Scraps of relatively inexpensive nylon held together with strings, elastic or knots aka a bathing suit. It's almost comical how they can affect our sense of self-confidence, aren't they? But for all the hype about bathing suits, they really are only fabric, not oracles of truth. As I continue to push myself out of my comfort zone (do something scary everyday!), I readdressed the power of a bathing suit recently.
I put on the first of my four suitcased bathing suits on a few Fridays ago as we headed to the beach. I hadn't worn it all summer. As soon as I put it on, I remembered why. Not only did the tankini not fit well but, as usual when I wear clothes that are not fitted or have too much fabric, I felt like I weighed 500 pounds. Later in the day, I looked down and saw my right breast casually lingering outside the tankini top. I can't imagine that it had been that way for long. My daughter can't ignore an exposed breast and would have shouted "milkie, milkie!" loudly. I resolved to do better on Saturday.
The next day I chose my two piece which had hints of lime green, aqua and yellow in it and we headed back to the beach. It was another suit I hadn't worn all summer but one that I liked. It was cooler than Friday but throughout the morning I noticed how much more comfortable I felt in this suit than I had in the one yesterday. It was much better fitted; that was the main reason. I had my husband snap a few pictures:
As I reflected on these pictures and how I felt wearing that bikini, I realized that bathing suits should be like any other article of clothing. Somehow because there is less to a bathing suit and more of our body being shown, we elevate a bathing suit in status beyond it's deserved place as equal in rank to a coat, pants or a sweater. It's just an accessory, not an article that gives or takes away power. The only power a bathing suit should have is to support your beautiful body.
My mother always liked the actress Frances McDormand and when I heard an excerpt from an interview with Ms. McDormand played last week on All Things Considered I thought again of bathing suits...and my mother. McDormand, age 59, said, "I need to represent publicly what I've chosen to represent privately: a woman who is proud and more powerful than I was when I was younger. I think that I carry that pride and power in my face and in my body."
My mother wouldn't have been able to muster such a statement like this herself, although the many younger teachers and administrators that she mentored say that my mom was powerful. I agree but my mom didn't think of herself that way. That's a crucial difference. And while I'm 42, not 61 as my mom was when she died or 59 like McDormand, I want to take this on. As women get older, we can get way more powerful. But it doesn't come without work: imagining ourselves as powerful, then speaking up and taking power.
We get more powerful every time we wear a bathing suit that we don't look model perfect in. That's us taking power away from a culture that encourages women to hate their bodies. We get more powerful when we speak out against something racist, sexist, homophobic. That's us taking power away from zealots who espouse hate. We get more powerful when we claim "beautiful" instead of the more socially acceptable, "cute". That's us taking power away from the marketers who appoint themselves the ones to set standards of beauty.
Seeing yourself as powerful is the difference between allowing the bathing suit to define you or the other way around. And when you see yourself as powerful, confidence is your co-pilot in all the decisions you make. Who among us doesn't need that?
Need a little more power in your pocket? Join me starting October 20 for The Pandora Passport. We'll talk power, passions, values and getting you where you want to go.