Why I think building a “beach body” or “bikini body” is a bad goal

In the fitness world, you hear a lot about people wanting to have a beach body, or a bikini body.  I hear those specific phrases from my readers on a pretty regular basis.  And, the popular media seems happy to use those terms as well.

Now, I’m all for getting ripped and looking good in a swimsuit.  But I think the popular notion of having a beach body is misguided, and the people who say they want to have a beach body are misunderstanding what their issue is and what will solve it, so today I’m going to explain why.

First off, what are people thinking when they say they want a beach body?  They’re thinking they’re out of shape, and that makes them embarrassed to show off their body.  So they figure they’ll get into shape, then they’ll look good, and then they’ll feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit in public.

Perhaps too comfortable
Perhaps too comfortable

The problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes a one to one relationship between your appearance and your level of confidence in, and comfort with your body.  It assumes that you’re uncomfortable in a swimsuit purely because you’re out of shape, and getting into shape will automatically lead to feeling comfortable.  But that’s not how confidence works.

The world is full of people who look good, but don’t feel like they do.  These are the women who have “bikini bodies,” but still feel embarrassed to be seen in a bikini.  There are also some people who are just the opposite- like Borat, or anyone sporting a man bun, they think they look good, but they really don’t.

The reality is, there’s not a one to one relationship between competence and confidence.  Check out this amazing audition video from America’s Got Talent:


Notice a) how amazingly good he is, and b) his utter lack of confidence around singing in front of an audience.  Practicing in private made him a good singer, but it didn’t make him a confident performer.  To get comfortable doing something, you actually have to do that thing.

If you want to feel comfortable wearing a bikini in public, having a bikini body will probably help a bit, but it won’t let you skip straight past the discomfort to the part where you feel totally relaxed being half-naked in public.  You have to spend some time wearing a bikini in front of other people, and simply push through the discomfort.  In fact, I’ve met a few women who say they became more confident in their bodies by modelling, go-go dancing, stripping, or burlesque dancing.  That’s a much more effective approach to getting comfortable with your body- confront the source of your discomfort until you simply become desensitised to it.

If you feel uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit in public, the best solution is to…wear a swimsuit in public.  Go ahead and work on your physique too, sure, but don’t think that getting into shape will give you all the confidence you need.  More importantly, don’t let your embarrassment deprive you of the simple joys of spending a day at the beach, or lounging around a pool.  There is no beach body; there is only your body, and the best and fastest way to build your confidence in it is to start now.