Assault of the Suit

This weekend I was assaulted by a suit–a bathing suit that is.

Most people living in landlocked cities with normal seasons can safely tuck away their bathing suits after the first brusque fall day and don’t have to dig them out until after spring. They have ample time to whip their bodies into swimsuit shape before exposing their skin to the surf, sun, and scrutiny of their 100 closest beach going friends.

We poor citizens of Southern California have no such luck.

Our bodies must be tanned and primed and ready at all times. EVEN IN MARCH.

This weekend San Diego charmed us with near 80-degree beach weather. For those of you reading who don’t live in Southern California, please hear me out before you roll your eyes and stop listening.

It was rough.  Are you ready to sport a swimsuit?  Like right now? I didn’t think so. 

I’m pretty good at not being swayed by pop culture. I’ve never been an impulsive shopper. I’m pretty responsible with my money. I’ve always been a step behind the latest fashion craze and that suits me fine. It took me three years to even consider wearing skinny jeans.  I’m not vain or particularly shallow. I fall hard for guys with sharp minds, not guys with sharp abs. I don’t let culture dictate what I buy or how I spend my money, what type of job I should have, what kind of people are cool enough to be my friends.

But somehow, somewhere, this idea that skinny equals sexy and sexy equals valuable has buried itself deep, deep within my heart and made itself at home.

Jessica Skinner, in her incredible book Hungry: One Woman’sBattle with and Victory over Anorexia and Bulimia, wrote, “Every day messages pour in, telling us that our bodies should always be diligently and aggressively attacked, reduced, slimmed, and chiseled. You should be embarrassed if it’s not.”

This Saturday at the beach, I was embarrassed.

The “winter” months have meant less daylight, less workout time, less vigilance in the attack on my body (which, one could argue, is a not a bad thing). Nevertheless I felt utterly unprepared for two 5-hour, bathing suit clad beach days in a row.

And I was embarrassed.

It’s not a vanity issue. It’s an identity issue.

By Sunday I began to believe the lie that if I don’t look exactly like the photoshopped cover girls we chuckled at in my post on Friday, I am ugly and worthless and should be embarrassed. Of course when I say it out loud or type it out for this post, it sounds ridiculous. Of course I don’t really intellectually consent to this statement. But for all intents and purposes, I believe it. I live it. My mood plummets as my perception of body fat rises.

I let myself be assaulted by the suit. 

The lies creep in when I forget that my identity, my worth, my value, comes from God alone. And that my beauty is found in reflecting Him alone.

One way to remember is to redefine beauty. To rewrite the story of my worth.  
To live a new definition of beauty—true beauty, real beauty, the only beauty that really matters. Beauty that is not contingent on workout regiments, tan skin, or toned abs. Beauty encompassed in the following qualities:
  • Confidence–being comfortable in my own skin
  • Radiating compassion
  • Looking beyond the mirror to the heart
  • My heart at rest–not seeking, not striving, just being
  • A joyful attitude
  • Knowing I’m loved and loving myself
  • Freedom from envy and comparisons
  • Creativity and worship
  • Having a heart that breaks for others
  • Allowing the truth that is inside of me to stream out

And so today, safely covered in business casual, I seek to cultivate this beauty and am thankful that my worth is not tied up in the strings of a bikini.

 ***
What about you? Can you relate to bathing suit assault?  How do you define or redefine beauty? What lies do you believe about your worth?

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6 thoughts on “Assault of the Suit

  1. I can't at all relate, simply because I've always been uber-skinny. But as a guy, that's pretty much the opposite of what society "wants."P.S. – I was born in Oceanside! I so wish I could be spending my days there right now instead of in Kansas (even though it's supposed to be like 75 today!

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Not only are you an incredible writer, but your discernment has given you keys to root issues that have kept women in bondage since the beginning of time. Thank you for exposing the truth so beautifully. I found myself chuckling at your description of the expectation to be on display in So Cal, (I was born and raised there) and as I read was actually quite relived that I (living up north) still had some time to "loose those extra pounds." When you asked, "Are you ready to sport a swimsuit? Like right now?" I almost answered out loud, "No!" I love how real and vulnerable you are. Thank you for allowing yourself to be exposed, to be free…you are pulling others into freedom right along side of you. Your freedom is beautiful!

  3. Aly Lewis says:

    Thanks, Jessica! Thank you for your own example of freedom and vulnerability. I'm so glad we are on this journey together.

  4. Aly Lewis says:

    Yeah, guys often have a whole different set of expectations and body image issues. 75 is warmer than San Diego today!

  5. By the way, please feel free to share any pertinent posts on my facebook page any time. Your voice needs to be heard! I reposted it for everyone. 🙂

  6. Aly Lewis says:

    Thanks Jessica! Will do.

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