The pool at my apartment complex opened this past weekend. There we all were in our bathing suits — mostly pale-skinned but some unseasonably tan; mostly bikini-clad but some in one-pieces; flip-flopped and pony-tailed. Girls girls girls. Oh, and there were men there, too. But I have to say, I didn’t pay them much mind. I was focused solely on the ladies. This has nothing to do with sexual preference, though. No, I was simply sizing them up. Did she look better in her bikini than I did? Was her stomach flatter than mine? It’s the ones who look really good that drew my attention most, because they are the ones I’m holding myself up to in comparison.
In a poll conducted by Fitness magazine, 80 percent of women said they think other women are scrutinizing them in their swimwear. (Who are these 20 percent who don’t think they’re being scrutinized, I would like to know?) And 89 percent said other girls are their harshest critics at the beach or the pool.
That second part there is where I disagree. How often do you think negative thoughts about another woman’s body? I can honestly say this isn’t what’s going through my mind when I’m checking out the other girls poolside. I’m not judging them, I’m judging me. We women aren’t being critical of one another — we’re comparing!
Most women I see, I think they look just fine. I’m capable of acknowledging that there are not just many different body types, but many different body types that look good in swimwear. And if everyone else looks fine, then I must look fine, too. Except for, you know, this part of my stomach, and this part of my thighs, and…see? That’s where we get ourselves in trouble: We have higher standards for ourselves than we do for other women. Or at least more laser focus on flaws.
In the Fitness poll, 60 percent of respondents said they consider themselves less in shape than other women, and 53 percent said they feel jealous and insecure around those they think have better bodies. We all know that most men don’t really notice our “flaws” as much as we do. But I think most women don’t really notice each other’s flaws as much as we think, either. It’s kind of like my friend used to tell another friend who always thought people were mad at her: Nobody is thinking about or paying enough attention to you to be mad at you for every little thing. Nobody is paying enough attention to your perceived flaws to judge them, because we’re all too busy feeling insecure about our own! It’s time we stop blaming our insecurities on other women’s alleged judgement, when it’s our own internalized judgement that’s bringing us down.