Bravery is the state of showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty. It brings to mind images of firefighters, cancer survivors, our armed forces, those who have stood against tyranny or abuse. Heroes. Legends. Warriors.
What it does not bring to mind, is a picture of me, or anyone else, in swimwear. Yet, when I share photos of me enjoying life in my togs, that’s frequently the word I hear people use to describe it. Brave. And I get it. Society has shown us such a narrow ideal of beauty that to see anything that differs from it comes as a surprise. We’ve come to believe that there is only one body type acceptable to be proud of. If you lack a thigh gap or have a protruding belly – best to cover that shit up! Nobody is calling Gigi Hadid or Kylie Jenner brave for their many scantily clad photos. (confession: I had to google to find contemporary names – all I could think of was Elle Macpherson and Cindy Crawford – showing my age!)
I know that people’s intentions are kind when they say it is brave to post photos of myself in togs. I’ve even used the word myself when sharing. However, I think it is time to stop. The underlying message is that if it takes courage to share that photo, then something must be ‘wrong’ or ‘different’ with the body in the image. That I must be facing a fear or risking danger by posting a photo of my body, in all it’s less than ‘ideal’ glory.
The first time I did it, I guess I was facing a bit of fear. Fear of judgement or ridicule. To get past this, I considered whether being judged was worse than not expressing something that felt really important to me. I decided that those who judged me for sharing were unlikely to be the people I want to surround myself with. It is my favourite Dr Seuss quote
Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.
I’ve been reading Caroline Foran‘s book The Confidence Kit and I love how she explains that courage frequently comes before confidence. In fact, we employ courage to gain confidence. So the first time I posted a picture of myself in togs, it did take a little courage to say ‘to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it‘. Then, when the world didn’t collapse, I gained the confidence to know that sharing my real self is okay. More than okay, it seems to be well received.
Generally speaking, the more confident we become, the less we need to invoke our courage. (Caroline Foran)
Being confident isn’t about being fearless, it is about embracing that fearlessness and knowing that you are okay with whatever the outcome may be.
I’m not suggesting that it won’t require a little courage to get out and strut your stuff in your togs this year if that is something you haven’t done in a long time. I’m just asking us all to have a little bit of perspective on how ‘brave’ it is. Life is full of challenging and truly terrifying moments. Knowing that you deserve to get outdoors and enjoy your summer, shouldn’t be one of them.