When I left my house last Friday morning, I had packed my husband, my daughter and myself for more than a week. I managed to get all of our shoes, underwear and toilet articles in the car and only forgot a few things.
Unfortunately, one of those forgotten items was my swimsuit. And since we chose our hotel based on its promised water park and super slide, that was a problem.
Luckily, though we were several states away from home, we were there to visit friends. So I ordered a clearance suit from Target and had it shipped to my friend’s house. I picked it up yesterday and we headed back to the hotel.
Nervously, I opened the packages and pulled out the plain black swim suit pieces. (As in a tank and a swim skirt, not a bikini. Please.) I stepped into the bottom and thought, “Well, that’s not what I was hoping for.” Then I wriggled myself into the top and though, “THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER.”
And then I did the thing I swore I’d never do (and until this week, had never done). I said – out loud and in front of my daughter – how awful I looked. Specifically, I said, “This is hideous.”
Because I’ve struggled with body image issues as long as I can remember, I’ve determined to be uber careful about how I talk about myself in front of my daughter. I know it probably won’t prevent her from wishing for fuller lips or longer legs (or whatever the must-have attribute of the day is 10 years from now). But if I can find it within myself to model a healthy self esteem, maybe it will help a little.
(For the record, my parents did everything they could to help me feel beautiful. As a matter of fact, my mother still insists on calling me her beautiful baby girl. So I’m aware that, as a parent, some things are out of my hands. But I want to do the best I can with the influence I have anyway.)
But back to the other day.
As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I was horrified. And it wasn’t one of those instances where my child completely ignored what I said or remained oblivious to my personal stress. Oh no. She looked at me, confused, and said, “Why did you say that? You look beautiful!”
Oh, my heart.
I promise you that I did not look beautiful at all. AT ALL. I won’t tell you what I think I looked like, because I really am trying to stop talking to or about myself in an ugly way. But not only did I not feel pretty, I really did not look pretty.
But I’d promised my family that I’d go swimming with them. And my worn-out, stretched-out suit was safely at home, hundreds of miles away. So I really didn’t have a choice.
I tried to make the best of the situation. You know, getting on with life? I grabbed a pair of my husband’s gym shorts to cover up. BUT THEY DIDN’T FIT. (Is there anything more humiliating than not fitting into my husband’s pants? I THINK NOT. . . . Fine. I’m sure something might be worse. But not this week.) So I grabbed a t-shirt, sucked in everything I could suck in, and walked to the elevator with my family.
When we got to the pool, I was beyond relieved to see that we had the whole place to ourselves. Still, I felt terrible. I smiled and played with my daughter, but inside, I was curled up in a ball and covered with a large blanket. I didn’t want anyone – even the people I loved most – to see me.
As I stood in the water, telling my kiddo that yes, of course I wanted to watch her jump in, two annoying tears slipped down my face. Since I had yet to get my head wet, my husband wasn’t fooled and asked, confused, “What is wrong?!”
I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t tell him.
But I didn’t keep crying, either. Slowly, I focused more on my family and less on myself. And I swam a few laps and did a few minutes of water aerobics moves. It wasn’t very long before I felt strong (because swimming is hard, yo) and remembered how to relax and have fun with my family.
And when we went back upstairs and I eagerly went to peel that hateful suit off my not-perfect-at-all body and COULDN’T GET IT OFF? Well, all I could do was laugh. Because really, that’s way better than crying – and being stuck in that soaking wet, octopus-like bunch of polyester was the kind of irony that I couldn’t help but appreciate.
I may never put that swimsuit on again. And I may think twice before booking a hotel room in a place that boasts of a super slide. But despite the horrible feeling of wearing that thing and slipping up in front of my kiddo with the “hideous” bomb, I didn’t let it ruin my day.
Although there was no saving my hair after that.
What’s your least favorite thing to wear? And what’s your favorite? (My favorite is, hands down, yoga pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Comfort over style IS my style!)
This post is part of 31 Days of Giving Up on Perfect. All month long, I’ll be working through a whole lot of ways I’m fighting perfectionism. For more 31 Days, visit The Nester.
Photo by janfredrikf
Mary, you have no idea how much your honesty inspires me. I just love you to death. Have been checking here several times a day lately for new posts and even secretly printed out a couple at work (don’t tell my boss!) Keep up the great work girl, even on the other side of the world you are a source of comfort and encouragement to me. xo
I agree with Adele. Well, the one with the comment above, not the singer. The singer has great songs, but it sounds like the guy in “Someone like you” is a jerk face. Anyway…
Living in Wisconsin now, I love wearing hooded sweatshirts. And, I actually swim a lot (always have since I was a kid), and it’s been good for both pregnancies I think. But, I’ve hated swimsuit shopping. I will say the best advice I ever got about shopping for a suit was from some magazine that said buy a size larger than you would normally wear. Now, NO ONE wants to buy a LARGER bathing suit, but it usually does make me feel happier when looking in the mirror (if the chest isn’t too big) and no one else knows my secret.
Lastly, I really appreciate your effort towards being positive about your body image in front of your daughter. I think that is a really good idea. With one daughter and one on the way (any day), I think I’ll try to implement a similar strategy.
Mary, my absolute least favorite thing to wear is also a swimsuit. I have always had body image issues, and now @ 53, even though I’m downright skinny due to stress, it ain’t pretty!! My favorite thing to wear is wornout jeans and soft, soft t-shirts. I am all about the comfort too.
Honestly, I love to wear fancy shoes! Heels with some sparkle or leopard print.
Swimsuits? Not so much. I go for the older style and pretend it’s still wildly fashionable to be voluptuous.
I loved this! I’ve never been happy with my body, even when I nearly starved myself thin. I finally realized that women need friends who are confident WITH their flaws… not perfect. That’s why this post is so powerful. We are worth more than how we look! Thank you!
I’m so glad you shared this. It really touched me. I’ve gained a lot of weight recently and I can’t bear to see myself in a swimsuit…I can barely stand to see myself in regular clothes :( Thank you for sharing.
Crystal, I HEAR YOU. I can’t stand to look at myself either – but sometimes (like this time) I have to just put all that out of my mind and go on living. Whew – it is so HARD, though!!
I love how real you are. Your honesty is so refreshing! I so relate to this post. I’ve struggled with body image for a long time, and have tried so hard not to pass that struggle on to my daughters. So far, so good, I think, but the oldest just turned 11. I know the day will come when she starts focusing on the physical, and I dread that day.
KC, I think if your 11yo isn’t focusing on her body yet, you are doing something right!
Oh, Mary. I would’ve been crying too. Actually, I wouldn’t have even agreed to swim in the first place. Maybe I’d think differently if I had kids, but I kinda doubt it. I don’t think I even own a swimsuit. And I remember watching a show once where people were being held up at a bank or something and they were forced to strip down to their underwear, only one lady refused because of the principle of the matter. I think I would’ve refused just because I’d have been so humiliated. Sigh. And the ironic thing is (or maybe it’s not ironic — I have no idea anymore what’s really ironic and what’s not!), when I read your story, I thought, well, kids are actually more innocent and honest and probably accurate than we are (sometimes I wish we could let them run the world). She’s right in saying you’re beautiful. But I would’ve thought the same thing you did (only worse, or at least responded worse). As for my favorite outfits? The ones that hide my flaws the best. :(
Yes, kids are definitely more honest than we are. But they also love unconditionally. That’s a good combo, I think.
Oh, and I’m enjoying this series as well. :) It’s true to your theme, and updated daily! :)
Thank you. :)
One of your best posts Mary. Your honesty is amazing.
Thank you, friend. And thanks for letting me ship that horrid suit to your house. ;)
Great post, Mary. I read this great article by Jennifer Weiner this weekend. I thought you might like it. http://www.allure.com/allure-magazine/2012/10/fat-the-f-word?currentPage=1
Thanks for that article link, Jennifer. It was such a good one.
Yes, yes, and yes! Swimsuits are the WORST! I’m impressed by your bravery and commitment to your family, because I would have had a hard time going ahead with the swimming in that situation. I probably would have sat out. Honestly, my favorite thing to wear ever was my maternity clothes (when I was pregnant, not just in general). That was the only time in my life when I didn’t feel self-conscious about my body, because I was supposed to be big, you know? And, since I knew I wasn’t going to be wearing those clothes forever I was a little more adventurous in my fashion choices instead of just buying what was on clearance and kinda sorta fit okay. I wish I was that way in regular life!
Yes, I know! Being pregnant was SO nice simply for the excuse to not suck it in! :)
I have been in that same spot before..and it isn’t fun. But, can I tell you something? Your daughter will ALWAYS remember that you swam with her. My mom never got in a swimming suit when I was young (for the same reason, I am sure), and I always wished she did. That is what I think about when my kids want me to swim and I really don’t want to squeeze into that fabric.
Thanks, Amanda, for the encouragement. I’m sorry your mom didn’t swim with you, though!
Oh how I love this post my friend, and your heart . . . and that your sweet girl thought you were beautiful, because you are to her, even when you dont feel it — what a reminder :-) love this!
Thanks, Becca. She is so sweet, and I eat up every minute of her unconditional admiration. I figure it won’t last forever, so I take it all in while I’ve got it! :)
LOVE LOVE LOVE