Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lessons from Bikinis

Sharing your writing is a lot like wearing a bikini. You’re exposing parts of yourself you normally keep covered, parts you might be worried people will judge you negatively for.

Now, to fully set the stage for today’s post, I need to give you a little background about myself. Ever since I can remember, I’ve hated my body. I’ve gone through extreme diets and less extreme diets, unhealthy amounts of exercise and an eating disorder. In other words, I have a lot of baggage as pertains to my body image. I have since recovered from eating disorders and uncontrolled yo-yo dieting, but the fact remains that my body is outside the societal norm for what people consider an “appropriate” weight. By a significant amount. Dare I say it…yeah, I’ll come out and say it. I’m fat, by any measure of the word.  (And fat is just an adjective, like blonde or brunette. I don’t say it with any derogatory meaning.)

Surprisingly, though, through lots of counseling and prayer, I’ve made peace with my body.  I make sure to eat lots of vegetables and try to make sure that I get exercise. Thing is, I haven’t lost weight because of it. Now, the old me would find this terribly disappointing and would probably start engaging in dangerous, extreme behaviors. But the new me? I just accept my body as it is, and do my best to treat it well.

One of my favorite forms of exercise is swimming. And I mean, I love swimming. A half hour of any other exercise, even walking, is a huge drag for me. But put me in the pool, and I’ll stay in there until I’m wrinkly, swimming laps and having an awesome time. I love listening to my heart pound, and I feel strong and capable and graceful. Like, an hour of swimming is nothing. I love it that much.

This is where I confess that I’ve always wanted to wear a bikini. But I’ve denied myself that privilege my whole life, telling myself that I could only do it if I was a certain size, and that I would offend people with my horribly disgusting body if I did wear a bikini unless I was a size 0. Then, just recently, I came across this phenomenon called #curvesinbikinis, all about plus-sized women unapologetically wearing bikinis.

So, I bought a bikini. I’m still working up the nerve to wear it to the pool, because I’m really truly afraid of what other people will say about my body. Which is weird, because it’s exactly the same body I have when I wear a one-piece. But there’s a lot of stigma against people of larger size, so it makes me nervous. It took a lot of nerve just to buy the thing, but I did it.

Thing is, I think I could wear it in front of strangers, but the idea of people I actually know seeing me in it terrifies me.  What if they all tell me to start exercising and eat a salad (even though I do both of these things regularly), or say negative things to me?

That was when I realized that wearing a bikini is a lot like presenting your writing to the general public, then letting your friends and family see it. Writing offers a lot of insight to an author’s private thoughts, aspirations, and firmly held beliefs. It can be scary to imagine people seeing that side of you that most people would rather you keep covered up.

What if people say negative things to you about your writing? What if you get nasty reviews on WattPad or FictionPress or What if people leave you horrible statements and one-star reviews on Amazon? What if your friends and family look askance at you and ask you, “What is wrong with you?”

That’s a really scary thought, and it may make you want to hide your writing in a locked box in between the cushions of a bed in a secure facility, preferably one guarded by scary dogs, such as ill-trained Rottweilers. (Or even worse, angry Chihuahuas.)

The secret to sharing your writing with the world is the same secret to wearing a bikini. You have to be confident and brave to do it, but the most important thing is to be satisfied with it yourself. If you love and believe in your writing, it won’t matter what the haters say. If you love and accept your own body, it won’t matter what the haters say about your awesome new fatkini.

Confidence. That’s all it takes.

Does that confidence spring up overnight? No. Heck no. In fact, it might be easier to share your writing with the public than it is to work up the nerve to wear swimwear at the public small-town swimming pool.  At least with writing, you can use a pseudonym (pen name) to keep your true identity a secret. But even if you do that, be confident in your work.

If people see that you are confident, they’ll respect you because of it.

If you’re a writer terrified of sharing your work, take courage. I never thought the day would come where I would even own a bikini, let alone seriously consider wearing it.

So how do you build up confidence for sharing your writing? Work with other writers – it can even be anonymously, such as through Scribophile or similar websites. Sometimes it’s easier to interact with faceless strangers than it is with your friends or family. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with that, move on toward IRL writers’ groups. You might be surprised to find that one is in your area.

There’s no need to have your work guarded by Rottweilers or angry Chihuahuas. Don’t hide yourself from the world. 

Share any thoughts in the comments.

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