Us Beautiful People

The fabulous Bras and Body Image shared this lovely post on Facebook this week:

Us Beautiful People

Obviously I love this.  I kind of squealed in delight.

I am also being 100% serious when I say that this simple, cheerful, polite, utterly badass response to common, run-of-the-mill trolling kind of rocked my world. Last week I was having some anxiety/icky-feeling flare-ups, and was sitting weepily at my desk thinking “whyyyy am I such a mess?”, and then Friday I got my period, and I swear every month I’m all “what is wrong with me I’M A MONSTER— Oh.” Like at age 28 it’s a surprise. ANYHOO. The point is, I have been struggling to love my body lately.

Not when I’m out doing things, mind you. When I’m walking around or doing my thing in my pole dancing classes or messing with the cats or cooking or what have you, I feel grand about my body! I love feeling tired and sore after a dance class, and sleeping the sleep of the physically fit. I love having the energy to run around the city. It’s when I look in a mirror or try on clothes and see myself through the lens of models and magazines and diet ads and other people’s eyes that I falter. I don’t think I’ve ever once looked in a mirror and said “Yeah! Right on.” Never. I have been self-conscious about my weight since I was five or six years old. I look back at pictures of myself as a child and think “ahhhhhh you scrawny little moppet with dimply cheeks you are perfect!”, and I look back at pictures of myself in college and think “well, your hairstyles certainly had quite a time, but you yourself are Fine!”, but I truly can’t remember a time when I looked at myself in the present moment and thought that I, as a whole, looked good.

The incredible Gabi Fresh, modeling one of her designs.

The incredible Gabi Fresh, modeling one of her designs.

I mean, lots of us have seen this gorgeous woman, right? This is Gabi Fresh, and I look at her in her bikini, and all I can think is “You look freaking amazing.” Her body is no better nor worse than a “mainstream” swimsuit model’s; she just looks like her, an absolutely awesome version of her, in a fantastic bikini.

I wonder sometimes why, if I think that Gabi, or a more “mainstream” model, or my girlfriends, or strangers at the beach look great in their bikinis, I can’t extend the same thumbs up to myself. I think it’s easy to get sucked into a “yes, but” mentality about ourselves. Sometimes it’s rooted in a natural desire for self-improvement, personal growth, and other aspirations. “Yes, I totally nailed that pole trick! But now I want more! For my next challenge, I will work on doing it on my non-dominant side, or from the air instead of the floor.” Or “Yes, I totally just ran three miles, but next I want to run a 10k!”  Goals and challenges can be fun and stimulating, so we say “yes, I did that, but now, I’ll do this.” Unfortunately that can easily become “Yes, my hair looks great today, but my face is being dumb,” or “Yes, my boobs look fabulous in this bra, but my belly is puffy and annoying.”

I don’t think I’d ever considered the possibility that my beauty wasn’t constantly in danger of disappearing. I have always had the mindset of looking for a specific point at which I’d be perfect, or finally be beautiful, or finally be attractive or alluring to someone I loved. What if I gained five pounds? I better hurry to fix it.  What if I lost five pounds? I better try to lose more.  What if, by some miracle, I got pretty, and then lost the pretty and never got it back?

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I ordered a bikini this summer (the one above, by Panache*), because my bra size has changed since last year and I want a swimsuit that fits properly and feels good to wear at my friend’s bachelorette weekend in June. It arrived this week, and with the triumphant images of  Gabi, Georgina, my gorgeous friends,and other awesome women in mind, I opened the box and tried it on. And then I crashed. I mean, really, just utterly crashed and burned. Every terrible thing I’ve ever been told or thought about my body just came roaring out: your boobs are too big to wear a bikini! Put them away! You have too much back fat! You’re too short-waisted to wear a high-waisted bikini bottom! Your middle’s too thick and your hips are too narrow! You look inappropriate! You’re too pale! You’re too wobbly! You’re not toned!  You’re too tall and you’ll attract too much attention! You’re too flashy in those bright colors! You should wear something more discreet!  P.S. Your hair is also stupid!

GOD, BRAIN, SHUT UP.

I aspire to the (seemingly) effortless self-confidence and self-love of someone like Ianthe, and the grace with which she schooled her anonymous troll.  Comments like “you’d be so pretty if you lost weight” are designed to destabilize, to hurt, to make the recipient shrink back, to tell her to disappear, to discount her.  They’re designed to reinforce the idea that a woman is only worth as much as her beauty, which is in turn solely dependent on her weight.  I talk a lot about beauty coming in many different forms because I genuinely believe that it does.  I believe because I have seen it.  I have tangible proof: in movies and magazines, yes, but also in my friends, my co-workers, the women in my dance classes, in my family, in women I’ve met through writing the blog.  Really, just knock-your-socks-off beauty: it’s there, and it manifests so differently and magnificently in every woman.  I talk about it over and over and over again in the hope that I can re-route the thought patterns that years of judgment and criticism have carved deeply into my brain.  What I know to be true about others, though, I still struggle to apply to myself.  I accept any criticisms or negative feedback as absolute God’s-honest-truth, yet hear compliments and assume the giver is lying to “be nice”.  Which is ultimately hugely disrespectful to the giver, but never mind.

So yeah, when I saw myself in my bikini, I got mad at my body first, and then I got mad at my brain, for not walking the walk when my goal in life is to talk the talk as hard as I can.  Why couldn’t I tap into the same self-love Ianthe, Georgina, Gabi, and others have shared so beautifully before me?  Why DIDN’T I feel like life sure is a breeze?

I don’t have a good answer, except to give myself the space and the time to keep working on it.  The same thing happened the last time I put on a bikini, and I’m sure it will happen again before all is said and done.  The dark and cranky pathways in our brains have years and years and years of nasty thoughts and words crowding out the good stuff, and it will take time before the healthier, more reasonable, and more loving thoughts are strong enough to stand their ground.  I thought about returning the bikini and looking for something more “discreet” and “appropriate”, but I’m going to keep it, if only to have as my next personal challenge.  I’m going to wear it.  I’m sure I will feel self-conscious, and I’m sure there will be some nasty thoughts that pipe up, but if I want to be one of “us beautiful people”, I want to wear something fun and bright, and I want to learn to enjoy it.

*     *     *     *     *

*Quick review: dang, this bikini top rules.  The fit is PERFECT, 100% true-to-size, and majorly comfy and supportive.  My only minor quibble is that based on the promo images I thought the straps and band would be a bit wider, in keeping with the retro look, when in reality they’re both quite thin.  I don’t mind this in a bra, but I do think it would be both more comfortable (bigger boobs can be heavier boobs) and more flattering to have a bikini top with wider straps and a deeper band that didn’t dig in as much.  The colors are fantastically flattering to my pale skin/dark hair, I love the sweetheart neckline, and the briefs are very comfy as well.  They’re maybe a teensy bit big through the hips and rear, but I wouldn’t want to size down, because I don’t want a lot of digging at the waist.  They come up REALLY high on me, as I’m short-waisted, so they’ll keep the retro look very nicely on longer-waisted women too.  I ordered mine from Breakout Bras, which has a lovely selection of bras, maternity needs, and swimwear,  and which offers fit advice on every product page, as well as free (and fast– ordered Sunday night, arrived Wednesday) shipping and fantastic service.  Both bikini and store get a big thumbs-up from me!

18 Comments on Us Beautiful People

  1. Sarah
    May 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm (6 years ago)

    This makes me so sad although it also makes me laugh and smile and think, because you’re a bloody fantastic writer! You’re also a gorgeous, gorgeous girl and I promise I’m not being nice, I’m just telling it how it is. I hope you find a bikini that makes you feel great about your fabulous self soon.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you so much Sarah!

      Reply
  2. Laura Brasinha
    May 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm (6 years ago)

    I had lots of problems with my body. It started really early (like, at the age of 5/6) and it was though. I want perfection in every aspect of my life and my body is one aspect. The thing I learned is that’s it’s ok to not be perfect: perfection is an impossible goal. Having self-esteem doesn’t mean you think of yourself as perfect, it just means you love what you have. Imperfection is beautiful because it’s real.

    Today, I love my body… it comes with a great mind as well! and I know I’m not perfect, not even close! But I’ll be better everyday in everything I do, and that’s what matters! Not how much I weight.

    Try one thing: get in front of a mirror and search something you like. Try doing this everyday and find something differente everyday (no cheating!). You’ll be surprised, promisse.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 17, 2013 at 8:28 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you Laura! That is a really great suggestion 🙂

      Reply
  3. faustineli
    May 17, 2013 at 8:42 pm (6 years ago)

    My experience is that it gets a bit easier every time I don a bikini.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 17, 2013 at 10:17 pm (6 years ago)

      I hope that’s my experience too! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Fussy Busty
    May 18, 2013 at 12:09 am (6 years ago)

    You are beautiful.

    And that Tallulah bikini….oh goodness. Want.

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you Nicole! The bikini is really, really nice 🙂

      Reply
  5. Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
    May 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm (6 years ago)

    Sweets, you ARE gorgeous! I could totally empathize with everything you wrote here. I am a big cheerleader for other women and do believe that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and skin colors. But, every now and then (aka more than I’d like to admit), I turn on a lens of harsh scrutiny on myself and keep coming up short. Usually, it coincides with my period too. Damn hormones!

    Reply
    • Sweets
      May 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm (6 years ago)

      I once had a guy friend in college ask me very, very earnestly if it was really possible that women’s hormones messed with our heads once a month, to the point that our personalities shifted. I think he really wanted to hear “no”, because he was in a fight with his girlfriend and wanted to be right, but I was like “Yes. It varies from person to person, and of course sometimes it’s used as an excuse for bad manners, but sometimes our thoughts and emotions shift just slightly out of focus and out of our control, and we’re not always aware of it. It’s totally a real thing. You need to cut your girlfriend some slack.” Hopefully we’ll try to cut ourselves some slack while we’re at it!

      Reply
  6. Layla
    June 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm (6 years ago)

    I read this with Lana del ray crooning “will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful?” Over and over. I

    read and I felt like I was hearing myself talk, I don’t even walk out the door without a coat to cover my strapless dresses or tanks narrower than 2″, why 2″? In high school our dress code had me sent to the office to get “covered up” bc ya know I should be ashamed of my shoulders, they are bad, they are distracting to boys, they are a nuisance, they are dirty and sexual and should be covered just like my legs anywhere past my fingertips. I am 28 and I still feel like if I leave the house wearing something too revealing (and we’re talking ribbed tanks not pleather miniskirts) that someone will stop me and set me straight. We are shamed beyond belief, by our communities, schools, and even families (read mothers and maybe even fathers can trigger/ start the cycle, I truly believe that the way to heal is to set a better example for our children)

    Even now that I work to combat all of that shame, I am in an industry that makes me ask ever day to define the line between daring and dangerous. So I still look in the mirror and think exactly the words you so bravely shared. This is not a coincidence but a part of the shared experience of so many women, even Lana del ray apparently… And even the models I work with apologize if they are Pre-period and bloating prior to a shoot! Like that would make me like them less?

    Ps. Nope after 28 years I still wonder why I’m cray cray once a month too, you’re not alone on that one either!

    Reply
  7. xelestial
    January 13, 2014 at 10:49 am (6 years ago)

    I feel very similar. I think it’s human nature to think this way and it’s debilitating when we apply these thoughts to our beauty. We’re always just waiting to be happy with something when the real goal of life is finding true contentment with what you have. It’s something most of us have to learn, it rarely comes naturally. Thanks for sharing this post. I will remind myself of it next time I’m feeling negative.

    I have learned one thing. It’s all in our heads. Spend enough time looking for one of your features and it will become the ideal in your head. Seriously. Look through a bunch of pictures until you find someone with your nose, eyes, thighs, boobs, whatever. Eventually you will begin to see everything else as wrong, even what society defines as classically beautiful.

    Because you’re comparing it and looking for what doesn’t match your “ideal”, you’ll say this one is too thin, too round, too whatever. When it’s not really wrong, just different and not what you’re looking for. Make your body your ideal and respect the beauty in others and you’ll soon realize there is no ideal. Just our preferences and that everyone including you can be considered beautiful by someone.

    If all that made any sense anyway!

    Reply
    • Sweets
      January 13, 2014 at 10:57 am (6 years ago)

      Those are wonderful points, all of them, and so very compassionate. Thanks so much for sharing them!

      Reply
      • xelestial
        January 13, 2014 at 11:29 am (6 years ago)

        I’m glad they were coherent and that you enjoyed them. Your blog is wonderful and I hope more women find blogs like these.

        Reply

4Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Us Beautiful People

  1. […] I’ve been really interested to try the Deco “Shape” longline convertible bra ever since it was first announced. The regular strapless Deco bra is fantastic, and I hoped the longline version would offer even more support. By pairing the longline bra with the high-waist shaping brief I wanted to get the smoothing shapewear properties of a basque or a body in a more comfortable and convenient two-piece package, and I love that I have a pretty, matching shapewear set instead of band-aid colored spandex. I found a good range of sizes in stock at Breakout Bras and placed my order, along with my new Panache bikini. […]

  2. […] talked about my not-so-great relationship with my body before, in reference to pole-dancing  and in reference to bikinis and in reference to ballet dancing.  Photos usually make me cringe and peek at them through my […]

  3. […] I was really delighted when Figleaves offered me the chance to try a Spring style of my choosing. My Panache Tallulah bikini from last season is in perfect condition and still fits well (I don’t get to swim or go to the beach as much as […]

  4. […] I was really delighted when Figleaves offered me the chance to try a Spring style of my choosing. My Panache Tallulah bikini from last season is in perfect condition and still fits well (I don’t get to swim or go to the beach as much as […]

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