The sun is beaming down in generous rays while the sky is perfectly cloudless, stretching itself over blossomed trees and all you can think about is how you spent so many hours in the gym but still have cellulite. Your brothers are playing football in the sand, you can hear them laughing with each other and you remember when you felt free enough, comfortable enough to actually have joy in your body at the beach.
I have been this girl. It started in high school and it has taken years to heal my own self-perception, which was burdened with insecurities for far too long. For the first three years of high school I hid in my clothing, I was buried under sweaters, and tried to distract everyone from my ‘ugliness’ by overcompensating in, what in looking back at it, were clearly some absurd outfits (I’m talking butterfly printed tights with sandals and a floral dress). But this all stemmed from a place of deep self-resentment. Why was I not skinny enough? Why was I not athletic enough? Why was I unable to be what they all were? How could they not be happy?
I think I felt that I had somehow reclaimed myself in my own way and that by experimenting with how I decided to hide my body, I found a defensive form of self-expression. I had taken up the attitude of, “they will never understand me, so why not embrace that and try to confuse them even more”. Yes mom, it was a phase and it was seemingly a convincing facade of confidence. But, there was some serious spiritual overhaul to be done as I started to find my true confidence and embrace my personhood holistically.
I ditched the excessive dark lipstick, which was my armor. I ditched the self-deprecating humor. I ditched the victim mindset. I ditched the coping with my pain by treating my body like garbage. I allowed myself to grow. I allowed myself to make mistakes on the journey of finding body confidence. I contemplated what it means in our society today to be looked at, what it means to be empowered versus to be subject to the male gaze. I am still working on balancing all of this. I am an imperfect human but I love myself as is.
As summer comes, I remind myself of this work and how far I have come. For anyone who has struggled with loving themselves and with accepting their shape and size and identity as a whole, I wish you could understand your own beauty. I cannot simply tell you it is so and have you be compelled as if by some spell. But no, this type of work takes time and it takes patience.
Please try not to let a bikini dictate your life. Do not let natural stretch marks or cellulite take the joy of living away from you. You are a goddess, a queen, a garden within your own self and you have the power to take yourself back from pain, from societal standards, from awkward years and dark phases. I love you exactly as you are.
See you at the beach!