I'm Not Afraid Of The Beach Anymore
Originally published August 2015.
On Christmas morning, when I was 10 years old, I sat down on the couch to open my stocking, waiting for the rest of the family to wake up and join me after having their coffee. When my great-grandmother entered the room, the first thing she said to me was, "When are you going to stop getting so fat?"
I remember feeling horribly embarrassed, tugging at my pajama top to ensure it was covering my belly, squirming in my seat, hoping to appear smaller. It's been nearly 20 years since that moment and I don't think it will ever TRULY leave me, although I know I'd have a much different answer these days.
Moments like this dotted my entire childhood. Around age 8 or 9, my tiny childish figure began to fill out and from then on, I always felt like the pudgy kid, despite never being obese or unhealthy. I just wasn't a beanpole like I had been for years before. At age 10, when my grandmother said the words which she may have believed were well-meaning, my self-worth dropped even lower than it had already been and I'm not sure it recovered until after I gave birth to my daughter.
In my teens, I wasn't good to my body. I felt, like many, that I was invincible, but of course this wasn't the case. My lifelong body image battle has seen its ups and downs but there were definitely dark moments of body-hatred in my late teens/early 20s that impacted me for years.
At 23, when I gave birth to my daughter, my body was something else altogether. It was power. It was strength. And when I looked in the mirror -- it was scary. The stretch-marks that had crawled across my belly, thighs, and breasts as my body swelled with a growing baby were markers of what I'd been through and what I now was -- a mother. I grappled with feeling both exhilarated that my body was capable of something so incredible, and horrified that my body would never be beautiful or attractive.
Those thoughts stuck with me during those first years of motherhood and during my separation from my daughter's father. The idea of feeling attractive seemed useless -- it seemed like something from my past. I didn't feel worthy.
However, my story has a happy ending -- or shall we say, a happy new beginning. Eventually, after years of what some may call "soul searching", of getting REAL with myself, of deciding what really matters, and surrounding myself with POSITIVE, wonderful women, it hit me:
If I couldn't LOVE (not accept, but LOVE) my own body, how could I ever teach my daughter to love hers??
Last year, I felt so miserable about my body that I wouldn't even wear a bathing suit to take my daughter swimming. I could nearly cry just typing those words. I had to admit to myself that I was doing was not only ridiculous, but it was selfish and harmful. I had actually put my fear of my own body stand in the way of enjoying time with my child.
Well shit. There it was. In that moment I found truth that I needed to hear. It came from within me and it hit me like a smack in the face.
I had to fix it. I couldn't go back in time and apologize to my child and tell her WHY I wouldn't go to the beach or come swimming. But I could move forward and show her that bodies are beautiful and that I LOVE MINE. Around that time, I read this article and was inspired.
I would buy a bikini. And I would freakin' wear it. And I wouldn't apologize or hide or be afraid. I would just DO IT.
And I did.
I ordered the cutest, high waist, sexy-as-hell bikini I could find online and I didn't give myself a choice but to put the damn thing on and wear it. And you know what? I LOVE MY BIKINI. It's comfortable, it's cute, and it makes me feel like a goddess. My first "bikini moment" was in Arizona when I wore it poolside at a blogging conference. No one gawked at my thighs or was offended by my pale legs. No one scoffed at my belly. No one was grossed out by my stretch marks.
It turns out that never wearing a bikini + never thinking I could = never realizing how amazing it would feel when I finally got over my shit and just did it.
For the first time in my entire life I'm excited about going to the beach. I couldn't wait to take my daughter to the pond at our trailer and when we got there I ran into the water to be with her, splashing away, and not giving a single thought to what the world might think because ACTUALLY I was the only one who cared.
In those moments it seemed insane that I had ever worried what others thought of me in my bathing suit when I had never cared or thought negatively about anyone else at the pool or beach because of what they were wearing.
Which is why I think it is so important for us to set an amazing example for our kids. If I know that most of my body issue drama was IN MY OWN HEAD then I need to ensure that those thoughts never set up camp in the mind of my daughter.
Going back to those nasty remarks from my great-grandmother or the mean comments that would come from kids in school who would call me fat or make fun of me because I wasn't a size 0 in high school -- if I had had more strength and felt more confident about MYSELF I may never have torn myself down the way I did for most of my life.
Raising our children with a mind and body awareness that comes from a healthy and happy point of view is SO important. It's starting earlier and earlier -- I see it with children my daughter's age, daughters of friends, and it breaks my heart to hear them bash their bodies before they've even grown into them. And it's not just girls, even young boys have more pressure than ever to fit a certain mould.
As a woman who grew up with only negative thoughts about her body, it is my goal to raise a confident, resilient young girl who can see the body image fictions around her and separate them from what is true and worthwhile. I want her to treat her body with respect and love -- and I want her to encourage those around her to do the same.
Our bodies deserve to be loved. Mine, yours, our children. So let's stop bashing ourselves. Find your own "bikini moment" and flaunt it.
Because you are worthy. And I think you're awesome.