Summer is finally upon us.
You are either doing one of two things:

1) Bursting with joy: Sunshine! Tans! Beachballs! Umbrella drinks!

2) Locking yourself in the bathroom: Swimsuits! Cellulite! Stress! (If you are anything like me, you are also wondering if skirts, skorts, and shorts count as acceptable swimwear.) 
I was invited to a swimming party a few years ago. This was in the mid-pregnancy years. (I was in between kids.) Let me just say, I felt less than stellar. 
I opted not to go to the party. I didn’t want to show any part of my body in front of other women. 
I dodged community in order to avoid feeling ashamed.
Now I’m thinking what an oxymoron that is; I wonder if the true shame is in the fact that I hid.
Women should be each other’s greatest advocates, empower-ers, and cheerleaders. Yet, all too often we (either subconsciously or intentionally) force each other into some random beauty contest. The “perfect body” beauty myth shames women and simultaneously leaves men searching for empty fulfillment in fake images, rather than true intimacy. It’s amazing how the two go hand-in-hand. It’s a shame-spiral of the worst and I believe it is something truly evil.
The difficulty is that we worship the so-called “perfect” female body without even realizing it. 
I was in Zambia in 2005. (A country, by the way, so overwhelmed with starvation, that to be called “fat” is to be paid a huge compliment.) A young African girl had a poster of Britney Spears taped to the wall of her mudbrick home. I wanted to rip the poster off the wall and explain airbrushing and gloss. Instead, I told her that she (the girl, not Britney) was beautiful.
When I wrote about Beyonce’s baby weight loss a few years ago, most of you applauded the honesty. I did, however, receive some negative feedback for being too hard on Beyonce. (As if she cares what I say.) Let me be clear—it’s not the Beyoncé’s and Britney’s of the world I am criticizing. I love me some “single ladies.” You all already know I also love me some Kardashians and Housweives. (Yes, it’s a problem.)
I am, however, unabashedly criticizing the undue, unnecessary, and unjust pressure our culture’s obsession with youth and appearance puts on women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. We are all, in our complete uniqueness, somehow expected to conform to one standard of beauty—a standard, by the way, which is manufactured, (see buzz feed article), manipulated and therefore, unattainable. It’s ridiculous. 
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So, what’s the solution this summer?
Laud images of true beauty. Celebrate women who’ve overcome life’s adversity. Talk about women who are living brave lives in the midst of challenge and loss. Raise those banners high. Sometimes I wonder if the world would be a better place if we simply started applauding women of all ages, shapes, and sizes and stopped speaking our negative body-talk aloud. I wonder if our daughters would be less likely to inherit our insecurity.
Laugh Start laughing! A 23 year-old 100 lb model with no body fat is supposed to represent beauty? For me? She is gorgeous in her own right, but I’m a 36-year old woman with a c-section scar. I mean, come on! It’s hilarious and ludicrous! We have to laugh, rather than giving into the pressure.
Live for God. Yes, exercise, eat well, and enjoy life, but also recognize the longings we have inside of us (even longings for that “perfect” body) are ultimately a deeper longing for God. In her book The Fantasy Fallacy (Thomas Nelson, 2012), author Shannon Ethridge writes this:
 â€œâ€¦society celebrates and glamorizes the firm bodies and energetic souls of young people far more than the passion, wisdom, and experience of older people. We have been conned by the media into believing that we lose our appeal as we grow older…The main reason that we barter with our bodies for the attention and affection we deeply desire is that we don’t trust God for the satisfaction we seek, the provision we need, or the comfort we crave.”
In other words, it is God who meets our deepest desires as we live for Him. 
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I bought a pool pass this year in defiance of my fear and shame.
I’ll be in the sun. I’ll be present in life. I won’t stay locked up in my house.   
And I’m gonna work my swimshorts like a boss. A boss, I tell ya. 

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