Recently I received this question on my Christian body image blog “Compared to Who?” on Christian women and bikinis. Thankfully, the reader gave me permission to share it (and my answer–expanded for this post) with you. No matter where you stand on the topic, I hope you’ll take a second to check it out!
Your writings have been a huge encouragement to me, thank you for your service! This summer the issue of modesty has come up for me. I was the only one in a two piece at the 4th of July while the other ladies were wearing tshirts and shorts. My husband wants me to wear something like they were wearing. I feel that not all bikinis are created equally and feel that mine is as covering as they come. I struggle because less fabric on a bathing suit is much more practical. I am really only exploring this because my husband asked me to. I love Jesus, this one is tough for me! Your thoughts, sister?
In Him –
Bikinis!!! Ahhh . . . where to begin?
Let me start with my own personal bikini history.
You wouldn’t have caught me dead in one before age 23. I battled my weight during that time and didn’t feel like I had a “bikini body.” Likely, I would have told you I being modest. But that would have been a lie. I was wearing the old one piece to hide a body of which I was ashamed. Secretly, I longed to rock a skimpy string variety.
I started working out with gusto sometime before I turned 25 and that changed my shape quite a bit. I wanted to show off my body, though I still didn’t really like it. Bikinis brought more balance to my pear shape and I wanted to look as good as possible. Drowning deep in my body image issues during that time, I associated my value with how I looked in that swimsuit. (I see now how warped that was, but that was the level of my depravity.)
I remember a few months before our wedding, going to the pool with my then-fiancé. I threw an internal fit about the fact that he didn’t say I looked good in my little brown Victoria’s Secret swimsuit. Within the course of 30 minutes of sitting poolside, I decided that he likely wanted to call off our wedding because he thought I was so ugly in a bathing suit, he just didn’t have the nerve to tell me. He thought I was fat. He wanted me to be thinner. He didn’t want to marry me anymore . . .The thoughts barraged my brain like cereal pouring into the bowl. He had no idea the internal war that was waging and when I finally exploded with something like, “We can’t possibly get married because you don’t think I look good in a swimsuit!” He was caught off guard . . . to say the least.
Yes, I’m a little surprised he still married me after that act of lunacy.
I used that little two piece suit to affirm that I was physically good enough.
I wanted my bikini to bring attention and glory, not to God, but to me. My body image was my idol and my bikini helped me worship.
I wanted others to worship too. No, not literally bow down. That’d be silly. But, I hoped people would think I was hot. I wanted to capture the interest of men and the envy of women. (I’m definitely not proud of this, but it’s true.)
After I had a baby, my body changed. So, I just bought bigger bikinis with better lifting and tucking power. I wasn’t ready to give up, yet. I needed the physical affirmation wearing one brought me.
Then I had a daughter.
She received the sweetest little bikini as a baby gift and, within five minutes, my perspective on the issue shifted. I didn’t want my baby to wear that miniaturized adult woman swimsuit! She didn’t need to be sexy at six months old. Soon I realized that I didn’t need to be sexy (at least not in public) at 33 years old either.
The Holy Spirit started to convict me on my swimwear choices and motivation. How could I allow my daughter to wear bikinis as a pre-pubescent and then, when her body developed, tell her that she’d need to switch to something more modest? And, what kind of authority would I have to enforce a “no bikini” rule if all she ever knew was a mom who wore little bitty swimsuits?