This summer was one of the best of my life – and almost certainly the best one since having kids. We spent five days at a gorgeous beach house owned by family friends and our family had the most incredible time.
Now I have a complicated relationship with the beach. On the one hand, it’s aesthetically gorgeous. On the other hand, SAND. And though I am not immune to the wild beauty of the rolling surf, it scares the actual bejesus out of me. The ocean makes me feel very small – in that amazing ‘check out Mother Nature’ way, but also in that ‘those waves are going to eat me alive’ way.
But the real and true reason that the beach always strikes daggers of fear into my heart is because traditionally, it requires the removal of almost all clothes – clothes which I have carefully chosen to conceal all those ghastly, terrible parts of my body that are not fit for public display. After three children and years of cultivating a cracking sense of self-loathing, those ghastly, terrible parts equal MY WHOLE BODY.
This year though, I resolved to change. I planned to go to the beach in my swimmers and give no fucks. It wasn’t that I had lost a bunch of weight and was feeling in the best shape of my life. I weigh more now than I did this time last year. I didn’t genuinely feel better about my physical self. The most important change I made was not physical at all. It was mental. I made a conscious choice to stop being so self-conscious.
I believe there were two major turning points in this journey to self-acceptance that occurred last year. The first was turning 40. I had an overwhelming sense of time being fleeting, that I have this one life and if I wasn’t living it to my fullest potential, then when would I start? The other was watching Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary, Embrace. I’ve written about it before but it is worth repeating. If you haven’t seen it, please do. It is life-changing, life-affirming stuff.
So this summer, I went to the beach like I haven’t been to the beach in years. I didn’t lie on my towel, trying to look invisible. I wore my swimsuit unapologetically. It was black and one-piece but Bren assured me it was sexy as hell and I worked that shit because why shouldn’t I? Three babies grew inside this body and then that same body singularly sustained each of those babies for almost half a year. My tits don’t sit where they used to but considering they were working boobs for years on end, they’re actually quite magnificent! My stomach is a little rounded but so is my arse and I wouldn’t want to sacrifice my booty for a 6-pack any day. For the very first time, I realise there’s a nice balance to my curves.
My body has proven itself to be an extraordinarily capable vehicle in which to travel through life. It deserves to be celebrated!
And what about cellulite? I have plenty, I’m sure, but as I walked back and forth from my towel to the water, where I dived like a majestic fucking dolphin and had the time of my life, it occurred to me that I was holding myself with more confidence than the girls half my age whose skin is as smooth and taut as any supermodel’s. These beautiful young girls with their golden tans and perfect breasts were rounding their shoulders and giggling self-consciously behind their long, tousled hair. I wanted to grab them and tell them that this stage of their lives passes so very quickly and not to miss a minute of it wishing they were anything but their own, gorgeous selves. But youth is wasted on the young, and only time and experience can help us truly feel that we fit within our own skin.
Time and experience I have in spades. Doubts and fears I have no shortage of either. But time and experience have helped me to give those doubts and fears some much needed perspective. And perspective has enabled me to let some things go. I work out at least three times a week, I eat well most of the time and I feel strong. My body has proven itself to be an extraordinarily capable vehicle in which to travel through life. It deserves to be celebrated! The journey towards self-acceptance continues, an on-going, ever-fluctuating ride. Good days, not so good days. I expect it may always be so. But finally, finally, my skin fits.