I try to live my life in a cliché way—to the fullest, embracing challenges, no regrets. But I’d be lying if I said that I’m like this one hundred percent of the time; because I can instantly think of a scroll-full of occasions that I regret and would do-over in a blink if I could. And I’m talking a comedy styled scroll that drops to the floor and keeps on rolling across the room. You know the kind.
I tend to be very social; anyone who knows me will confirm this. Booking a table? Save me a seat. Going on holiday? I’ll book time off work. Brunch? Eggs Benedict please. I love surrounding myself with friends and family, doing new things and making memories.
However, if you were to say the words, “pack your swimming stuff for the beach/hot tub/pool,” I instantly recoil and feel the dread of having to expose my body and flaws to these people; even though I know they love me and accept me for who I am, no matter what they see of me physically.
For me, this started at quite a young age.
I remember being stood at the top of the stairs staring into the mirror when I was about 10 years old. Since I was going through a growth spurt, my t-shirt was starting to sit just at the top of my tummy. I remember poking and pinching at my small pouch of a stomach wondering if the other girls had a body like mine too; one that squished and wobbled a little. Of course, that thought quickly vanished. I skipped down the stairs to go out and play; unaware that this thought would be something that commonly entered my brain for the rest of my life, but in a more prominent and negative way.
It all snowballed throughout my teenage years. Kids can be pretty damn cruel, and everyone is fighting their own battles but taking it out on everyone else. The years went on and so did my obsession. Everywhere I looked I was bombarded with the perfect figure, and being told what the opposite sex would find attractive; which unfortunately, didn’t tend to be me.
But, in the last few years, I have sensed this shift in society of female empowerment and self-love that has finally resonated with women of all generations; including mine of the twenty-somethings, and I have felt liberated.
I was no longer using all of my energy judging my own body or anybody else’s; and I was trying to throw out smiles and compliments to those around me to let them know that I saw their beauty and thought they looked pretty damn cute that day.
This is by no means a permanent state of mind for me yet. I am prone to those days like many others where it feels as though someone has crept in throughout the night and robbed me blind of any self-love and confidence that has been built; never to be seen again.
Confidence has so many layers waiting to be explored; like the depths of the ocean that go way past physical appearance. It’s believing in yourself and your abilities. Being able to shine and have nothing stop you from achieving anything when you put your mind to it.
In the last nine months alone, I have said no to spontaneous swims in the ocean. No to wearing a stunning skirt because I thought it clung to my stomach too much. And I’ve even passed up on sex; because I thought there is no way they will find any of this attractive, so I’ll save them the trouble.
These are things that I know I will regret. For now, I’ll probably dwell on them a little. But I’m going to try and learn from them moving forward. Because nobody is going to live the rest of their life thinking “wow, I still can’t believe that woman in the clingy skirt at the bar—what a faux pas!” But I am going to remember the times that I didn’t do something I wanted to, all because I cared about the thoughts of those around me a lot more than I cared about myself.
I know there is no “on” button to self-confidence or self-love, and man, I really wish there was; but it’s a work-in-progress and that’s okay. I am slowly learning to love my body. I’ll be taking it day by day and empowering others in any way that I can. Women are coming together and building each other up a lot more nowadays—and that is something to be pretty damn smiley about in the meantime.