It's finally summer! And guess what that means? Watermelon, beach days and sleeping late. But it also means something that many dread: swimsuit season.
The world puts two pressures women during swimsuit season. The first pressure urges girls to attain an unhealthy, impossible ideal of "beauty" as displayed by magazines and catalogs. The second pressure urges them not to care at all about what they look like but make up for it with confidence and "real beauty."
I don't believe in either.
I believe that pursuing a healthy and fit body is good and rewarding, but it is only skin deep. More than a bikini body, I want a beautiful soul. I want to take the focus that the world urges me to spend on either attaining or rebuking the "perfect body" and refocus it on building loveliness in my heart.
Because "real beauty" doesn't look like a fruit basket of figures confidently wearing bikinis. "Real beauty" is beauty of the soul, independent of the body. It is found in the beauty of the God who created all of humanity. It isn't avoiding looking nice, but it is rather seeking something more important than the outward appearance, and if looking nice can happen too, great!
But how can you achieve such a balance?
1. Count moments more than calories.
Here's the thing about counting calories, the people that do this always think about their calorie intake. It's a rhythm that ingrains itself into their daily lives. But what if you counted your moments like people count calories? What if you regularly stopped to enjoy life and appreciate the opportunities given to you? Write down the little things that make up your day. Let them add up and overflow to create a beautiful soul. Pour out thanksgiving to God, the giver of all good things (James 1:17).
2. Build friendships more than a six-pack.
I've wanted a six-pack for the longest time, but let me tell you something: that takes work! Just so, friendships take work, but they are far more worthy than a six-pack. Friendships last lifetimes, bring joy and challenge you in ways you could never image. A six-pack just gives your pride a pat on the back. So maybe instead of hitting the gym time and time again, go out to coffee with a friend. Better yet, bring your friend with you to the gym. Double tasking.
3. Focus on your passions more than your weight.
I struggle with my thoughts on my weight. It easily becomes something that defines me, but do I want to be defined by something so shallow and so easily destroyed by a dozen donuts? No! I want to be defined by Jesus Christ. I want to be defined by the personality and passions that He has given me.
Rather than thinking about your weight and letting it define you, what if you focused on the passions that God gave you? Instead of going one more lap, next time you might just sit down and write something, create music or learn something new. Don't let a number define you, let Jesus define you.
4. Have glowing smiles more than glowing legs.
No, I am not suggesting that you invest in teeth-whitening strips more than self-tanner. I just remember one summer when I visited a long-distance friend at the beach. We hardly ever saw each other during the year, and I looked forward to talking and laughing with her for hours. She, on the other hand, just wanted to quietly work on her tan all afternoon. Those tan skins cells left her body quickly, but that potentially laughter-filled conversation could have lasted in our memories forever.
5. Get rid of selfishness more than fat.
When you look down to the root of your desires for a bikini body, you often meet something ugly: selfishness. This drive for a slim, fit, tan look doesn't benefit others unless they just want to feast their eyes on your body, and I don't know about you, but I don't want to give that person anything. This selfishness deteriorates your soul so that you miss out on the moments, the friendships, the passions and the laughter. You miss out on growing in the beauty of Christ. This selfishness takes something good, a fit, healthy body and turns it into something that you worship.
Let me tell you, beauty makes an ugly god.
So instead either worshipping a bikini body or avoiding it like the plague, pursue a beautiful soul. Change your focus off of selfishness and insecurity and you will see more clearly that the most important things in life can't be seen.
Take Audrey Hepburn's words to heart:
"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone."
For we are never alone. God, the Creator of beauty, is with us.