image via etsy
Friday afternoon I was pushing a cartful of kids through Target when my 4-year-old looked adorably up at me and said, “Mom, maybe we’re going to have a new baby, because your tummy’s getting very big.”
I laughed awkwardly, suddenly self-conscious, and assured him that there was, in fact, no baby in there.
Ever helpful, his older sister backed me up: “Yeah, there’s no baby. She just likes to eat.”
See, at the start of this summer, I weighed the most I have ever weighed non-pregnant. For the first time my BMI clocked in at 25.5, officially branding me “overweight.”
If you follow me on instagram you know I’ve been logging time at the gym this summer. That plus a better focus on my diet have slowly moved me back down into the veeeery top end of the “healthy” BMI range, but, as Meghan Trainor puts it, I ain’t no size 2.
And feeling “flawed” is hard enough in the winter, when you can cover up with layers. But it’s a completely different animal in the summer, isn’t it?
How do you feel when you think about putting on a swimsuit, mama?
Do you stand in front of the mirror and catalogue your “imperfections”?
I know I shouldn’t, but I do.
I admit, being called out by my children about my belly on the way to the Target checkout line made me squirm a little. But not as much as I expected it to.
Because on Thursday, just the day before, we went to the public pool. And I had a gorgeously liberating revelation looking at the multitude of bodies around the pool.
I didn’t judge.
I didn’t compare.
I just absorbed it all.
For the first time ever in public in my bathing suit, I felt just normal.
Not jiggly or ugly or self-conscious. Not concerned about my floppy post-10-pound-baby tummy or the way my swimsuit fit or the fact that my thighs rub together.
I just felt like me.
Playing with my kids. Smiling at my husband. Soaking up the perfect clear sky and the heat and the cool water. Just me.
I want you to try it to.
I know. It might sound terrifying. It is definitely just as strange and unsettling as those weird trust-fall exercises you have to do at summer camp.
But you deserve to feel good, mama.
So try it. You can start small. But go somewhere with a good little crowd of sunbathers or swimmers–the beach, a lake, the public pool, your local YMCA. And see who’s there.
There will be some women there with pancake-flat bellies. And that’s okay. You don’t need to hate them or aspire to be them. You don’t need to compare yourself to them at all. Because they are not their bodies any more than you are your body.
And maybe they don’t feel any more comfortable in their skin than anyone else at the pool. What looks perfect to us might not look perfect to the woman staring down her reflection in the mirror.
So just absorb without judgement, without comparison of the good or the bad. You’re just an observer today.
If your public pools are anything like mine, there will be a lot of other kinds of bodies there, too.
There will be bodies with cellulite, with T-shirt sleeve tan lines, with freckles galore.
There will be wrinkled, stretch-marked bellies that once held growing babies.
There will be thighs that rub together and varicose veins.
There will be flat chests and extra-wide hips, acne-scarred skin and all the other thousand things we worry about on ourselves.
And while with time we can come to see our bodies as beautiful in any stage–different and changed as they may be from what they were “before…” or what we envisioned they might become–I’m not going to ask you to tell yourself that your body is beautiful if you don’t think it is.
Someday I hope you can think it is. Believe it is. Know it is.
But I’m not going to ask you to do that today.
Today we’re going to start where I started on Thursday.
I want you to look at these women–these brave women in their swimsuits in the sunshine, not hiding, just being, just living–and absorb this truth: that there are a thousand different kinds of normal.
Normal isn’t a paper doll cutout of one singular and perfect body shape. Normal is a spectrum, and you’re on it.
Look for your commonalities. Look for your sameness. Look for the kinship you share with the women around you.
You are not an outsider. And you, right now, are enough.
I’m not satisfied to stay the same, and you don’t have to be either.
I want to be healthier, stronger, better at stretching and more energetic.I’d like to have a healthy BMI, a healthy weight, less fat and more muscle. I want to be able to do the splits (I am notoriously inflexible) and maybe that crazy amazing crow yoga pose, where you balance your knees on your triceps.
But, for the most part, I’m also okay with now. I’m okay with the slowness of progress, and I’m okay with what that looks like.
I’d rather be wild and happy and free, being silly with my family in the sunshine, than shut up waiting to finally feel perfect.
Just go for it, mama.
Put on your swimsuit and play in the water.
Laugh like a little kid.
Get your hair wet with wild abandon.
And when you feel a little out of place, look to the women around you. Not to find their flaws, but to find yourself.
You are a piece in the intricate puzzle of femininity.
I know the hesitancy you feel when you stand in front of the mirror each day and wonder if you’re good enough.
I know the light you have within.
I know the courage that shines from your heart, even when you feel the most afraid.
And even though I told you I’m not going to make you say this to yourself today, I want to tell you, from me:
You are beautiful.
So go out and enjoy the sunshine.
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