Standing naked in a crowd

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Hahahaha, look at your belly, how can you be so skinny and have such a huge puku??

As I stood there in my god-awful leopard print swim suit at the local swimming pool, this was what another girl pointed to me and said.

I flooded with embarrassment.

Up until that point I had been an innocent 8-year-old, running around, without a care in the world – that’s not quite true, I had my burdens, but my body wasn’t one of them.

But, in that single throw-away comment, like being told Santa isn’t real – I lost my innocence.

I had never thought about my body before – all I knew was it allowed me to do all of the things I loved – swim, jump run, climb…

But just like that, I learnt body shame.

The power of a few small words, especially on children, is incredible.

My stomach has continued to be one of my major hang-ups. When I gain weight, it doesn’t go to my gangly arms, my small butt or thighs – it goes straight to my belly.

Whenever a guy has tried to be intimate, if he even attempted to lift up my shirt while I wasn’t in a flattering position (lying down – preferably with the lights off) I would freak out.

Even now, happily married to a man who not only sees all my flaws, but loves me for them, I still have a tendency to flinch or stress out about my body.

I don’t remember ever liking my body. But actually, a more accurate statement would be – I learnt to dislike it.

I think, for various reasons, we all do.

We aren’t born ashamed of our bodies. As young children we aren’t thinking – wow, Suzy has longer legs than mine, I wish I had curves like Jamie, how does Vicky have a toned midriff and mine is so round?...

Nope.

We just are.

We run, we jump, we play, we are busy just being.

Then somewhere along the way, someone makes a comment, or the guy we like goes for the tall blonde instead of us, we study magazines and movie screens and realize we don’t look like the image of beauty. Rejected by others, we do the only natural thing – we reject ourselves.

Some people might look at me and think – 'you’re crazy, there’s nothing wrong with you'.

And you would be right, of course there is nothing ‘wrong’ with me, but we all know that’s not the point is it?

We all have our hang-ups.

When I look at you, I see your beautiful smile, gorgeous complexion, perfect hair… when you look at yourself maybe you see a crooked tooth, your frown lines, freckles, cellulite…

It is the same for each of us. We know the most intimate details of ourselves and it is almost always the ‘flaws’ we focus on.

In the past, when I have looked in the mirror, all I have seen is my pot-belly, my varicose veins, the scar that runs down my nose, my curly-frizzy hair, my big nose…

That is up until recently. In the past year I have made a conscious decision to love myself. I was in a dark place, call it depression if you will. Just like a hermit crab, outgrowing its shell, everything was dark and uncomfortable, I knew a change was needed and I was going to have to get mighty vulnerable to allow it to take place.

I started very simply. Every morning, I would drag myself out of bed, go to the mirror and say the words – you are beautiful and I love you.

I felt stupid and absurd doing this, but there is a point we realize, that what have been doing simply doesn’t work; if we want change, we need to be willing to get uncomfortable.

For the first few months, I didn’t feel much of anything. When I looked in the mirror, I still saw my flaws staring back at me. Not only my flaws, but my mind would bring up a reel of my past indiscretions, mistakes, regrets – anything to show me that I am far from beautiful and unworthy of love.

But I kept saying these words, I didn’t believe them, but I said them nonetheless.

After a while, when I approached the mirror, I made it my mission to focus on something I DO like about myself (the list wasn’t very long to begin with) and say something kind about my body. Slowly, over the last few months, these words have started to seep on. Day by day I am doing more small acts to show myself love – the kind of love I have wanted all of these years.

I can say, without doubt, I am far happier in myself and my body than I have ever been. My ‘flaws’ are still there, but I choose to accept them as a part of me. I choose to be grateful for the amazing body I have – the body that has always allowed me to do everything I have needed – work, run, play sports, dance all night in a bar!

Now it seems preposterous (not to mention ungrateful) that I have taken it for granted!

I am not there yet, but I am getting there.

Just over a week ago, the Universe sent me a beautiful reminder that I am on the right track.

We were anchored in front of the island Brac, I watched as a cruise ship lazily made its way by. Standing on the upper-deck, in amongst 20-odd tourists, stood a beautiful, tanned old lady – naked as the day she was born!

Yes, you read right. Standing in the middle of  crowd (all fully-clothed I may add), was a butt-naked old lady.

Initially I laughed, then we all said – what on earth, what is she thinking, standing there naked for all the world to see, at least do that in your own privacy…

Then another thought occurred – 

WOW, that lady has some serious confidence and body love going on!!

I couldn’t help but admire her.

I have had moments of bravery in the past – all of which were alcohol fueled. But at the age of 31, I can honestly say, I have never once stood so confidently in my own skin – with or without clothes.

It clicked.

How completely ridiculous to not love the skin you’re in!

Looking at that old lady, I could sense just how happy she was. I envisioned my future 70-year-old self, I wanted to hear what she thought, she whispered to me –

“darling, do you really think when you’re lying on your death bed that you are still going to wish you had a flat-toned stomach, or… do you think you’ll wish you embraced every single part of your gorgeous self?! Love yourself, love your body, be kind to both – you have a long road ahead, why not flaunt it fabulously, to do otherwise is crying shame!

I don’t know that I will ever have the galls to stand naked in a crowd, or that I want to.

But it is a noble aspiration, to get so comfortable with me, that I could be standing naked without a care in the world, while everybody else gawked on.

Who knows, maybe that WAS a glimpse of my future self…




note: this pic is actually me 5 years ago, just taking the first steps on a long road to embrace me.

#19 in a series of 30 blogs in 30 days: thinking out loud




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