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."
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