Iceland & body confidence

I’m not entirely sure whether that particular combination of words has ever been used before but let’s talk about body confidence and the effect Iceland can have on it!

I am an adult human female. The media tells me and everyone I know that my body is the wrong shape, the wrong size, the wrong colour, the clothes are the wrong shape, size, colour, that I must wear makeup, that I mustn’t wear makeup, that I must have dark hair to be taken seriously, that I must have blonde hair to be pretty, that it must be long, that it must be short, that my footwear is wrong, that everything is wrong and you are ugly and fat and should be hidden away in shame.

I have a thousand issues with all of this. But.

In Iceland, it’s a requirement to wash naked before going into any kind of swimming pool. The water is geothermal, it comes up from the ground already hot and they don’t add chlorine or other disinfectants like they do in most countries. They keep it clean by making sure that swimmers are clean before they go in. This is something Brits and Americans in particular struggle with. Showers are communal, except at the Blue Lagoon. Anglophones pretend they can’t see or understand the signs and go into the nice clean water bone-dry and caked in filth.

I’m a Brit. Public nudity is not something I’m accustomed to or comfortable with but after practising in empty changing rooms, which feels weird enough, I began to get used to it and when I found myself having a conversation with a total stranger, who happened to be Dutch, during a pre-swim shower at Laugarvatn Fontana, I realised I had developed a more European attitude towards this ordeal. In short, I’d ceased to care I was naked.

I’d also ceased to care that people could see a body that was not what the media calls perfect. Nowhere near. No one cared what I looked like. No one was looking at me, no one was judging me.

Once you’ve ceased to care about being naked in front of strangers, it’s hard to care what they think when you put on whatever you’re going to swim in. You can see chunky legs that can walk a good distance while carrying something fairly heavy? So? You can see hairy toes? I really don’t care.

I’m going to Iceland soon. For the first time since I was a toddler probably, I’ve bought a bikini. It won’t stay on for serious swimming but I want to pootle around the Blue Lagoon in it. I’m not built for wearing a bikini in public, say the magazines and the Sidebar of Shame. I don’t care. I’m going to a spa-slash-tourist-hotspot. I’m going to wash naked in front of horrified tourists. Do I really care what they think about what I look like in a yellow neoprene-esque bikini?

Would I wear it in the UK? Oh no. No no no. But Iceland’s different.

Will I put a picture of me wearing it here? No. Photos are very different from living breathing reality. But you can think of me wearing it and not caring and maybe wonder if it matters what the media would think of your body.


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