Feel Small When You Stand Beside the Ocean

“With age comes wisdom and with innocence youth, so listen, my friend, to the cautions of the young and the wise.”

If you hear the same advice from more than one older person or from the mouth of a child, it may just be something you should listen to.

I recall when I had just started to stretch my ears, and my parents hadn’t noticed yet (Sorry, Mama!), a girl at camp, who was maybe 15, had stretched hers out so large that only surgery could reverse it; she said that she regretted her decision. I thought about that, getting life lessons from a child, and immediately took out my gauges.

There was an older lady at the nail salon the other day who was sharing stories about her life as a young adult in Paris, and she said to me, “That’s one of the best and worst things about getting old; you look back at the things you could’ve done but didn’t and think, “Man – I could have done some stuff, and the reasons I didn’t weren’t good enough to not have done them.”

As I was driving to work last Friday, I heard women on a morning talk show talking about how stressful it is to purchase a swimsuit. I recall my first bikini, and the sheer panic and up-talking it took for me to step out in it. I had spent years of sweltering summers in jeans because I hated the scars on my legs and my stretch marks.

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Me at age 18, in my first bikini at 176 lbs

The expectation of perfection is everywhere. We are constantly bombarded by imagery of what we should be. The sizes of our jeans are tiny and fluctuate from designer to designer. It’s difficult to find a two-piece above a size medium. Regardless of size, we’re subjected to judgement. We are either too skinny or too fat. In a room full of women, we are constantly discussing, analyzing, and apologizing. I don’t recall the last time I wasn’t on a diet; the last time I ate a giant cheeseburger without feeling guilty or apologizing; the last time I didn’t barter with myself for a cookie, or the last time I wasn’t hyper aware of exactly how many calories were in my meal.

I’ve been 180 lbs. and 150 lbs. I’ve been called hefty and athletic. I’ve baked cakes and pies and worked out at the gym 5 days a week. I’ve taken diet pills and starved myself. I’ve eaten low carb, counted calories, used artificial sweeteners, done cardio and lifted weights, and I’ve seen countless other women in my life do the same.

To quote the song, “Time takes its toll on a body; makes a young girl’s brown hair turn grey.” My skin will wrinkle and my hair will grey, and my body will change – it’s supposed to. We trade in youth for experience and years of life. That is exactly how it should be. We’ve forgotten how to celebrate age, and we idolize youth and perfection.

This is our struggle, a society of judgement.

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When packing for the beach this year, I needed a new swimsuit. I’d gained a bit of weight back, and my instinct was to grab my one-piece and shield myself from being the girl who should’ve known better on the beach – and then I rejected that thought. I’ve struggled with body image; some days I’m content and some days I’m embarrassed, but the fact is I work out several times a week. I eat more vegetables, whole grains, and balanced meals than I ever have, and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I may not be a Victoria’s Secret model, but I am in the best shape of my life.

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I try to dress professionally at work and pretty modestly at home. I keep my hemlines reasonable and my tops decently cut. There’s a quote attributed to several famous women which says, “A dress should be tight enough to show that you’re a woman but loose enough to show that you’re a lady,” which I tend to follow. Sometimes though, I just want to cut loose and wear whatever ridiculous trends are happening in the world. I figured, I’m on vacation, why not? I grabbed a crop top, high waisted shorts, and a bikini and said, “My body is acceptable just as it is” and headed off to the beach.

You know what? I wasn’t the thinnest or thickest girl there, and I had a blast.

We all need to tune in to the positive and accept what we are at the moment. Society judges us; we don’t need to also judge ourselves.

 

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