You'd Be So Pretty If...

How to teach your daughter to love her body—even when you don't love your own.

Showing Skin Equals Body Confidence?

I want to wear what makes me feel good.

So I walked into a department store last week and there they were: Rack after rack of swimsuits. Aside from the fact that it's hard for me to get into a swimsuit frame of mind when there are piles of snow outside, I found myself filled with a growing sense of dread.

I need a new swimsuit. There will be no putting it off this year.

Nothing puts the body image to the test like picking out a swimsuit. I'm OK with wearing one -- it's choosing one that I struggle with.

I ask: Does having a healthy body image mean having no qualms about showing lots of skin?

We live in a culture that equates skin with sexy, and implies that if you don't want to show lots of it, you must not be comfortable with your body. We live in a culture that is OK with this -- in fact, we're raising a generation of girls who think they need to show skin to be sexy. Just yesterday, I was driving through town when I saw a high school-age girl walking with a guy. He was bundled up in a jacket and knit cap.

She had on a bright red spaghetti-strap tank top.

Please don't tell me she was just trying to cool off. It was 35 degrees out.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

But back to swimsuits. My husband fondly remembers the hot pink bikini I wore back when he and I were dating -- you know, 20 years and two kids ago. Back then, I wore it proudly and felt great. That suit suited me, if you know what I mean.

Today, when he happens to be with me when I'm shopping, he'll often steer me toward suits I'd no longer wear with the encouraging words, "You could wear that."

Of course, I could wear it.  But I don't want to.

That suit no longer suits me.

Healthy body image means accepting our bodies today, as they are, and dressing in a way that makes us feel confident and comfortable. Frankly, I resent the idea that showing more and more skin is a marker of confidence. I also think that kind of pressure leads to situations like this.

Not pretty.

After years of body image struggles, I demand the right to dress in a way that makes me feel good. It's not about giving something up; it's about recognizing what works for me. Showing skin is perfectly fine if that's what makes you feel good.

What do you think? Is a show of skin always a sign of healthy body image? And how do we teach our daughters not to cave to the show-skin pressure if they'd rather not dress that way?



Dara Chadwick is the author of You'd Be So Pretty If… :Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies—Even When We Don't Love Our Own.


Subscribe to You'd Be So Pretty If...

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.