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Sarah Brokaw, LSCW, PCC
Sarah Brokaw LSCW, PCC

Beating Swimsuit Anxiety

If you find yourself wishing you were thinner, please stop.

It's most definitely summer. And as we embark on these sunny days equipped with sunscreen, beach towels, and the seasonally appropriate white wardrobe, many women will be eager to proudly don that cute little bikini after diligently toning their muscles during endless winter months of Bikram yoga, PX90, Zumba, power walks and Pilates.

There are some women, though, who will keep those bikinis tucked away in the top drawer, and look upon beach outing invitations with dread. For them and many others, summer fuels anxiety about their body condition, and even depression. And sadly, several of these women will have been and continue to be ravaged by such negative self-degrading thoughts that they will no longer appreciate anyone or anything that comes into their lives. Their anxiety is all consuming, and blocks them from enjoying the warm summer months--not to mention healthy relationships and fun.

Sure, we may assume these women are most likely in their teens and early twenties, the period during which we women become acutely aware of our bodies. Surprisingly, though, recent statistics from the American Public Health Association indicate that from 1999 to 2006, there was a 48 percent increase in hospitalizations caused by eating disorders among patients aged 45 to 65. And as I continue to treat women in my practice, I can't help but notice the astonishing number of women in their thirties and forties who struggle on daily with some type of eating disorder. It profoundly illustrates that eating disorders affect all women--of all ages.

If you find yourself wishing you were thinner, more muscular, more--or less--of anything, please stop. This could be your sparkling moment--an instance when your deepest sense of Fortytude is tested. This could be a moment of change, and growth.

Take a moment, and take inspiration from this poem by Maya Angelou:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies,
 I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size.
 But when I start to tell them, They think I am telling lies,
 I say, 
It's in the reach of my arms,
 The span of my hips, 
The stride of my step,
 The curl of my lips.

I'm a woman. Phenomenally.
 Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

I walk into a room
 Just as cool as you please,
 And to a man, The fellows stand or
 Fall down on their knees. 
Then they swarm around me,
 A hive of honey bees.
 I say, 
It's the fire in my eyes, 
And the flash of my teeth,
 The swing in my waist,
 And the joy in my feet.

I'm a woman
. Phenomenally.
 Phenomenal woman, 
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered 
What they see in me.
 They try so much
 But they can't touch 
My inner mystery. 
When I try to show them, 
They say they still can't see.
 I say, 
It's in the arch of my back, 
The sun of my smile, 
The ride of the breasts, The grace of my style.

I'm a woman
. Phenomenally.
 Phenomenal woman,
 That's me.

Now you understand Just why my head's not bowed.
 I don't shout or jump about 
Or have to talk real loud.
 When you see me passing,
 It ought to make you proud.
 I say,
 It's in the click of my heels, 
The bend of my hair,
 The palm of my hand,
 The need for my care

‘Cause I'm a woman
. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That's me.

Sarah Brokaw is the author of the book Fortytude.

About the Author
Sarah Brokaw, LSCW, PCC

Sarah Brokaw, LSCW, PCC is a licensed therapist and author of Fortytude: Five Defining Values For Your Next Decades.