both by other people and by yourself - to go out and live your life the way you choose without being restricted by what someone else says you should be. No one should have to feel restricted in their lives by people's perception of them based on what they look like.

But so many of us do feel restricted. And that's what this post is about, because I'm in that struggle too. 

So this is what I propose - and it might sound a little crazy! When that little voice in your head tells you to hide or tries to convince you that you don't get to have fun or wear what you choose or even feel good about yourself just because you're not perfect... Slap that voice in the face and try to do it anyway. Whether taking that empowerment into yourself works right away or, like me, you have to fake it til you make it... It's worth it. We should never miss out on anything that we want because the world has taught us to feel insecure or less than some ideal they've created.

Wear the bikini. Wear the bodycon dress. Wear absolutely whatever the fuck you want to want to wear, and wear it with confidence because it's what you want. Dance when the music moves you, however it moves you. Play on the beach with your significant other, or your friends, or your children. Get in the pool. Splash in the waves. Or do none of those things and instead do whatever else it is that you want to do. Do whatever makes you happy and don't let the little voice take that freedom away from you. And when it tries, make the voice that is insisting that you do what makes you happy talk just a little bit louder.

I dare you. And I dare me.

I've already worn a bathing suit in public more times in 2016 than in the last probably 5 years. And I've had fun. I haven't regretted a single day at the beach or the pool, having fun with my boyfriend and our friends, and I can't wait to enjoy the rest of the summer without restricting myself because my body isn't what someone else says it's supposed to be.

Thank you for reading and I very, very sincerely hope that every single person who reads this takes something positive from it, whether you're like me and you needed a little help in the body positivity department or you're already all good on that front. 

I hope you have an amazing summer, whatever you choose to do with it!

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