I hate wearing swimsuits.
The beach has never been my thing. I know. For a Floridian, that means a whole lot. When I was little, I hated the sand so much that I wore rain boots to the beach. I thought that was why I hated the beach. As I got older, I realized I hated the beach for another reason — swimsuits.
Now, when you don't like something, it makes sense to avoid it. I did for as long as I could.
When people asked me to go to the beach in high school, I always suggested an alternative idea. It was always too hot or too far away to go to the beach. The first excuse worked, but I don't know where I got the second one. I live in Florida for goodness sakes. I realized that I couldn't keep running away, though. Nothing good happens when you run away.
Over time, I realized that I didn't hate the beach. I just didn't love myself.
Realizing that you don't love yourself as much as you should isn't an ideal realization to have, I suppose. You see, my problem wasn't with swimsuits. My problem was with myself. I'm a raging perfectionist, so I can stand in front of you and tell you the smallest things that are wrong before I even get started on the things that are right. Yes, I can be critical to others, but I'm even more critical of myself. I struggle to be kind to myself. I struggle to look in the mirror and be okay with who I see some days.
I struggle to be kind to my body, but I'm working on it.
It's been a process for sure. When you don't go to the beach, you don't need a swimsuit. That seems obvious, right? Problem solved — or so I thought. That was until I received an agenda for my staff retreat — and it included a trip to the waterfront.
I pushed off buying another swimsuit for as long as I could. The one I bought my first year of high school was worn out and far too small to even consider. I hadn't even looked at an actual bathing suit yet, and I was already mad at myself. I was mad because I was no longer the same size I was my freshman year of high school. I had grown, and immediately, I thought that was a bad thing. Still, I didn't have a choice. I had to buy something.
As I shopped for swimsuits, I shut down.
I'm not even kidding when I tell you that I went to all the stores in my hometown that even had a remote chance of selling swimsuits. It was an awful experience. Some that I thought were my size wouldn't even go up my thighs. Others drew attention to my insecurities. I stood there looking in the mirror each and every time, frustrated with myself. I was frustrated because I was no longer a size zero with a thigh gap. I almost gave up. I just wouldn't go.
Now, if you know me, you know that I hate quitting.
I say that I hate quitting on a daily basis. If I say I'm going to quit or not go to something, you know that something's wrong. As I stood in front of that mirror on the verge of tears, I realized that I couldn't do that to myself. I couldn't avoid a situation just because I was afraid or embarrased or mad at myself. I had to show up, even if I didn't want to love myself in that moment.
I couldn't my insecurity stop me from showing up. And so, I bought the swimsuit.
Was I happy about it? Not really. Did I do it? Yes. I know you're probably thinking that it's not that big of an accomplishment to buy a swimsuit. Anyone can do it, I suppose. For me, it was something deeper — it was looking at my fears dead in the face and doing something about it. And I did.
The day of the retreat, I threw on the bathing suit and shorts. I threw on my sandals and sunglasses and looked in the mirror. I challenged myself to say some things I loved about myself instead of tearing myself apart in the mirror.
Have I gained some weight since last year? Of course. Do I have a thigh gap anymore? Nope. But was I going to show up? Yes. I'm glad I did.
I'll never be that girl who loves wearing swimsuits.
I'm never going to be the girl who throws on a swimsuit or the girl who spends the entire day at the beach taking pictures for Instagram. I'm never going to be that girl who has an entire collection of swimsuits in her closet or jumps at the opportunity to go the beach. That's just not me. I'm starting to be okay with that.
I will be the girl who learns to love herself, though.
Every single day, I try to speak some truth to myself. My body does everything in its power to keep me alive. It does a pretty good job at that, so why do I care if a swimsuit doesn't look just right or if I go up a size? Every scar, scratch, and pound tells a story. It's my job to honor that story, even when it's hard.
And so, I encourage you to go love yourself —love yourself hard.
Realize that the number on a scale or the size on your tag aren't indicative of your worth. Speak love to yourself. Speak love to others.
I can sit here and tell you about times when people have told me to stand up straighter or suck in my stomach. I can tell you that those moments were hurtful and moments that I won't forget for a long time. I can sit here and tell you moments where I've told myself the same thing.
I can also sit and tell you that those things do no good. You know what is good? It's good that I have a healthy relationship with food. It's good that I'm growing and breathing and alive. It's good that I'm starting to love myself. Loving myself is a process, but it's good. Good things can be hard, but they're worth it.
And so, I'll chase the good.