I got my first bikini about 7 or 8 years ago. At the time buying it (then wearing it) felt like a moment of victory for me. A triumph over the “battle with body” I’d waged my whole life.
I finally had the confidence to (proudly) stand up against all the (diet culture) beliefs that a “bikini body” looked like something. Because it doesn’t. As the meme goes if you have a bikini and a body you have a bikini body.
I believed wearing a bikini (in what I saw as a body that didn’t conform to the cultural ideal) was an act of empowered feminism and a counter-cultural move. I am woman hear me roar!
And it was – to a degree. I still believe it’s really important that we see the diversity of bodies that exist represented on our beaches and otherwise (though there’s a lot more to that conversation too). But I’ve come to question whether wearing the bikini is truly an act of empowered feminism for me, and whether I want to wear one at all.
Why I’ve been re-thinking my bikini.
The fair cultural assumption might be that I’m rethinking my bikini wearing ways because my body has changed recently. It’s notably bigger (I wrote about it here). Enough that I’ve had to upsize my summer wardrobe. And I’m actually pretty cool with it (more on that in next week’s blog).
But that’s not why I’ve stopped wearing a bikini.
I’ve stopped wearing it because of some compelling research about body objectification that got me thinking. Researchers Ivanka Prichard and Marika Tigemann found that women in a fitness environment who wore tight/ fitted exercise clothing were more focused on their appearance and engaged in more body monitoring than women who wore looser clothing (nerd out here).
What is body monitoring and why isn’t it helpful?
Essentially, body monitoring is the practice of subconsciously running a mental checklist as you view your body from that of a third party lens. It’s the practical consequence of Self-Objectification. What’s the problem with it? Well, if your mental real estate is tied up in this check-list, what happens to your ability to be fully present and/or perform? In a gym environment if you’re chronically worried about how your body looks – what’s left to focus on form and execution of the exercise or your experience of the movement itself? In other words, how does this body monitoring distract from your joy and performance?
This really got me thinking about my choices for all clothing, including what I wear to the beach! I thought to myself…
- I wonder if wearing a bikini is having me body check more?
- If so, how does this impede my experience of swimming/ enjoying the beach?
- And how is that impacting how I objectify my body?
- Does that move me in the direction I wish to go in my relationship with my body?
Yeah. It gave me cause for pause. Big time.
The conclusion I came to:
After some consideration I decided to experiment. I wore a one piece, and I noticed my thoughts. I also noticed my lack of thoughts. And my ability to be more present at the beach and with my friends or family. And the results were obvious.
When I wore my bikini I spent more time noticing my body, being critical, comparing and otherwise unhelpful. Which took my presence away from the task at hand (having a rad time in the water with friends).
That was it. Being in a one-piece (for now) means I can be more present and more fully enjoy the experience, so that’s what I’ll do.
Why this might matter…to you.
According to Dr. Caroline Heldmenn in her TEDx talk, the average woman body monitors every 30 seconds. That’s the average. What does that mean? Every 30 seconds or so, most women scan their body, notice and compare how it might appear to a third party viewer.
Every 30s we focus on our bodies. Over the course of an 8-hour day that adds up to nearly 1000 times! If we take even 1-2 seconds each time (and I would contend we take longer), that adds up to 32 minutes of our day.
Does 32 minutes of your day spent on scanning/ comparing/ criticizing and critiquing matter to you?
Do I think you should wear your bikini?
I fully believe that you are the boss of your body. You get to choose what you wear – always. If you want to wear a bikini, then rock on. You do you.
And, if you are wearing that bikini, I invite you to check in. Are you finding a lot of your thoughts focused around your body and viewing your body from that of a third party viewer? If so, it may be contributing to self-objectification and might be worth a miss.
Because at the end of the day what really matters when we wear our suit? I would contend that it’s the activities we have and who we’re doing it with.
Just this past weekend I had a fun afternoon at the beach with my youngest playing in the surf, searching for sand dollar skeletons and skipping them like rocks. And while I have no objective way to measure what my experience might have been were I in a bikini, this is what I know: I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this joyful experience for anything!
So this summer, I’m choosing to wear a full piece because it’s what enables me to be most present and maximize my joy. I invite you to do the same.
Are you interested in exploring this and more topics like it? You might enjoy the Super You Mindset. This virtual on-demand course is a deep dive into everything from Diet Culture and Self-Objectification to re-defining our own unique vision of health and fitness. It’s been called life-changing and transformative. Learn more here.