A full-length mirror + Bad lighting + Bumps & lumps = Swimsuit shopping.

I’m pretty sure I just heard your ugh. Last spring, a friend of mine ventured semi-enthusiastically into this treacherous territory. After diligently following an intense exercise program for 10 weeks, she expected to notice the changes. Instead, she landed in an all-too-familiar place… disappointed with the reflection in the mirror.

Can anyone else relate? I can.

With the release of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue comes a barrage of commentary. In its most recent publication, the models are holding their swimsuits – not wearing them. They’re really for show anyway. Seriously. Would you wear one of those barely there suits down the water slide with your kids? Or be seen at the local community pool lounging with a book? Not likely.

Perfectly sculpted bodies envelop page after page.

We know these “perfect” bodies are the result of airbrushing and extreme dieting. Yet, we’ve been conditioned to believe maybe, just maybe, if we work hard enough we, too, might achieve that ideal shape… or at least some kind of shape.

“Shopping for a swimsuit can be more freaky than wearing the darn thing. Those mirrors, the lighting, the bumps and bulges you never knew you had suddenly seem magnified in those horrible dressing room mirrors. (Reality check: you will never look as scary at the beach or pool as you do in those mirrors.)” – Kristin Larson of MSN’s Simply Chic

As women we will always fight body image issues. I, for one, can look back to middle school and recall the “horror” of the day I looked in the mirror and noticed my thighs touched. The term thunder thighs (one my dad used with affection) took on a new meaning for me that day. I’ve battled that image ever since.

When I stand in a dressing room, my eyes instinctively target my legs. As a 44-year-old mother of three, I have a long “list” of body imperfections. Veins, cellulite, stretch marks, wrinkles, grey hair, and sagging skin to name a few. But my thighs remain my nemesis.

I’m in better physical condition than I was as a college athlete 23 years ago. I’ve been a size 14 and a size 2. Yet, regardless of size and shape, I find fault.

I know I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 134:19). I know my “inner self and gentle spirit” is of greatest worth to God (1 Peter 3:4). Yet, I can still doubt these Truths.

So, here’s my challenge. Let’s call a truce with our body.

Let’s prioritize God’s primary commandment to not only love Him with our whole heart but to love our neighbor as ourself (Luke 10:27). Wait. Did you catch that? Love ourself. Self-love is assumed. It’s expected.

It’s expected not just when we have the perfect body. Not just when we can stand contentedly in a dressing room. But all the time. Size 2 or size 14.

In the privacy of her own home, that friend of mine modeled a few swimsuit contenders for her husband (sharing none of her personal thoughts about her body or the suits). He had nothing but positive and encouraging words for her. She kept two of the suits.

So, can we stop judging ourselves? Can we truly love ourselves just as we are? Are you with me? Let’s give it a go.

Thy swimsuit self needs us.

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