I have a bucket list. I keep it written in a little journal and I get it out and stare at it once in a while. Some of the items on there are big, lofty experiences that I hope to have one day. However, many of the things on that list are simple, personal experiences I want to achieve. This week, I got to cross one off the list: feeling comfortable in a bathing suit.
Yep, sounds completely ridiculous, but I have never felt comfortable in a bathing suit and have always dreaded going to the pool. I am unique in many ways, but one way I am very typical is being a girl who is self-conscious and unforgiving about my body. However, when I took my kids to the pool this week I actually felt good about myself.
This feeling has nothing to do with some change in the way I look. I have not been working out or trying to lose weight. Everything I have loathed about my body was still there: cellulite, stretch marks, love handles, and deflated post-baby boobs. I was at the pool, in a swimsuit, and I didn’t care if my body was not “ideal.” I didn’t for one second think about my physical appearance (okay, I briefly realized that I probably could use a bikini wax, but that doesn’t really count). All I was thinking about was my baby girl splashing in the pool for the first time, and my five-year-old’s big smile because he loves to be in the water. I was with my kids and with friends and I was happy — in a bathing suit.
This whole experience led me to do something else that I have always had a hard time doing: looking at myself naked in the mirror. When I get out of the shower I avoid eye contact with my reflection. I put on clothes or a robe as fast as I can, as if seeing myself naked would be the most horrifying experience possible. So today, when I got out of the shower, I took a step back and gave myself I good stare-down. And I didn’t die of shame. In fact, I tried to look at things a bit differently.
I saw my stretch marks and remembered how I’d earned them. I looked at my poor, sagging breasts and thought of my beautiful, plump little babies. I looked at my thighs and thought, “Meh, it’s really not that bad.” This whole little epiphany was rather brief, of course, because the baby was in her Jolly Jumper in the doorway and looking up at me probably thinking, “Mmmm, breakfast.” And then my son walked in and asked if I was getting dressed yet because he was hungry and wanted his second breakfast (I think my son may have been a Hobbit in another life). Anyway, the whole point is that it wasn’t this horrible, awful experience that I had expected it to be. All this has led me to think about myself, my body, in a different light.
I used to always think that if I lost weight and got in shape that I would somehow feel comfortable in my own skin. The truth is that feeling comfortable in your own skin should have absolutely nothing to do with the numbers on the scale or the size of your jeans. Feeling comfortable in your own skin should come from knowing that your self-esteem and worth has nothing to do with your physical appearance. It should be about embracing who you are and living a genuine life, even if that means that others may not like it. It comes from being able to let your freak flag fly without worrying that others are watching. It comes from staring at yourself naked and realizing that what you see doesn’t mean a thing.
When my son walked in on me this morning he didn’t cry out, “Mom, look at those dimply thighs, you should really do something about that!” He doesn’t give a crap what I look like. All that matters is that I take care of him and love him and make him Nutella sandwiches. I’ve always known that often, kids are much smarter than adults. Maybe I should start listening to my kids more and my insecurities less. I might find myself crossing off even more items on that bucket list.