As it warms up and winter clothing *finally* starts to withdraw into the back of the closet, discussions about body appearance move to the front hangers. 'Tis the season for ads promoting how to get the body you want before summer and different diet trends to help you get rid of those last few pounds.
Feeds start to fill with alluring "body goals." Promises re-emerge to take up that New Year's resolution to hit the gym that you dropped on January 3. I sound sarcastic, but honestly, it's OK to not go to the gym or drop those pounds!
And that's the point.
Magazines, friends, commercials, etc. all say it's time to get in shape before you hit the beach.
But, you don't need to.
You don't need to have abs and trim thighs and sculpted arms to be seen.
You don't need to look like you work out every day to be worthy of space.
You don't need to be a certain way to dress in shorts, skirts, a bathing suit, something that shows your legs or your form.
And anyone who says you do is wrong.
You can tell them I said that. Please do.
Society and (especially American) culture send messages basically saying to be worthy — of love, belonging, respect, space, time, empathy, etc. — you need to be a certain body type.
To be worthy, you need to look worthy.
But worth does not lie on the skin. As cliché as this is, "beauty is not skin deep." (I honestly have no idea who said that, but they were/are correct and I give them mad props.)
Someone who looks different than you is just as worthy of love as you are.
We, and here I mean society as a whole, because, like it or not, we who disagree with thin ideals are part of society too, judge so much on how we look and what we wear that we forget the object of the judgment is a person too.
A person with feelings and dreams and desires who just wants to love and be loved.
Who cares if you have some shape to your stomach and you like to wear bikinis?
Who cares if you don't have super thin thighs and you sport shorts in the warm weather?
Who cares if you have scars, stretch marks, birthmarks, acne, etc. and you don't try to hide them?
If you answered "I care and it bothers me to see" to any of the above questions, it's time to reevaluate your values because you just defined someone simply by their appearance.
What a petty thing to do.
In the spirit of full disclosure, when I read the questions I wrote above, I think: "I care if people think that about me." But you know what, that's OK and, honestly, to be expected.
Society conditioned me to care what people think.
Society conditioned me to think I have to hide my flaws.
Society conditioned me to think I have to work out and look a certain way in order to take up space. (When did exercise change from something we do to alleviate stress to something we do to punish our bodies for the way they look? But, that right there is a different article for another week.)
Society conditioned me to think if I don't look like a model, I can't love who I am.
As hard as it is (for me too), I challenge us both to let go of those fears — if only for five minutes — and wear the shorts, the bathing suit, the outfit that doesn't hide every flaw.
I challenge us both to drop the ridiculous standard we hold ourselves and others to in the spirit of just enjoying the world.
I challenge us both to view our bodies not as the enemy or of something to be ashamed, but as a means of exploration of the places around us. Of the vehicles that allow us to laugh, smile, hug, play sports, lounge on the beach, swim in the water and soak in the light.
Because, in the end, whether we look a good in a bathing suit is not the memory to look back on when we are older.