Last week I faced a lifelong fear. Not only did I face it, but I chased it down, lit it on fire, and sent it out to sea. I am 41 years old and I’ve spent most of my life scared to be exposed in a swimsuit. Now before you say , “stop being so vain” or, “no one cares what you look like in a swimsuit,” let me explain myself.
I fought a battle with eating disorders for 15 years and I grew up hearing other women criticize their bodies constantly. This phobia of mine is legit and I didn’t just become this way overnight. I lived at the beach, but always found ways to avoid showing my body. Specifically, a beach cover-up worn at all times or a sand-covered tushy always gave comfort when I felt exposed! This post really isn’t about my past though, it’s about overcoming it.
I’m a mom of two young boys and I’m only seven months postpartum with my second. I work out 4-5 days a week and eat clean 85% of the time. I know I’m doing my best, but I’ve learned even at my best I’ve never truly loved this body. About six months ago, I decided this personal body shaming had to stop. I have two boys watching my every move and I don’t want them growing up with the same insecurities (or different ones) as I did. I also don’t want them growing up with a mom that sits on the sidelines at the pool while they have all the fun!
I knew the best way to confront my beach body phobia was to face it head on, so after booking our family beach vacation and family photo session, I also decided I would plan to throw my beach cover up to the wind, walk down the beach for the first time in just my swimsuit, and I would document all of it! I wasn’t sure I’d follow through with it or even share it, but when I got the photos back I was able to see how healthy (mentally) I’ve become over the past months.
How To Have a Beach Body
When I dropped my cover up I got really nervous that all the people on the beach were judging me. “Who does she think she is? She’s not a model so why is she getting her picture taken like she is?” I imagined their thoughts and words. However, I quickly shut down the negative talk and drowned out my self-doubt; as I did, I got more comfortable with just letting go. It’s kind of like standing on the diving board as a kid. The fear is large but once you take the plunge you get the hang of it! I want to say Chloe Elizabeth, photographer, did an incredible job of making me feel supported in this big event. I’m so glad I got to have that moment with her!
I knew that once I got the photos back I would also struggle with my past habits of finding all the things wrong in a picture. And in the past I’ve felt as if I have to point out my flaws to others just so they know that I know they are there. I’ll admit that in every single photo I can still see the “flaws.” But now, instead of spending time and energy focused on my imperfections and how I will immediately change them, I accepted all of it as REALITY. This is my real body. It has grown, delivered, and fed two kids. It has served me so that I can travel, work hard, hike, snowboard, read, learn new things, make friends, and just live a kick ass life! And I’ve been so fortunate to have a life of good health so how can I be a faithful and grateful person if I do not appreciate this body in this season?! AHHHH! Cue Audrey Hepburn saying, “Happy girls are the prettiest girls” and can I also get an ‘AMEN’?!
I look at these pictures and clearly see that the size of my smile outweighs the size of my thighs! Plus, all the love in my heart and ideas in my head transcend any imperfect physical attribute. I look happy and confident; the truth is I am. To me, it’s a testament that our inner beauty really can shine bright even in a picture!
You Can Too!
You might be thinking, “that’s great, but how do I overcome my self-doubt and how do I learn to love myself?” Here are my three best practices for overcoming that internal struggle and learning to love yourself:
- Get rid of images that make you feel ‘less than’! I grew up reading Seventeen and Teen and then reading all the grown-up fashion mags. I’ve learned that while I love the fashion in them, I can’t relate to the images portrayed among their glossy pages. I cannot measure up to Giselle, Kendall, Gigi OR Bella Hadid and so I’d rather not see the latest fashions draped over their figures. I want to see fashions on women who look like me and the women I see every day in my spa. I want models who look like my friends, my relatives, and “regular folks” who come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Instagram makes it so easy for me to curate a feed of images that I want to see and that make me feel more normal. I highly recommend following Jenna Kutcher, Healthy is the New Skinny, and Katie Wilcox if you are looking for body positivity and self-love inspiration!
- Face your fears! I can’t believe it took me 41 years to lose the cover-up! I wish that I had faced my fears sooner because I’ve spent way to much time on avoiding the idea of ridding myself of this burden. When you face your fears you work through the issue so it doesn’t continue to create scar tissue. This practice alone can be one of the most empowering things you will do for yourself.
- Focus on your goods! I don’t mean those goods, I mean all the good things that make you YOU. Is it your smile, your heart of gold, or a mane to die for?! Instead of focusing on what you DON’T like, focus on what you DO like. Great legs? ROCK ‘EM. Curves for days? Don’t cover them up in baggy outfits; show them OFF in whatever way feels comfortable to you. Whatever it is, anchor yourself to it and then enhance that thing. You may need to get out your sticky notes and leave reminders on your bathroom mirror or on your car dashboard. This daily practice of focusing on the positives will change your life!
Let me be the first to tell you that you are enough and you’re perfect just the way you are! Do you have a self-love practice that you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you below! And throw that cover-up aside, please. It’s covering up incredible, beautiful YOU.