I’ve got to admit something. I tend to tell people that I don’t really like the beach and deflect all invitations to do something requiring that I put on a bathing suit. Yes, I bared my stomach for the internet to see but my challenges with accepting and appreciating my body haven’t gone away. I’ve wondered, fairly often, if my fear of being seen publicly in a bathing suit is impacting my ability to give my daughter all the joys of childhood.
She’s been to the beach just a handful of times and each time we’ve gone I’ve had a hard time really enjoying being there with her because I’m always so uncomfortable in my skin. I’d much rather go to the park, playground, farm or anywhere else that doesn’t require me squeezing into a bathing suit.
Maybe it’s PTSD from my middle school years when I was fairly overweight. It was during those difficult adolescent years that I discovered emotional eating and the pounds packed on. I have a very vivid memory of being at the pool in my town with one of my then closest friends. I took off my shirt and went in the pool to have some fun and another kid yelled at me “Look out there’s Shamu!” I was completely mortified and from then on never went to any friends pool parties and avoided the pool just in general.
Isn’t it amazing how things like that can stick with you for a lifetime? It seems crazy that something that happened so long ago still impacts how I see myself.
Recently I decided to work on moving past my fear of the bathing suit and I took my daughter to the pool in town. She had a blast! We went in the adult pool together and while I held her we pretended to be mermaids, pirate kitties, sharks and magical butterflies. While I was in the water I felt much less self-conscious but those moments of getting in the pool and then getting out definitely made me uncomfortable.
At one point I had just gotten out of the pool with her and another mom was walking by. This other mom looked so good – she was thin and in a cute bathing suit and I almost didn’t make eye contact because of feeling not so great about myself. But then she look right at me and remarked “your daughter is just so cute!” I had a moment right then where I realized that I’m always so worried about what other people think about me but maybe in reality they aren’t thinking about me at all. How freeing! This other mom wasn’t put off by seeing me in my bathing suit, so why am I so worried?
It was really wonderful laughing hysterically with my three-year-old as we played in the pool and I don’t want to let my issues get in the way of her getting to do things she clearly enjoys, like swimming and even playing in the sand at the beach. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to a point where I’m completely past my body issues but I can start not letting them dictate what I do and don’t do – and you know what? That feels good.