How to Shop for a Swimsuit Without a Meltdown

(Disclaimer: Since I don’t like wasting people’s time, if you love swimsuit shopping, this may not be the article for you. Check back next week.)

Just eight years ago, I recall going swimsuit shopping. It was not a great experience is putting it lightly. The unflattering lights, my pale legs and a less than helpful sales lady, to top it off, was the recipe for disaster for someone who had the self-confidence of a flea.

I left empty handed and sat in my car for 10 minutes in the mall parking lot with tears streaming down my face, wallowing in self-pity and regrets. All I could think was “What have I done to my body?”

Now, keep in mind that at this point in my life, I was not overweight. In fact, I had lost the excess tissue, but I was still holding onto the struggle and working through a lot of my other “issues.” You know, the “if I could just lose ten more pounds, I’d be happier” kind of stuff, or “If I didn’t have stretch marks or dimples in my legs, I’d be perfect.” Those types of thoughts would always usher in my need to go on another diet, rebel, gain 10 or so pounds and do it all over again.

Looking back now, I must say that I was looking pretty good, but the mind is a doozy, isn’t she? She will ruin your day faster than a call from the Po-Po.

So, fast forward to yesterday. Same store. Same gal (yours truly). Different sales lady (thank goodness).

I’m about to leave for a cruise out of Miami. For the record, this isn’t just any cruise. It’s the Summit Series, which basically means that I’ll be boarding the ship with 1,000 amazingly brilliant and young entrepreneurs. As a participant from last year, I can attest that the women (and guys) are young with smokin’ bodies. The kinds of bodies with smooth, tight skin and beautiful curves. I’m talking Victoria’s Secret bodies, which is not exactly how I’d describe my own after having a very healthy 8 pound 2 ½ ounce baby girl with a 75 pound weight gain.

Here’s what I do know about my body though. She is freakin’ amazing. She supported me when I didn’t feel like I could support myself. She hung in there with me, even when I had abandoned her. She’s curvy and very feminine. She’s strong, so strong in fact, that she just did 30 push-ups without flinching just this morning. She can do a back bend and a cartwheel. She can ski, play tennis, golf as well as take amazing siestas. She’s ran not one, but two marathons.

Yes, she rocks!

I figured the least I could do was to don her in a fabulous swimsuit so she can soak up some vitamin D while cruising the Atlantic.

By learning to manage my attention and appreciation, as well as some practical tips, I not only had a successful swimsuit experience, but I had a fabulous time. You can too. Here’s what I suggest:

1. Find a sales lady who has a clue about your unique body.

I have decided that a successful shopping spree is so dependent on your saleslady (or man). Their job is to help you find the best possible fit for your body and then, if asked, to give you warm but honest feedback.

A great salesperson will go to the end of the earth and back to make sure you walk out a happy customer. (Note: my best shopping experiences have been at Neiman Marcus and Dillards. NM, especially, has a mission to offer an excellent customer experience.)

For the record, not every sales person deserves to be in that position. Some are downright rude and nasty or completely clueless. You deserve better. Ask yourself, “Do they deserve to help me?” If not, move on sister! Find someone who is worthy of your commission.

2. Know what looks good on you.

Sometimes clients will tell me that they want to lose weight so that they can wear a string bikini. Well, good for them, and I’ll support them every step of the way, but I must admit that I wouldn’t touch one with a ten foot pole. Not because I’m insecure, but because it would not look good on me. Knowing what flatters your body is half the battle. Part of being savvy is being honest with yourself. You don’t have to try to work up the confidence to sport a thong. You simply have to feel confident in what you choose to put on your body.

I’m past those years of the itsy-bitsy bikini, and my body deserves to have a swimsuit that flatters my femininity, as well as my stage in life. For me, that means a little extra coverage, and yes, a sarong!

3. Consider the lighting

For the life of me, I don’t understand why some stores have such unflattering lighting. Personally, if I were opening a clothing store, the lighting would be the first thing on the agenda.

When shopping, please consider the lighting in which you are trying on your clothes. Bad lighting is a recipe for a bad experience, unless you are savvy enough to recognize that you look much better than that reflection in the mirror under the fluorescent lighting, and more times than not, that will be the case.

4. Focus your Attention

The first three were the easy ones. Now, we’re going to do a little bit of inside work, because truthfully, for some of you, it won’t matter if you’re a size 2 with not an ounce of fat on you, you may struggle with your body. It’s always about something so much deeper than your weight.

When shopping for a swimsuit, it is imperative that you focus your attention on your strengths, beautiful qualities and gratitude.

Each moment, you are creating your life with your attention. You cannot see all that’s glorious and divine about and around you if you have a flashlight shining on what you think is flawed.

If you don’t like your legs, please don’t sit their and poke at them, squeeze them or spend 10 minutes analyzing them. Those actions will not make them magically shrink. What they will do is ruin your day.

Move your attention to something you do like. If you can’t find anything about your body to compliment, that’s okay (eventually you will, if you stop battling it). Begin to focus on other qualities that you like. Are you a good friend, sister, wife, etc.? Maybe you’re one hell of a chess player.

Just focus on something positive. Learning to manage your attention is the key to a beautiful life, and this is especially important when trying on a swimsuit.

5. Marinate in Appreciation

This is the jackpot. When you can just bathe in everything that you have going for you, you will not have room for the pettiness that we can all fall into. So, you have cellulite on your legs? Well, at least you have legs. So, you have some extra abdominal tissue? Well, at least you have some beautiful kids. So, you have fifty extra pounds to lose? Well, at least you are breathing.

This is a great time to talk about comparing, which is ultimately what most women do when they are trying on bathing suits – comparing themselves to Victoria Secret models, their sister, friends or any woman who they think is somewhat better than them. Here’s some advice that changed my life. Instead of comparing, begin to appreciate those qualities in others. Begin to celebrate beautiful women. By doing so, you invite those qualities into your own life. When you compare, you reject them.

6. Jump into the Water

I remember when my insecurities would keep me from playing full out. I’d avoid the beach, dinner parties or any event that would potentially expose me to the world.

However, when I discovered that ” this is it” (speaking of each moment in life), I made a decision to jump into my life and play full out. Was it uncomfortable? Yes! Was it a strange feeling to walk around in a bathing suit after I had spent so much time trying to hide from others? Yes.

But, you know what? I moved towards discomfort instead of away from it, and it’s made all the difference in the world. My thirst for life far outweighs my insecurities now.

It takes some work, but getting to a place where you don’t care what others think of you, where you can put on a bathing suit and revel in your own feminine energy and where you can go swimsuit shopping without have major breakdowns is liberation. Self confidence is very sexy and will make up for any physical flaw you may think you have.

Now, go buy yourself a gorgeous swimsuit this year and jump into your life. What do you have in mind?