I joke that I came out of the womb a size medium; I bypassed the “small” stage completely. I didn’t notice it very often when I was really young — our school uniforms made us all look the same for the most part. It wasn’t until our end-of-the-year pool party in fifth grade that I really became aware of it. This was the first time that my entire grade, boys included, would be together for an event outside of school, and it was definitely the first time we were all together in our bathing suits.
I showed up with my best friend Kyle, and for the first time in my life I was wearing a two-piece bathing suit. I bought it just for this event, and even though I knew I was not as skinny as seemingly every girl in the fifth grade, I loved that pink bikini. I walked in, hugged my friends, and jumped in the water. Only twenty-ish minutes had gone by when one of the girls called my name and motioned me over to her. I hopped out of the pool and walked proudly toward what would be my first real moment of insecurity, as she looked at me and said, “you should not be wearing that bathing suit — either cover up or call your mom to come get you, that’s just embarrassing.”
I nodded, hung my head, walked to the bathroom, and hid until it was time to go home.
Let’s fast forward ten years to last week. After learning about healthy eating habits, getting active, and growing approximately 18 inches taller, I was back in a pink bathing suit, and I was on the beach with my mom, my sister, and her fiancé. I posted a picture on Instagram with some silly caption, and I didn’t think about it again.
But I got some text messages that night at dinner, and oh my have I thought about it again.
The messages were from a boy that I know who works for a christian organization, and he was out-right shaming me for posting this picture on Instagram. He told me that I wasn’t a good role model for young girls; he mocked me by insinuating that I’d never heard of a one-piece bathing suit. He scolded me about my immoral behavior, and he implied that I wanted the world to see how “attractive” I am and get the attention of every boy who sees me.
I’m sure you can imagine how immediately overwhelmed and offended I was by these allegations.
But after taking some time to process it all, I had many words for him:
First of all, I try with all my might to be a good role model for younger girls. Do I sometimes (often times) fail and try again? Absolutely, but I do not consider this picture a failing on my part. I consider it to be a fun moment on the beach that I was lucky enough to capture on camera and share with my friends. The content of my character, the way I respect others or treat them with kindness is not determined by what I choose to wear on the beach in 95 degree weather.
There was a significant period of time in my life when I would not attend a pool party, I would not go bathing suit shopping with my friends, and I wouldn’t even look in the mirror during the summer months because I wanted everything covered. You’re talking to the girl who not only knows what a one-piece bathing suit is, but would only be seen in them out of fear and insecurity. The fact that I have arrived at a place where I can wear a bikini on the beach is something that should be celebrated, not judged. I want people to look at that picture and see a young woman — who respects herself and who is most definitely not a size 0 or 2 or by any definition “skinny” — confidently wearing a bikini and enjoying herself on the beach.
The reason this hit me so hard is because this is a young man who’s had no hesitation in the past telling me how he feels about my “bikini bod” (lol I hate that term as much as you do), but if, God forbid, I feel the same way about my own self and dare to be confident publicly? I am suddenly worthy of judgment. I am suddenly a terrible role model. This is a young man who leads high school boys in their faith, teaching them how they should respect and treat young women, meanwhile he is demoralizing me for wearing a two-piece bathing suit. Most of all, this is a young man who will, one day, have a wife who feels this same sense of confusion and insecurity about her body. She won’t know when she is allowed to feel confident or feel good in her own skin. She’ll always worry about causing a fight when she puts on an outfit, because she will never understand the double standard he upholds. She will look to him for physical validation instead of believing in her own self worth and beauty.
I want to stress this point the most: ladies, you are allowed to be confident, wear a bikini — and yes! — post a picture on Instagram while maintaining a strong love for Jesus. You are allowed to feel good about yourself and be an upright, honorable young woman. You can boldly and fearlessly be and go, while still deserving the utmost respect from every individual. You never deserve judgment.
You are so loved and so worthy of good things.