Lifestyle

How to get over your ‘bikini fear’ this summer


Bikini fear is a symptom of body insecurity and societal ideals (Picture: Getty)

Last month I wore a bikini for the first time in my life.

It was an unusually warm April day, a rareity, and I took full advantage of the sun on my skin and heat in my bones.

I met a friend at a beach and we decided to go for a dip in the salt water. It was evening time and the beach was lined with families after the school run and people who had skipped work early for a hit of vitamin D.

Equally terrified and thrilled, I peeled off my clothes and let the light breeze tickle my skin as I stood on the sand. My friend hadn’t noticed that I had undressed. I turned to her and said: ‘this is the first time I’ve ever worn a bikini in public’.

She looked taken aback, if not slightly confused, but then nodded. ‘Actually yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen you on the beach in the sunshine before,’ she said.

While it wasn’t as big of a deal for her as it was for me, I basked in my moment of glory and confidence.

Up until two years ago, I wouldn’t have dared to show bare skin and my midriff in public. I said no to beach trips, pretended I was busy during heatwaves and never dared enter a swimwear section.

I had bikini fear. A symptom of intense body insecurity and a warped vision of what I looked like. It was a long-term illness that started in my teens and stayed with me into my 20s. Thankfully, whether it’s the gift of maturity or the hard work I’ve undertaken in acceptance, I somehow conquered one of my greatest anxieties.

You see, for me, the goal was never fitting into that little black dress or squeezing into smaller jeans. No, for me, it was standing on a beach or by a pool wearing nothing but a bikini top and briefs.

And I am not alone.

For many women, swimwear is frightening. The ‘bikini body’ was something to strive for and anything below it wasn’t good enough.

Diets, summer and swimwear are intrinsically linked. Bound together by unrealistic beauty standards.

Life coach Carole Ann Rice says it is a strange obsession that has long been with us. ‘There has always been a fascination with having a bikini body,’ she tells Metro.co.uk

‘It is linked to shock and exposure. You go from wearing jeans and other clothes to nothing but a swimsuit or bikini. So there will always be a certain level of self-consciousness which is normal, but sometimes it can get out of hand.’

She explains that this fear goes deeper than just simply being afraid of a swimsuit.

Bikini fear is felt by many women (Picture: Unsplash)

‘I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have body confidence issues,’ she says.

‘It’s more about how we feel about ourselves in general and very often it is linked to a worry of not being acceptable under the male gaze.

‘Sadly, when we look in the mirror, we often don’t see our positive features. We only focus on the negative ones and if you do that, unfortunately, it is all you will see.’

Activist Lindsay McGlone, aka The Fierce Fat Feminist, says the advertising around bikinis and swimwear is a major problem, especially for minority and underrepresented groups.

‘It’s not only plus-size bodies that are underrepresented,’ Lindsay explains. ‘Swimwear is applicable to those of all genders, ethnicities, abilities and sexualities and it is quite shocking to me how when advertising a product these adverts consciously or ignorantly cut off a whole market of people.

‘We don’t see ourselves and it adds to the problem.’

While Lindsay says she doesn’t specifically remember a time she was consciously scared of wearing a bikini or a swimsuit, she does understand the distress.

‘I’m sure I have felt like that and I would imagine I adopted the attitude that I apply daily to myself and others,’ she tells us. ‘I say “this is my body, I am allowed to exist, take up space and I belong”.

‘If we spend less time critiquing other people’s bodies we will then in turn be kinder to ourselves. 

Activist Lindsay McGlone says women are constantly under pressure (Picture: Lindsay McGlone)

‘But women are consistently under pressure from society’s idea and expectations of femininity and what is perceived as such.

‘We are subjected and bombarded constantly with images and social media posts of what a body “should” look like. No wonder we are fearful.

‘In reality, though, all bodies are incredible!’

It’s easy to understand where the angst stems from, but how does one overcome it and embrace their bodies for what they are?

Health coach Sharan Verma notes it is a difficult road, but the first step is acceptance and letting go of the fear of what others think.

‘What I advise all my clients to do is to really look at their body and tell me what they love about it,’ she says. ‘Keep affirming to yourself that you look good. After a while, you will feel powerful and liberated.’

Sharan says you don’t have to change what you look like but making small lifestyle changes will make a difference to your mood and in turn, how you view yourself.

‘Start by increasing more fruit and vegetables into your diet,’ she advises. ‘Then increase your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) by going for a walk, taking the stairs, doing housework or anything that gets your body moving.

‘Slowly add more protein to your diet and cut back on processed foods. You will see such a difference in your skin and energy levels.’

Finally, Sharna says to invest in swimwear that makes you feel confident. If you don’t feel like wearing a bikini, then choose a one-piece, but remember that it is only you that is concerned with how you look.

‘Go for an item that you’re comfortable in and if that means going up a size so that it fits your body beautifully and makes you feel like a goddess, then invest in it,’ she says.

‘But the most important thing to realise when it comes to swimwear and you is that no one cares what size you are wearing or what your body shape is or what you look like.

‘If you feel good, then you look definitely look good. That’s all that matters.’

Do you have a story to share?

Send us an email at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk


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