Facing a trigger: Swimsuit shopping
Just that title might give you anxiety, right? It does to me.
Over the past decade, I've come a very long way in the body image department. But swimsuit shopping, no matter how far I've come, is always a challenge. I can feel super great and comfortable in my skin, but then I put on a suit that just DOESN'T work for me and that negative self talk I've stifled with rainbows and unicorns returns and tries to stomp on my happy.
This happened last week. I had just finished a yoga class and was feeling wonderful. The class happened to be near a swimsuit shop so I decided it was a good time to give it a go. I mean, I was feeling great! I had that yoga glow.
(Side note/tip: I didn't weigh myself for several years during recovery, and now I only weigh myself or put myself in vulnerable positions like this when my mind is in a good place and I'm confident enough not to let the outcome disturb my peace. It usually works, just not this time.)
I grabbed a handful of suits, mostly one pieces that seemed promising, and felt confident I would love one of them.
Then I tried them on.
Oh my gosh does my ass really look like that?
I need to stop eating cookies, seriously.
Ugh my boobs are clearly not what this designer wanted in this suit.
I left the store with my head down, empty-handed. That yoga glow had faded. Not just faded. It was extinguished. I texted my husband to warn him that I was not feeling good to give him a heads-up that an emotional wife was about to walk into his afternoon. I was overwhelmed by negative thoughts, totally disconnected from the self-love advocate you know me as.
I can't wear a swimsuit in public.
I need to start a diet. Tomorrow.
When I got home I parked my car in the driveway and paused.
NO. This ends now.
Sitting there alone, I took some deep breaths and allowed myself to feel grounded. I told myself with each inhale to breathe in the good, and with each exhale I released the negative self talk demon that had formed inside me. I took back control.
These moments will probably always happen. As much as we practice self-acceptance and love, we are humans. We have low points. And swimsuit shopping is a really vulnerable situation. But we have choices. We can let those low moments take over, engaging in self-destructive behavior (negative self talk, binging, purging, drinking, etc.) or we can take control and choose something better. It's simple, really. (*That doesn't make it easy.)
Next, I closed my eyes and (I know this is weird) I imagined I was watching myself in a birds eye view. What would I tell this sad girl? And then I told myself ...
You are so much more powerful than a swimsuit.
You are beautiful. As is.
Those suits are just things, and you are so much more.
When I finally got out of the car, I felt at peace. A little disappointed that I didn't find a swimsuit, but at peace with it. Because swimsuits are things, and I am so much better than things. Being disappointed and attaching your self-worth to that disappointment are totally different.
Yoga teaches us to detach from "things" and not let our ego control us. It teaches us to embrace our true selves and not let external "things" stomp on our peace. It also gives us tools, like the pranayama practice I used, to work through challenges when they arise.
I want to note that these challenges arise no matter what size you are. It's easy to think "Well if I wasn't such a fat ass I could have some self compassion like that" but losing weight isn't going to change your mind. This is a photo of me taken near the beginning of my eating disorder battle, when I started to lose some weight and appeared to be "healthy." You might think I look great! No way that girl is struggling with body image. But I was filled with self-hate and felt "fat" in this photo. I cried when I put on this swimsuit, ashamed of my body. I was sick. Skinny doesn't mean happy.
The real happy ending here is that I worked through a challenging body image moment. But as a bonus, I found the most adorable swimsuit online and it fits! Swimsuit shopping, I win.