Body Image and Bikinis

It was on sale. A bright pink bikini with rouching in all the right places. The promise of an enhanced bust and minimised thighs. I hadn’t worn a bikini since my eldest was born, pregnancies being the exception. When I was proud to display my burgeoning belly in all its glory.


I tried the bikini on. And judged the woman in the mirror in front of me. The slight belly. The saddlebags. The flabby bits under my arms. The dimpled thighs. The deflated breasts. 

I am not sure what I was expecting. To see my 23 year old body staring back at me? All pert boobs, slender legs, smooth skin and a concave stomach? I tried to see the image in the mirror objectively.  A body that had been pregnant with and birthed three children.  A body that breastfed for a collective three years. A body wearied by grief when one of those children died. A 37 year old body. If I tried to see myself through someone else’s eyes, perhaps I would be kinder.

Maybe I’d look at a relatively flat stomach, free of stretch marks and say “that’s pretty good for a mother of three”. Maybe I’d be more appreciative of long legs. Maybe I’d admire someone with the body confidence to wear a bikini. Maybe I’d just see someone lucky enough to be in good health.

The thing is, even as I searched for my 23 year old body in the mirror, I knew I didn’t appreciate my body back then. I wanted slimmer thighs and a bigger bust. And I wonder, when I am 60 will I look back at my current body and wish I’d noticed the good stuff?

I bought the bikini. I shyly wore it to the beach and asked my husband if it was okay. He told me “people larger than you wear bikinis”. It wasn’t exactly the confidence booster I was looking for. But there was a lesson in his nonchalance. What was a big issue for me was a non-issue for the people surrounding me. The only person judging me harshly was me. And no-one on the beach cared a lick what I was wearing.

I asked my husband to take a photo.  Knowing that in years to come I would look back on it with a different perspective. And now I’m sharing that photo here. Not as a humble brag or even an act of defiance. This is not me saying “this is what a real woman’s body looks like”, as though those blessed with different shapes are any more or less real. But rather to say: this is me and I’m not perfect but I’m okay with this body. This particularly body, my body has given me a great deal and I am thankful. I will continue to look after myself – to be mindful of exercise and what I eat. I will try not to criticise but celebrate. To look at that photo and realise I actually look pretty good (am I even allowed to say that?).

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How are you feeling about your body this summer? Do you struggle with body image? Do you think there is a gap between how you perceive yourself and how others actually see you?

33 thoughts on “Body Image and Bikinis

  1. The Hipsterette says:

    Brava Robyna – you look beautiful in your bright pink bikini – enjoy wearing this summer (and for many summers to come)! I am always quoting authors (because I love reading) but why not take some advice from the late (and great) Nora Ephron who said “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.” Just insert some new numbers and we will expect to see you rocking your bikini until you forty-four (or more!).

    • Robyna says:

      What a wise women that Norah Ephron was. I would tell my twenty year old self exactly the same thing. Or at least to appreciate what you got!

  2. Hugzilla says:

    You look amazeballs!! It’s funny, isn’t it, how much we thought our 20 year old bodies sucked. How much we took them for granted. I’ve just lost 7 kg and am finally below my pre-pregnancy weight for the first time in almost 6 years. I’m not quite at the “rocking a pink bikini” mental stage yet, but hopefully one day!

    • Robyna says:

      Congrats on the weight loss! Hope to see you rocking that bikini shortly 🙂 I really wish that I could go back and give my twenty year old self some perspective but I guess that’s what age is for!

  3. Shan@FortyUp says:

    I hope you gave Hubby a punch in the guts for that comment! ;). But it’s true, I often look at women in bathers much bigger than me & I know they look great, they’re confident & theyre having fun! I bought new bathers this summer too, not bikinis, but swimmers that have me confident enough to have my photo taken in! And dammit I don’t want to miss out on the fun anymore!!!!! xx
    Shan@FortyUp recently posted…Pineapple Heads – Naturally Good Stuff for Your KidsMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      Hahaha – he’s a bit thin on the compliments at the best of times. And yes, it’s much more fun to just join in – I really don’t think anyone else on the beach is judging. (And if they are, then they are certainly missing out on the fun).

  4. Deb Baker says:

    YES! You look amazingly FAB!! I remember reading somewhere once that the acceptable cut-off age for wearing a bikini was 50. That has stuck with me. I am now 50 but fuck it! I just went out the other day and bought myself a new bikini for summer. I am proud of my body that, like you, has carried and birthed three children and gone through a fair amount of trauma. And you’ll see me at Noosa Main this summer and I’m going to rock that bikini (despite being surrounded my wafer thin teenage models). Because I am finally now more comfortable with my body than when I was younger.
    Deb Baker recently posted…Get Messy : Season of Magic : Week OneMy Profile

  5. Cooker and a Looker says:

    You’re rocking that bikini Bean!
    I, too, have reached an age where the most important thing is to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing. I bought a similarly lare-y yellow bikini earlier this year, it’s not the most flattering of swimmers, but I wear it because it makes me happy. 🙂
    Cooker and a Looker recently posted…Bravo VistaMy Profile

  6. Dawn says:

    You look amazing for anyone, let alone a mother of three. It’s so important- that lesson in self-acceptance. I regret not taking photos of my body pre baby because I didn’t appreciate it back then. I think I can remember one time in my life when I was happy with my 24-year old body, when I was going to Bikram yoga 3-4 times a week. No way I have that kind of time now or ever again! We are our own worst critics. Get that pinkini out girl and rock on! xoxo
    Dawn recently posted…Five Way To Improve Your Time ManagementMy Profile

  7. Carolyn says:

    I have that bikini too, except in green! I think it’s lovely and I think you look lovely! I don’t know if you saw The Beautiful Lie but one of the characters, Kitty, made a great comment about how we perceive our bodies. She said (paraphrasing here) that when she was young she only thought about how her body looked but never thought about what it could do – make another human and provide milk to feed it. I do think about that when I look at my mid 40s body in a bikini – and look, I’ll be honest here and admit that my weight (apart from pregnancies) hasn’t changed since my late teens- that it has created and fed two little people. The depleted boobs, and stretch marks on the thighs, well, they just show my maturity and what my body has been able to create.

    • Robyna says:

      Exactly – I do think we need to give our bodies more credit for the amazing things they do – not just how they look. It’s definitely a good bikini 😉

  8. Krystal says:

    Good on your gorgeous mumma!! You are stunning!! That’s the thing with our perception isn’t it… I bet at 23 you still would have picked out bits you didn’t like. I was the same… I fussed over my bulky thighs which I now know where just strong and muscly, my tummy which I now realise was fricken awesome, my boobs weren’t big enough (oh how I wish I had my awesome boobs back now)… and I know in years to come I will wish then that I have the body I do now.

    Our bodies are amazing. They are capable of incredible things. And you are gorgeous – both inside and out.
    Krystal recently posted…Comment on The Blogging Course That Defined My Brand by HollyMy Profile

  9. Collette says:

    I had a similar experience on our recent trip to Queensland. I decided to get back into the bikini – so I shopped for one. But I was too paralysed by the image staring back at me in the mirror – I seriously thought “who IS that?!?!?”. I was at the beach with my sister-in-law and told her about the change-room experience, and she said that really no one else was looking at what I was wearing at the beach. (Except for me – looking at the women who were in a bikini and were bigger than me, and admiring their ‘who cares’ attitude). Reading your post has made me decide that I just need to shop for the right bikini. I’ve never liked a one-piece and and definitely feel more ‘mumsy’ than ‘minxy’ in one. So thank you for the reminder that it’s just me that cares. You look fabulous, btw!

    • Robyna says:

      It’s so true – the biggest judge on the beach is ourselves. And I do the same thing – think how gorgeous all these women are and how awesome they are looking in their bikinis.

  10. Emily says:

    Good on you Robyna, I actually think it would be amazing to be able to see ourselves as others might see us. I am actually really good at looking back at old photos and saying things like ” Oh I actually looked pretty good then” , even though at the time I might have been not feeling that way. I think it drives my man a little crazy, like when will I ever learn. But for some reason my body image is a bit distorted at times. Now as I mother of teenage girls, I am very aware of the negative things they say about themselves, or the way they look judgingly at their bodies in the mirror. It doesn’t matter what other people say, it’s about how you feel yourself. So well done, and yes you do look great. Say it loud and proud x
    Emily recently posted…Wine and Fines :One plus Four =LifeMy Profile

  11. Jenni from Styling Curvy says:

    I absolutely love my body! I tell it every day how much I love it and every day it rewards me by keeping me here on this earth. All women are real women, we come in different packaging which is sweet. You know what else is sweet?… Your body! You are rocking that bikini…give your body a hi 5 ?

    • Robyna says:

      I love your body too – you always look so great. There is certainly beauty in diversity – even if the advertisers would have us believe differently. High Five 🙂

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