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So it's summer and you're supposed to be 'bikini ready'? Don't believe a word of it

Cliona Byrne, a body confidence coach says you can learn to feel good in a swimsuit regardless of your shape and size.

Cliona Byrne

It’s a challenging period as we emerge from lockdown into something that isn’t quite normal. We’re continuing our ‘Wellness Wednesday’ column in order to keep the wellness conversation going and offer support to our readers.

If you’re a wellness practitioner, we’d love to hear from you. We’d especially love to hear your thoughts on how our readers can navigate this ‘new normal’ and stay well and upbeat. Email your details to voices@thejournal.ie with “WELLNESS” in the subject line.

Today, given that it’s still technically summer, our body confidence coach Cliona Byrne has some thoughts on that ‘beach body’ we keep hearing about:

I’M AWARE THAT Ireland is not exactly the Bahamas, and balmy is not how you’d describe our climate, but there’s nothing to say you can’t visit an Irish beach and wear a bikini, on those rare hot summer days.

I’m also aware that we’re emerging slowly from months of lockdown and you may be feeling stressed and not top-notch about your body. Let’s be honest, it’s a crisis and that means we have been in survival mode.

I’m here to tell you that you can feel comfortable in your body as you are right now, and you can wear a bikini with confidence. Going to the beach is supposed to be fun – but when you’re not feeling top-notch about your body it can suddenly feel daunting.

Let’s not worry about the bikini for a moment and focus on you. Now is the ideal time to start boosting yourself to feel good in your own skin. Remember, you don’t have to change yourself in order to have a good relationship with yourself. All that needs to change is how you see yourself. 

There’s an exhausting pressure that’s been placed on us all to look a certain way at the pool or beach. The good news is that you can feel good about your body and be confident in a swimsuit. Here are my easy tips and tricks on how to feel good if you make it to a beach this summer:

Say goodbye to external pressure

What is a bikini body and why do you need one? It’s important to ignore the annual surge in content about “how to get a bikini body this summer”.

Imagine if we did the same with other activities. “Get the golfer’s bod” or “How to have hiker’s calves”.

It sounds ridiculous because that’s exactly what it is, ridiculous. You do not need abs, a detox, or a diet just to go to the beach. The typical picture we usually see of people in swimsuits is typically of airbrushed models.

This causes us all to have an image in our minds of how people should look in a bikini. But this is far from reality.

shutterstock_1306068883 Source: Shutterstock/Alena Ozerova

There is no photoshop at the beach. I highly recommend searching the words “body-positive bikini” and looking at images of a variety of body types wearing bikinis. 

Start making friends with the mirror

Many of us are in the habit of avoiding the mirror or when we do look in it, we only see our perceived faults. This is when our inner critic loves to creep out of the woodwork and start spewing its nonsense.

Rather than giving in to your inner critic, stop it in its tracks by saying kind words to yourself. Say things like “I’m beautiful, I look good in a bikini, and I’m good enough as I am”.

Source: Celeste Barber via Australian comedian Celeste Barber pokes fun at the bikini pressure.

Buying your swimsuit

First things first, it’s ok if you don’t fit into an old swimsuit. Swimsuits quickly lose their shape and it’s perfectly reasonable if your bikini from 10 years ago or even from last year no longer fits you. Don’t beat yourself up over it, our bodies change, it’s natural.

If you’re in the need for a new bikini, then avoid putting off buying it until the last minute. Go shopping on a day when you’re in a great mood and feeling good about yourself. Wear something that makes you feel fabulous and if you want company then go with someone who you know will be supportive.

Experiment with styles. Bring a selection of shapes, cuts, and colours into the changing room with you. How are you meant to know which styles are for you if you don’t try on a few different things? There are a lot of styles out there besides the typical triangle bikini.

Try on whatever appeals to you and if you see a nice one-piece then try that one too, what’s right for you may not be a bikini. When something doesn’t fit just take it off and say “it’s ok, it just isn’t for me”. Clothes are made to fit us, we aren’t made to fit clothes. It’s ok if something doesn’t fit you.

IMG_20200711_123159 Anyone can look good in a bikini, says Byrne Source: Cliona Byrne

Don’t worry if you don’t find the right bikini immediately, you may need to visit a few shops before you find the winner. Whatever you do, do not panic buy! This is the danger zone where people end up buying something in their size just because it fits, even though they don’t really like it or feel good in it.

If you can’t find a bikini in the shops or shopping in stores isn’t for you, then you can always go online and order something instead. That way you can choose from every style available and order items that you can try on in the comfort of your own home. As I mentioned earlier, don’t leave it until the last moment to go swimsuit shopping, give yourself plenty of time. 

Once you find the right bikini for you, give it a test run at home. You may feel silly at first, but I promise that it helps. Wear it around the house or in the garden. Allow yourself to get used to wearing it. For some of you, this may be your first time to wear a bikini or even a swimsuit.

It’s only natural that you may need to give yourself a bit of time to get used to it and to even feel good in it. Normalise it for yourself and make it feel less serious. Try dancing around in it at home to some fun music or whatever feels right to you. Remember that it’s just a piece of fabric. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Source: Roz Purcell via Model and author Roz Purcell shows the difference between staged bikini photos and reality.

It’s bikini-wearing time

So, it’s time to wear your bikini to the beach or pool on that rare scorching day in Ireland. You’re on your Irish holiday and are relieved to be out of the house after so long. You can feel good in your bikini. You’re ready for this, and you’ve prepared for this.

Give yourself a confidence boost before you go. Smile at yourself in the mirror, say kind words to yourself, and listen to music that makes you feel pumped. Do whatever makes you feel at your most confident. 

When you get to the beach, stop to take a look around. Notice how everyone is beautifully different. There’s no airbrushing at the beach. We’re all human, so it’s normal for people to have cellulite, stretch marks, and belly rolls.

This is real life and it doesn’t look like an advertisement in a magazine. If you see kids playing, take note of how they don’t seem to care how they look. They’re just excited to be having fun at the beach.

You used to be like that once – and you can be like that again. 

Cliona Byrne is a body confidence coach, she helps people to shush their inner critic and boost their body image. She provides one-on-one coaching and confidence-boosting workshops and courses. Find her on web, Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and Pinterest.

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