I can see myself, tiny, red curly hair bouncing all around me, running into the lake straight through a wave taller than me. I was maybe 6, enjoying the beach with my family. I was wearing the cutest bikini, sand plastered everywhere, belly out in all its glory and I didn’t care. That is the last memory I have of being so carefree about my body. Since then my beach days and even my everyday life, have been clouded by the constant need to meet other people’s impossible standards. Suck it in, cover it up, don’t show your stomach, don’t sit like that, bend your body to make it look thinner, I am always painfully aware of others’ perspectives of me. Even though I can’t mindread, my eating disorder fills in all the blanks quickly, telling me what other people “must think.”
The reality is though, most people don’t even notice me. Not in a mean way, more of a self absorbed way. Everyone is a world unto themselves, they don’t have time to look at me and pick apart if I have cellulite, or if my tummy hangs over my bikini, they are too busy picking themselves apart to even realize. I know I was. I have countless memories of me sabotaging a potentially amazing day just because I fell victim to the deceptive and false narrative that I didn’t deserve to be there or to have fun if my body wasn’t “perfect” and I know I’m not the only one.
Something I’ve really needed to ask myself and question in my life is would I ever feel like I deserved to live freely? Would I ever feel like I deserved it when stuck in the grips of anorexia or listening to the voices of a warped society?
It’s taken me way too long to realize that no, I would never feel like I deserved to love myself, I would never feel free to accept my body, or to allow myself to nourish my body and treat it with the compassion and the care it deserves when stuck in my illness or listening to the opinions of the world around me. It is impossible to heal while you are actively fighting against your body and your mind.
So, that learned, where do we go from here? Well we can start to unlearn the self hatred we’ve been spoon fed since birth, we can start learning how to be gentle to ourselves, how to treat our bodies with unconditional kindness and compassion. We start working on our internalized fat phobia and unlearning the harmful narratives surrounding our bodies. We can take back autonomy over how we look, wear what we want, eat what we want, move how we want, speak how we want and not how society expects us to look or act. We say goodbye to the stereotypical “bikini body”, and we wave the self hatred out the door.
Doing this we can start breaking through the masks we’ve had since we were children and start to unveil our true selves.
At the end of the day no matter how you body looks you are deserving of compassion, nourishment, care, and so much love.
So throw on that bikini, give your beautiful body a love squeeze, and go enjoy your life