Sports Illustrated came in the mail at my house this week like always.
This issue was the swimsuit issue.
My husband says if there was a way he could opt out of that particular issue he would, but it comes with the subscription. He said it’s awful because he just hates sexy women with perfect bodies wearing bikinis on the beach. Gross.
Ashley Graham is on the cover this year. I don’t know her, but she did catch my eye. What caught my attention wasn’t her skimpy bikini and sultry look.
What caught my eye was her size.
She isn’t rail thin. I can’t count her ribs. I’ve never seen anything like her in Sports Illustrated much less on the cover.
(Cue the heavenly choir of angels singing.)
Did you hear me? A size 14-16 model is on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She’s not in one of those plus size fashion swimsuits that cover more than a regular swimsuit would and normally comes in mostly black either.
She’s in a sexy little purple bikini and isn’t trying to cover anything up.
She is stunning.
It makes me feel like taking a victory lap for women.
Hooray, now girls of a more average size can also be exploited on magazine covers just like the little tiny skinny girls do!
While equality among swimsuit models may not be the final goal, it certainly is a good sign of the shift in culture that strong confident women are demanding.
It’s not that I don’t think the traditional slim model is beautiful. I have a nearly 6 foot tall teenage girl who can give them a run for their money in those swimsuits. It’s that I’m happy to see women of other sizes be celebrated as well. Finally.
I fall into that category of always trying to change myself to fit into the standard mold of what beauty is according to pop culture. When I was in middle school I thought I was too skinny. As a teenager and young adult I always felt too fat. I constantly chased the idea of how I needed to look, as it was fed to me by what I saw on the covers of magazines, if I wanted to be beautiful.
Now, at 39 years old, I still struggle with that, although with age comes wisdom and so I do care less than I did as a teenager about these things. Even so, I still look in the mirror and say words to myself that I would never say to anyone else.
I say things in my head like, “That stretch mark above your bellybutton is disgusting, don’t ever think of wearing a bikini. Maybe you should consider some Botox. And for God’s sake do a few pushups before you wear that strapless dress.”
I’m so rude to me. I’m such a bully.
I would never talk to another woman like that yet I don’t hold anything back when talking to myself.
Despite how I tend to chew myself out in my head while standing in front of a mirror I still manage to wake up in the morning feeling pretty cheerful on most days. Fortunately my husband is also a cheerful waker-upper. However, we managed to produce two children who are anything but morning people. They start their day each morning feeling annoyed and moody.
This really brings me down. Normally about the time we are almost to school on the morning drive I usually begin my sermon on positive thinking.
And let me tell you, there is nothing a cranky non-morning person likes more than sermons preached by their mom on the benefits of positive thinking at 7:30am.
My Daughter: “Today is going to suck because I have (insert any activity) to do today at school.”
Me: “Well if you think that it will suck then it probably will. You are going to believe whatever you tell yourself about today. Why don’t you tell yourself how great it will be instead? You need to focus on what you love about this day instead of what you hate about it. I bet it will cause you to have a better day.”
Her: “Please don’t.”
My son: (he’s not saying anything because he has completely tuned me out and began listening to music through his headset…he’s not as wordy as his sister)
Today, as I was giving myself the less-than-encouraging pep talk in my head as I was deciding on what to wear it occurred to me how hypocritical I am. If my kids could hear the convo going on in my head they would jump at the opportunity to use my own words against me by saying, “Why don’t you think about how great you look today? Think about how you are healthy and happy. Focus on how inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. Think about how lucky you are to be standing in a closet with so many options. Try to focus on what you love instead of what you hate and maybe you will feel better about yourself.”
I get the feeling by looking at the lovely Ashley Graham on the cover of SI that she feels pretty good about herself. One has to feel somewhat comfortable in her own skin to be cool with being half nude on the cover of a national publication.
I know that the idea to begin showcasing a wider range of what is considered beautiful didn’t come from a bunch of women sitting around criticizing themselves. Beauty starts with the heart and then oozes out to the face. This shift in how we as Americans are trying to reshape the idea on what beauty is came from people who were beautiful on the inside. People who believed in themselves. People who saw beauty in others. That inside beauty oozed out and covered them making their outside beautiful as well.
Ever notice how someone can get prettier after you get to know them? That’s inner beauty that has oozed out. I also know people who have looked uglier after I got to know them, but that’s a topic for another time.
So as I sit here and feel excited about the subtle shift I’m seeing I understand that in order to be part of that movement of celebrating women of any size I have to begin with me.
Spring is around the corner and I can promise I’ll be in a swimsuit at the pool. I can’t promise that I’ll be as confident as Ashley Graham quite yet, but that’s my goal. I think the key to making this happen for all of us who share in this struggle is making the focus be on beautifying our inside so that our outside will show it, but remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
My beautiful Amanda!!! As usual, your thoughts and words speak to SO many of us today. I don’t believe there is a woman alive that wouldn’t change something about herself, even if it were something that seems trivial to the rest of us. We are most often our own worst critics! We don’t allow ourselves to see us the way most others see us. For example, when we see a woman we consider to be pretty/beautiful, we see her positive assets, but we immediately start having that conversation in our own head about all the things “wrong” with ourselves. I can think of at least a dozen women that I consider beautiful (inside and outside) and EVERY one of them has shared with me something that they would change about themselves because they don’t FEEL beautiful. While I believe there are many reasons for this self-doubting, I agree that most of it comes from the media’s idea of “beauty.”
For MANY years, I struggled with my weight and self image. I truly believed that I had to weigh XX pounds in order to be attractive to others…especially to men. Looking back, I realize that most of this belief came from those around me (my “friends”) and from the main stream media. I am horrified at some of the thoughts I had about myself! I can clearly remember riding the bus on hot days and not wanting to wear shorts because I thought my thighs were too big!! I would sit with my toes kind of “rolled up” so my thighs would not be pressed flat against the seat! I wouldn’t DARE sit cross-legged because that caused the cellulite to show on the sides of my legs!!! This was happening in ELEMENTARY school…I was 8 years old!!
As time went on, my body image didn’t change much. I knew I had a pretty good “rack” because I had been told so by those that mattered…you know…boys! (How stupid!) So, I learned to be pretty confident about the top half of my body, but remained very uncomfortable with the bottom portion. I continued to wear long pants/jeans in the stifling hot summers, instead of wearing shorts, because I just couldn’t bear the thought of someone seeing my thighs…even though I weighed a whopping 117 pounds!! (Again, stupid!)
As a young adult in my early 20’s, I married a guy who agreed that my top half was pretty good, but the bottom half was not good enough. I can still hear his words to me…”You would look GREAT if your ass wasn’t so big!” I weighed a whole 128 pounds!! Now you can just imagine what today’s “me” would say to him, but back then, I just didn’t believe in myself.
Fast forward to 1996 …several years divorced and fresh out of a long term relationship…I am standing at the check out counter, scanning groceries (one of my 3 part time jobs back then), and I hear a voice from my past that stopped me in my tracks. I knew instantly that it was the ONE guy I never got over. It was the voice of that ONE guy who made me feel all “squishy” inside…the ONE who got my heart racing every time I was with him. Yep, it was Rodney Beasley! Over the next few weeks, we talked intensively and discussed everything you can possibly imagine. Now, I wasn’t the same tiny little 117 pound high school girl he last knew. I was now 27 and a disgusting size 9 (sarcasm!). I thought there was NO way he could possibly be interested in me since I had been brainwashed into believing ONLY very thin women were attractive to men…that’s what the ex-husband had convinced me of.
Looong story shortened, Rodney showed me that women of ALL shapes and sizes are attractive to MANY men. We don’t have to be a size “nothing” to be beautiful! What?! …and this was coming from a MAN?!! Wow! Ok..maybe it was only true for this one man…nope! As the years have gone by, I have found that most men find a variety of women to be “beautiful.” They don’t focus on the “flaws” we see in ourselves. They don’t focus on those stretch marks all over my stomach, or the cellulite in my thighs when I sit cross-legged, or the number on the scale. What they see is a total package. They see the confidence a woman has in herself. They see how she carries herself, and how she interacts with others. Most men see us the way we SHOULD be seen, even if they don’t let us know. Now of course, there will always be those narrow minded @$$holes like my ex who think that only stick women are attractive…and these days I’m just fine with that because he doesn’t matter to me, nor do those who think like him.
What does matter is the way I feel/think about myself. What does matter is the way EVERY woman feels/thinks about herself. I agree with you, Amanda, that there is FINALLY a shift in the media as to what it means to be “beautiful.” I applaud the SI swimsuit model for having that kind of confidence in herself to wear a teeny tiny bikini for the whole world to see. Although I now have a much more positive self image, I am also not blind! Even though that bikini is purple (and you know how much I love purple), there is NO WAY I would wear that thing in public! lol It’s one thing to have a positive self image, but we also have to be realistic! Just because it comes in that size, doesn’t mean I need to put it on. 🙂
Well, I didn’t intend to write so much, but once again you have written a very thought provoking blog. Your thoughts and words are so real and so true for many of us, no matter what size or shape we are. When I look at you, I see a stunningly gorgeous woman! Everything about you is beautiful…inside and out! YOU are the kind of beautiful that other women want to be…your physical beauty is something that most women would give their last penny to achieve. BUT, your beauty is so much more than an outward appearance. I know the beauty you are on the inside as well. The inward beauty who does so much for her family, the beauty who has sacrificed things for herself so that others may have more. The inward beauty who shares her thoughts and feelings so that others may be lifted up. THAT is a beauty that all the money in the world couldn’t buy!!
Thank you for sharing your blog, my beautiful friend!! 🙂
I loved reading your beautiful story. Thanks for sharing! I can always count on you for encouragement.