We knew this day was coming. Swimsuit season arrives each May as inevitably as diaper blowouts happen when you forget the spare outfit.
Summer doesn’t care if we’re feeling fit. But the marketers—they seize the opportunity to make us feel like we lack something. “You aren’t ready!” they taunt.
From the bikini-clad girls in the suntan lotion ads, to the aisles of swimwear that will only look good on a sixteen-year-old, to the gigantic push for diet and exercise products we “need” to feel confident at the beach. Their messages scream: You can’t enjoy summer unless you have a hot body.
No matter what potions or IBS-inducing gear they sell me, I’m not going to spring back into my twenty-year-old, pre-kiddo shape anytime soon—certainly not before summer begins.
So, I say, we get real. Instead of focusing on our bodies, why not ready our attitudes? What if—regardless of the amount of cellulite hiding under our swim skirts—we could smile, with settled hearts, ready to face (and enjoy) summer like never before?
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
We can do it. We just need a new “mom-faces-swim-season” creed. Here are its mantras. Say them. Believe them. And, I pinky promise, summer will feel different this year, no matter what shape you are in.
1. I Will Wear a Swimsuit Because My Children Need Me
You can’t rescue a near-drowning toddler in jeans. Seriously. There are safety issues looming if you aren’t going to the pool dressed like you could swim if you needed. Girl scouts motto, mommas: Be prepared!
But, beyond safety issues, I wonder if we send subtle messages to our little girls and boys when mommy doesn’t wear a swimsuit. Do we reinforce to our daughters the media’s lies that only a certain type of body is good enough to go to the beach? Do we teach our sons that the fake, airbrushed body is the only type to be valued? Subconsciously, do we communicate that moms can’t enjoy summer because they’re too ashamed of how they look?
Size two or size twenty-two, momma, your kids need you to model truth.
Speaking of truth . . .
2. I Will Refuse to Allow My Body Shape or Size to Define Me
You know how at one point in your life you had not just a name, but maybe a job, and, likely, some other things that were interesting about you. People said, “Hey, there you are, that woman who is super cool and talented at (fill in the blank).”
Then you had kids. If they are old enough, you’re identity may have changed into something like “Emma’s mom.” And, you chuckle a bit when it happens, when someone calls you “Emma’s mom,” because you know you have a real name. Yet, you also don’t expect children to know or use it.
Can I tell you a secret?
You still have a real identity. Real value. Not from being a mom or your fabulous freezer-meal-making talent. No, it’s not from what you do at all. It’s because of what’s been done for you.
Jesus gave it all. For you. This truth gives you indescribable value.
Sometimes, other people won’t see it. Like children they’ll try to define you by your body—label you as “skinny one” or “plus-sized.” But, you’ve gotta know, just as sure as you know you are more than just your kid’s mom. You are also a loved child of God. Neither the size nor the shape of your body can define you. His immeasurable love alone is where healthy hearts find their worth.
3. I Will Accept This Truth: Swimsuit Modeling is Not My Purpose (And That’s Okay.)
(Note: If you are an actual swimsuit model, skip over this one. Sorry to exclude you.)
For the rest of us, can we be honest with ourselves for two seconds? God gave us each a purpose. And, now that I’ve crossed the line into motherhood and (gasp) middle-age (maybe, not one hundred percent on when it starts), it’s time I come to grips with this fact. God’s purpose for my life was not to model swimwear.
Though hard to accept, I now see how God actually gave me exactly what I needed to accomplish the purpose he does have for me. Though he didn’t give me five-feet-long legs and thigh gap, he did bless me physically with other attributes. He gave me great hearing to intervene when my children conspire destruction. Eyes to express compassion when a hurting friend shares a need. He gave me strong legs to walk inconsolable criers all over the house and fast-typing fingers to record the words He directs me to write.
I used to think fulfillment would come from a better body. That theory was bogus. Finding God’s purpose for my life freed me from the pressure of chasing beauty. The ability to rest in his true purpose for my life proves infinitely more satisfying than achieving the right number on the scale.
4. I Will Not Compare Myself. Period.
Not to other women. Not to the thinner, ten-years-ago version of me pictured in a frame on my husband’s desk. Not to the model on the swimsuit price tag. Not to the pretty (and super tan) eighteen-year-old lifeguard watching my children fight over the blue pool noodle. Not to anyone. Anywhere.
Comparison breeds discontentment in our hearts. Though it takes discipline to silence its condemning voice (“Why don’t you look more like her?”), it can be done when you know your purpose. (See #3 above.) When we know what God has uniquely created us to do, we can stop looking around to see how everyone else looks and what everyone else does. We can stop trying to “fix” our bodies every summer and, instead fix our eyes on Him—the one who examines our hearts, not our bodies.