I’m quite convinced that the greatest perk of apartment living in the summertime is daily access to a pool. It’s even better on a day off in the middle of the week when I know it won’t be crowded. There’s not much that beats laying in the sun reading a good book, listening to some summer jams, or just relaxing by the water. As someone who doesn’t really enjoy swimming in water I can’t see the bottom of, a nice clean pool does just the trick 🙂 The first time I decided to go this summer (still can’t believe it’s almost half over already!), I packed a quick bag with a towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, water, and a good book. After checking the window to make sure it wasn’t super crowded, I built up my courage to go by myself #socialanxiety and made my plan of attack as I walked to the pool. I scoped out a chair that was in a good spot, but not too close to other people, set down my towel, sucked in my abs, threw on my sunglasses, and tried to relax.
As a naturally fair-skinned person, I told myself I’d lay in the sun for 15 minutes and then put sunscreen on- that way I’d get a nice little tan. Well, 15 minutes quickly turned into 30 and I decided I better put on some sunscreen.. The funny thing is, sunburn never looks like it’s happening until you go inside, and 2 hours later your skin is producing its own heat waves.. I could almost hear the sun laughing at me, “You want a little skin cancer with that 30 minute “tan”, Natalie??” I. Was. So. Sunburnt. My chest and abdomen hurt so bad. The next few days were miserable and I did my best to avoid the sun at all costs! My poor skin, which spent all last summer inside studying for nursing school, wasn’t quite prepared for the intensity of the summer sun. Lesson learned. You can now find me applying sunscreen before I walk out the door! But that wasn’t the end of my poolside struggles..
Back to that social anxiety I mentioned before.. I’ve been to the pool a few times now, and each time I freak out a little less about how many people are there, and if they’re all going to turn and stare at me as I walk in. Maybe it just takes some getting used to. But social anxiety isn’t the only little thing that eats at my heart. Comparison seems to happily greet me at the doorway every time. I get to the pool, relax in a chair while trying not to make a fool of myself, and then I analyze everyone else there. My head fills with different thoughts that go something like this.. “Gosh I really hope no one is looking at me. Wow, I wish my legs looked like hers–she must workout like every day. If only I was a few inches taller. If I had abs like that girl over there, I wouldn’t be afraid to walk around in a bikini either. Must be nice. Maybe I should have worked out instead of coming to the pool today. Oh, she has such pretty, long hair! That’s so much cuter than the frizzy braid I’m rockin right now. How did she even get so perfectly tan already? Its only June..”
As I laid there, I watched another girl walk in, set her stuff down, and immediately dive in the water all by herself. She was the only one in the water. As she swam for a bit, I laid in the heat wiping the sweat from my lip wishing I had the kind of confidence she had. To just walk in, jump in the pool, and act like she didn’t care if anyone was watching or what they thought. Wow, I envied her as I pondered how I could get myself to get out of my chair and walk over to even just sit with my feet in the water…
What horrible thoughts to have. How can I so easily get wrapped up in those comparisons? That’s a pretty raw, honest confession, but I’d bet money that I’m not the only person who has ever done this. I’m guessing you probably have too–because I’ve heard some of the prettiest girls call themselves ugly, or complain about their bodies. We’ve all been there. I even asked some of my friends for honest responses to whether of not they find themselves comparing their bodies/hair/ect to other girls at the pool in a negative way. Here are some of the responses…
“Absolutely. Basically always!”
“Oh yea, always. Usually followed by man, I should be working out instead.”
“I would say I compare my body 100% to others…I look at others that I view as larger or less fit than me and feel better and vice versa, see people more fit than me and lose confidence.”
Girls! We’re ALL doing it. 100% of the people I asked agreed. That girl you’re comparing yourself to is probably also flooded with her own insecurities and maybe even comparing herself to you. It’s just a big cycle of negativity and decreasing self confidence. So how do we fix it? How do we stop comparing every little flaw about ourselves to the girl two chairs over with the perfect bikini body and cute hair? The Bible tells us “you are fearfully and wonderfully made,” we just need to believe that and it’ll all be okay-right? If only it were that easy…
I can guarantee you, the things you’re self conscious about, the lies you let yourself believe, no one else thinks–no one else would ever say those things to you. So why do we when we stand in front of the mirror every day? I imagine God feeling so hurt by the ways we talk to ourselves. Hating the features about ourselves that He so precisely created to be just the way they are. How do we start seeing ourselves the way He sees us? A quote by one of my favorite bloggers, Jordan Lee, sums it up pretty well:
“We see ourselves as God sees us when we stop looking so dang hard at ourselves and start looking at Jesus more.”
When we uncover the superficial beauty of the surface, and dig a little more into the parts of our heart these thoughts stem from, we can find a solution. I recently read through a wonderful book called “Uninvited” by Lysa TerKeurst and love her take on this. She stated,
“Old patterns of thought must be torn out, and a new way of looking at the core of who I am using God’s truth has to be put into place. My identity must be anchored to the truth of who God is and who He is to me. Only then can I find a stability beyond what my feelings will ever allow.”
(For more info on this book and other good reads, check out my bestie’s blog post here!) The lies you tell yourself, have been overcome. God looks at you and sees Jesus. He sees you and loves you in the glory of all your flaws. When we shift our focus from our flaws to His flawlessness, we are reminded that indeed we have been wonderfully made and uniquely created to be just the way we are. He holds the freedom from comparison, and his grace reaches into the deepest places in our hearts.
I don’t think the struggle will ever just disappear or be easily overcome for you or I. Comparison will continue to pop into our lives at inconvenient times. But the good news is, you don’t have to set up camp there. You don’t have to live in the struggle. Maybe it’s more about recognizing it, and changing our focus when we do. Maybe it’s about reminding ourselves that God is bigger than our struggles, and though we can’t always avoid them, He loves us in spite of them. Maybe instead of comparing ourselves to the perceived perfection we find in someone else, we start comparing ourselves and our hearts to Jesus-the author and true standard of perfection. So join me in wearing your swimsuit to the pool with confidence this summer, and don’t worry about sucking in your gut–you’re worth more than the lies the devil whispers in your ear!
As always, thanks so much for stopping by!