I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in over 10 years. Whilst to many it will not seem like a big deal, trivial in fact, to me it was a big step.
So, I am not a water person. I don’t swim. In fact I hate swimming. I was forced to do swimming lessons every summer school holidays and of course every class ironically fell on the coldest mornings. My memories of being in the water suck. The ocean – well, when I was young I did the whole jetty jumping, jet skiing, boat jumping thing – but come teenage years when I felt as insecure as anything about my body – this all ended. Mostly because I liked to wear make-up and feared all the cute boys seeing me without make-up on. I wore makeup because I was, and still am, a freckle faced girl. I was so embarrassed by my freckles. I will never forget the day my big brother told me, “Jessica if you get one more freckle on your face you’ll turn into one big freckle!” Way to boost the confidence of a 13 year old. Thank you Marcus!
So make-up was to stay, and water was to go. There is nothing worse than mascara running down your face when you’re trying to impress the cute boys.
Then came the transition from girl to woman. Ladies, we all know what this means! Yup, skinny legs and mini waists are no more. We start to fill out, bums get bigger and the spare tyre around the belly begins to appear. I had many weight related issues growing up. I was never a big girl. My weight sat around 58 kilograms and I’m now at 60 kg, but I began noticing what all women fear – the big C word – yup! Good old cellulite! I’ve lost weight dramatically and gained it all right back – in every case, cellulite was there to stay. I might have less of it through training and healthy eating, but regardless, it’s there. And despite knowing EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN THE WORLD HAS CELLUITE, I hated seeing it in my body. Hence, this was another reason why I stopped the bikini’s and decided to be one of those people who only walks on the beach or sits by the pool with my feet in the water. Enough to cool me off without the humiliation of having to strip down and bare all.
I’ve always admired those women who were so confident in their bodies that they were quite happy to lay on a beach or walk around in their teenee-weenie bikini. I wanted to have that freedom but felt so restricted by my own insecurities that I never allowed myself to do this. In my mind, I needed the perfect model like, size 8 body with not a hint of fat on it.
But this is not reality. Having a photographer as a partner has meant learning all about the modeling industry and the level of work photographers go to to hide those lumps and bumps. I’ve seen myself turn from a size 12 to a size 8 in a photo using Photoshop technology. Incredible! But totally unreal.
However, despite knowing these photographer tricks which are designed to heighten our insecurities to market a product or experience, there is still that deep, dark insecure part that stops me from accepting that I don’t look like one of these models.
Until now. After a long enough time of wearing skin tight clothing – and my goodness can yoga tights be all revealing – I’ve learned to really love and accept my body as it is. Sure, there are days when I would like to shave off a bit here and there, but feeling comfortable in my skin is a really lovely place to be. I use my body to demonstrate twists, turns, inversions – movement in all directions – and having such huge issues with body image over the years, it turns out this has been one of my best therapies.
And with this newfound confidence, I decided to try something I haven’t done in over a decade, and that’s go swimming at the local pool. I pulled out my Roxy bikini from a million years ago – basically still brand new as I wore it about thrice – and headed to the local swimming pool. The bikini bottoms were a little tighter than 10 or more years ago but of course the top fitted perfectly. Why does all the fat head for the bum and not the boobs?!
Feeling a little nervous at first, I stripped down. Looking around me at all the other women in their bathers, I realized just how beautiful we all look - just as we are. It also came to my attention that no one is pointing and laughing, or looking on with disgust. No one cares! The fear is mine and mine alone. My body is just like everyone elses and there is nothing to be ashamed of. I was here to swim and swim I did.
Turns out, I’m a terrible swimmer and was done within 45 minutes of being in the water. At the point of sinking more than swimming I decided to call it quits for the day. I think a few lessons might be in order… But that is a side point here. The message is that we are beautiful just as we are. And the neurotic fears we have about different problems like weight, skin, hair etc are just that – neurotic. In challenging those fears we can come to know ourselves a little more and expand our horizons exponentially. Whilst I doubt I will become a regular swimmer, as it’s still not a favourite pass time, experiences like these are teaching me to be more accepting of, well, Me. Even with the lumps and bumps.
On a closing note, ask yourself if there is something you’ve avoided in fear of ridicule. I challenge and I urge you to face this fear. You never know what pain it may release and doors it may open.
Sending hugs from me (cellulite and all),