I leave home each weekday perfectly attired and coiffed for work. I take inordinate care to look professional and appear my best, paying attention to every detail from hair to make up to the dress and heels that complement my forecast for the day ahead. A flatiron, Sephora, Spanx, push-up bras, Tahari dresses, and three-inch pumps are my trusted and loyal friends; partners in creating an image to match my projected personality and outlook on life.
From my early days at IBM, I came to understand that perception is reality and that you only have one shot at getting that “first impression” rose. So I don’t take chances with my appearance. I’ve also learned that you never know who you may meet and how or when he or she could end up changing your life if the chemistry is right.
Despite all this, I confess that I am FAR from perfect. It was only last week that I was overcome with feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment — and even tears — when I went shopping for a new bathing suit. (Way to bring on the insecurities!)
For as long as I can remember, buying bathing suits has been a torturous affair. First of all, the lighting in store dressing rooms is horrible. Do they not understand that fluorescent lights cast aging shadows and do not flatter women’s complexions? Next, three-way mirrors are cruel. Why would anyone want to see their cellulite in triplicate? Then there is the issue of the bathing suits themselves. Why can’t someone design something that actually fits and flatters the figure of a real woman? I always have to try on hundreds to find a one-piece that is marginally acceptable.
Today I had a mini “Aha!” moment. Facebook circulated a BuzzFeedNews post called “We Tried On Victoria’s Secret Bathing Suits And This Is What Happened.” It is about a group of women from the BuzzFeed staff who decided to turn themselves into Victoria’s Secret swimsuit models by donning a suit and striking a pose that copied those assumed by real models. I have to say up front that I admire their candor and bravery. I wouldn’t have had the nerve (unless I became a bodybuilder and underwent massive amounts of plastic surgery), so kudos to them.
Why did they do this? For decades now, women have watched men drool over Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit editions, Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, or any number of girlie magazines. Even if we all know that many of the bodies depicted have plastic parts (think toys!) or that the photographs are airbrushed, images of beauty are portrayed in ways that “normal” women simply cannot aspire or live up to. They make us feel blah about ourselves. So, the BuzzFeed team wanted to shed a light on what real beauty looks like.
And what did they learn in the process? Stop trying to compare yourself to models; there are more of us than them. (And if that’s what he wants you to be, dump him!) Any sized woman can be fabulous and sexy, even with scars and stretch-marks and something to grab on to. Celebrate your body and do what makes YOU happy. Remember that having and radiating confidence is what makes you beautiful. And finally, the world is a runway for all of us…so proudly strut your stuff.
Okay. I found and bought a two-piece bathing suit. My first in years and years. I’m going on vacation and will wear it. Now I just have to channel my alter ego — pretending I’m wearing my favorite red, silky Tahari dress…