NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
Last weekend, my husband and I went on an overnight trip to Catalina Island. This place holds special meaning for us, as it’s where we were married almost 9 years ago. The island is just a short trip from where we live in San Diego, yet it feels like a world away. We generally try to visit Catalina at least a few times per year, sometimes on short notice when we feel the need to get away.
Beautiful Weather = Women in Bikinis
We were lucky to be greeted with warm and beautiful weather for our short getaway. This was fortuitous given that June tends to be cool and overcast in the coastal Southern California areas (hence the term “June gloom” which is used by locals). Warm weather inevitably brings out young women in bikinis, working on their tans and strutting their stuff along the beaches.
No Bikini For Me…
Needless to say, I am not one of these women in bikinis. While I have worn a bikini a few times in my life, those occasions have been extremely rare and punctuated by intense self-consciousness. Nowadays, it is a major breakthrough for me to even wear a bathing suit at all. The usual occurrence is about once or twice a year and I haven’t purchased a new swimsuit in close to ten years. I generally try to avoid occasions which call for swimsuits like the plague, although I once was a competitive swimmer and someone who loved being in the water.
Hiking in a Bikini?
As my husband and I were taking a walk in the foothills of Avalon (the main town on Catalina Island), we encountered a young couple who were doing likewise. What struck me about this couple was that the woman was wearing a bikini on her hike! I remarked to my husband that I couldn’t imagine myself ever doing such a thing. Indeed, I would have to be a different person or have been given a frontal lobotomy to ever deign to take a walk dressed in nothing but a swimsuit. Yet, this young woman seemed to be completely comfortable walking around in such a scantily clad fashion. Yes, she had a great figure, but I have seen a number of less than flawless women happily prancing about in bathing suits as well.
What is so different about these women and me? We are the same species and gender, yet their confidence is so alien to me. As long as I can remember, I have been uncomfortable with my body at all sizes, big and small. While it’s true that I feel better about my body when I’m thinner, I still can’t see myself taking a walk in a swimsuit. I often tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I don’t wear a swimsuit. After all, I am not a sun worshipper and my love of the water and swimming has waned over the years. Yet, I would love to feel okay in a swimsuit or in anything I might wear.
I Would Love to Be Free…
I would love to be free of my self-consciousness, even for a single day. I have a strong desire to know what it feels like to be one of those women who is just plain comfortable in her own skin. I don’t really know how to get there, but this is an item for my “bucket list.” Before I die, I want to happily and freely walk around in a swimsuit. I want to live in the moment of enjoying the sun, the sand, the warmth, and the scenery – without the ubiquitous chatter inside my head about my fat thighs, my huge hips, my bloated tummy, and my sagging behind.
Oh, how I wish I could quiet my critical inner voice for even just one day! It is exhausting to be so judgmental toward myself and my body. It continues to take a huge toll on my health and well-being. Yet I don’t want to give up hope… I have to believe that I can change, that I can become a woman who loves her body, even if it isn’t a size 4 and free of all cellulite. I have to believe that if I can write openly and honestly about my body image challenges, that I can conquer them once and for all.