“I was swimsuit shamed by my five-year-old.
Last week when we were at the pool, my daughter asked me when I was going to take my dress off.
I didn’t have it in me to tell her this was my swimsuit. A skirt to cover my hips and thighs, fat and flab. So, I just got in the water in my ‘dress,’ thankful that she’s innocent enough to not know my bathing suit choice is a direct result of the shame I suffer from.
There’s a bunch of these body positive posts floating around the Internet this summer. How we should strip down and swim with our kids. No more sitting on the sidelines; let it all hang out. Literally.
But this isn’t one of those posts.
I’d love to tell you I ripped off that skirt, did a swan dive, and washed away my body image disorder for good—but that’s not the truth.
I simply wasn’t ready.
Because this isn’t just about a postpartum body I’m dissatisfied with. This is years and years of feeling not enough, even at my thinnest.
As a child I remember being called thick by a neighbor. As a teenager, my boyfriend’s family said I better be careful what I ate once I had children because my body was prone to being big. When I got married, I asked for custom sleeves to be added to my dress to hide my ‘fat arms.’ I was so tiny then, but all my mind saw were imperfections, and nothing could convince me otherwise. Lace covered my shoulders that day, but I still felt impossible shame.
So no, this isn’t just about a mom at a pool. And it never really was.
All of us are taught what we believe about beauty early on. But eventually we reach a point where we get the chance to redefine that; to change what we think of ourselves. Do we stay insecure and keep walking societies way—or pave our own path, even in a one piece?
It was only recently that I realized my body image issues were ingrained in me by many sources. Social media and pop culture, yes. (After all, the Kardashian’s aren’t praised because of their cellulite.) But also, in tiny cultural ways too.
For example, why does my son get to go bare chested to the beach versus my daughter who covers up?
Why do men get the privilege (?) of urinals versus women who are vanished behind closed stalls.
Why do I paint my face with makeup versus my spouse who can shower and go?
I read an article a few months ago about how people shamed a mother for letting her toddler wear a two piece. My daughter’s been known to show her belly since infancy. Even that isn’t allowed anymore?
You see, some of the things we mentally fight against as women simply aren’t our fault. Boys from a young age are given permission to whip it out, while girls are told to stay quiet, small, and concealed. I’m no feminist, but it seems to me that self-esteem isn’t exclusively shaped by mean comments or reality TV. It’s impacted by culture simply because of your birth gender.
Girls cover up.
Especially those with cellulite.
So how do we combat these mistruths? Well, this is where I disagree with all these body-positive posts. I don’t think we need to hide our bodies if they’re imperfect or flaunt them if we’re not ready. My daughter would’ve seen a way more insecure mother if I donned a two-piece for our pool day.
I just believe we have to find our comfortability.
I didn’t let my body image issues stop me from being with my kids that day; I just found a way to make myself comfortable while doing so. And if that’s a skirt, so be it. Who cares. I’m still there and I still ate a cheeseburger poolside. So, take that, body dysmorphia.
We can be told a lot of things about who we are, how we should act, or what we should feel. But we hold the power to redefine what a full and complete life looks like for a woman.
So, I say fill your stomach with that burger and wear whatever suit allows you to live your best, boldest, most unapologetic life.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hanrahan. Follow Stephanie on Facebook here, Instagram here and visit her website here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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