Lately there’s a movement sweeping the nation: If you’re fat with poor self-esteem, you can cure this by wearing a bikini to the beach.
Social media is filled with very overweight women announcing that finally, they donned a bikini for the first time ever or the first time since age 12.
But let’s face it: Years of mental anguish over one’s plus size body is not going to be erased by working up the nerve to wear a bikini in public.
First off, whose idea is it to get on the bikini? Did you read this on a body positive influencer’s Facebook or Instagram?
It’s baffling how wearing a bikini in public is somehow considered the blitzing turning point in a sad plus-size woman’s life that will magically open new doors for her.
However, posts by full figured women who purchased a bikini for the first time or have been wearing one for awhile are popping up everywhere.
I just don’t see how wearing a bikini in public, after years of being ashamed of one’s obese body, can be a turning point in one’s life.
But if it is, then say so! I don’t see any posts such as, “After I wore a bikini for the first time, I suddenly had the courage to tell off my crooked boss at work, then quit and found a better paying job!”
Okay, So You Finally Wore the Bikini.
“True self-esteem originates internally, very early in life as a result of the earliest messages we receive about ourselves and responses we obtain from caretakers when movements towards self-expression, competency and later, self-identity, are first undertaken,” explains Amy Ricke, MD, a board certified psychiatrist with Axon Health Associates in Indianapolis whose many interests include eating disorders.
“Any external attempt to repair or compensate for poor self-esteem is only a Band-aid, and a poor one at that,” continues Dr. Ricke.
“Wearing a bikini and posting on Instagram when one is insecure about one’s body will result only in fleeting positive feelings, limited to the amount of ‘likes’ that are received — and evaporating soon after.”
Will putting on that Band-aid enable you to come up with award winning ideas for the company you work for or stand up to your foaming mother-in-law?
Apparently, the big accomplishment is having the “courage” or “bravery” to wear the thing.
But when you go to the beach in your bikini, don’t you realize that you’re not exactly a pioneer?
You’ll see OTHER fat women in bikinis too!
Large women wearing bikinis in public is almost as old as the hills. When I was a child I saw obese women in bikinis at Coney Island beach.
Of course many people will think, “Gee, look at that,” but then their attention will be quickly diverted by something else at the beach that’s a lot more interesting than spending time scrutinizing your oversized body!
You’re not the center of attention at a beach just because you’re plump and wearing a bikini.
Frankly, nobody cares. They may notice and think, “Gee, I’d never do that,” but so what?
Give ‘em just four seconds and they’ll be looking AWAY from you and back to their crossword puzzle, phone, child, soft pretzel, studying their tan or gazing at the water.
You will be forgotten in seconds.
You will NOT be the topic of discussion at that observer’s dinner party later on.
Maybe the concept of large women wearing bikinis might get a few minutes of conversation, but your (unknown) name and “amazing confidence” will not be mentioned at that dinner party or at the water cooler next day.
Since when does wearing a bikini in public define a woman’s self-esteem?
Whether or not a woman of large size bares a lot of skin is NOT a measuring tool for her level of self-esteem.
A fat woman who wears a bikini to the beach or swimming pool may still have frightfully low self-confidence in other areas of life where high self-esteem and TRUE bravery count.
Such as terminating an unhealthy relationship!
Wearing a bikini in public doesn’t magically give you the self-esteem to ask your boss for a raise.
Because if this were true, where are all the Instagram posts about backbone development as a byproduct of working up the confidence to wear a bikini?
All I see are posts such as, “I finally did it! I bought a bikini and wore it to the beach!” And then it stops there.
I don’t see any “Wearing a bikini has encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree” or “stand up to my belittling husband and give him a few ultimatums.”
Big deal: You’re big and wore a bikini. I’d like to think that children today will accomplish so much more in life as adults than working up the courage to flaunt a bikini – REGARDLESS of their body shape or size.
Wear a bikini if somehow it makes you feel liberated. But remember this: You’ll still awaken the next day no closer to discovering a cure for multiple sclerosis, solving world hunger or standing up to that bully at work.
There is just way too much emphasis on this “wear a bikini if you’re fat” movement. What a sad state we are in if this is how we measure personal achievement!
How to Build Self-Esteem that Doesn’t Depend on “You look amazing!” Comments from Strangers
“True self-confidence has to be built from the inside and once solidly established, tends to radiate outwards,” says Dr. Ricke.
“To build self-confidence, a woman must take risks in her personal and work life by making her voice heard and becoming more comfortable in areas that require advocating for herself,” continues Dr. Ricke.
“If certain situations are stress-provoking, this anxiety may be an important signal that your needs are not being met or that you need to grow and gain mastery in specific areas.
“Examples of behaviors that build self-confidence include negotiating for a deserved raise at work, mastering your fear of the water by learning to scuba dive, improving your social anxiety through therapy and then joining a group activity, ending an abusive relationship or setting firm boundaries with a dysfunctional family member.
“It is only through pushing ourselves beyond our limits and then seeing the positive repercussions that we can create new brain pathways of thinking and acting that lead to lasting improvements in self-esteem.”
Dr. Ricke is an adult psychiatrist who believes early relationships shape how the brain develops. She takes a holistic view of mental health and recommends therapy and lifestyle changes (e.g., nutrition, exercise, functional medicine) as part of her treatment plan.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.