30 Years of Body Hatred & the Green Bathing Suit
The year was 1989. I was in the 6th grade.
We had a pool in our Middle School and it was the dreaded swimming session for the school year. Our least favorite session of gym class of the year.
Most girls hated it because they would have to do their hair and make up again in the gym locker room. I agreed, yet I hated it for a whole other reason.
We weren’t allowed to bring our own swimsuits, we had to use the ones the school gave us to wear, and yes other people used, after they laundered them. We had to use the school supplied mandated swimwear.
Worst of all, they were color coded by size.
We all emerged from the locker room and in a sea of blues and reds, which were the smallest sizes, there I stood- the only green suit in sight.
I looked around and there were a few black swimsuits which were the size up from green and as I looked at those girls I tried to pass empathy to them through my eyes.
Us black and green swimsuit girls were standing in a nightmare- and it was all ours.
Here we were, defined by our size at one of the most difficult times for social development for a girl.
When I think about it, I believe that I’ve hated my body since I was 9 years old which is when I went on my very first diet. This moment in the green suit? It was simply the icing on the body hatred cake.
That’s 30 years of self hatred for those of you counting.
This past weekend my friend Ashleigh wrote on her blog that we don’t talk about the hard stuff enough. The raw truth of what we struggle with. And we all struggle.
In my year end reflection I alluded to the battle I’m talking about today. It’s a battle that I’ve been at my entire life.
Last year I celebrated the pink polka dotted dress and I thought that I had won the battle- but the truth is that the battle is still raging in my head which means the battle exists within me, not on the scale. I’ve put weight back on and the battle lines are deeper and more hurtful.
And yet I realize it’s not really about the weight, it goes deeper than that.
I am working with a spiritual coach who’s intuition is beyond anything I have ever encountered. On our last Skype session she said to me as soon as we started, without me ever uttering a word, “this battle with your body, it’s been going on forever hasn’t it?”
As my tears began to flow I said “it’s a prison I feel like I can’t get out of. It’s the missing link. The last piece of the puzzle. It’s still holding me back”.
She went on “The gifts you will give the world are beyond your wildest dreams and imagination but this- this hatred you have for your goddess vessel-will stop you from achieving them unless you can accept yourself once and for all.”
“Heather, my dear, your curvaceous goddess vessel is the gift that carries you though this life. What would it feel like to finally accept it and celebrate it for what it is- a goddess?”
My response? “Freedom.”
And there it was. The word I have been searching for for 30 years- freedom.
Many times it takes an outside person to prompt the words and dreams that are lying under the surface that we may be too scared to look at in the light of day.
What’s interesting is that I can wrap my head and heart around the fact that this vessel has carried a baby and birthed him to be the healthy, amazing person that he is. This body carries me through the day, allows me to help others, hug others, travel the world, laugh, cry and enjoy this amazing life that I am grateful to live.
And yet, something is still missing.
I have a daily battle waging in my head of hatred and disgust. I have hatred and disgust for something that allows me to live my extraordinary life.
How horrible is that? I know I’m not alone. In fact, I probably just wrote what you think about yourself at any given moment on any given day.
When you see the word “hatred”, it sounds harsh. Ugly. Vile. Yet, when I think about what I say to myself day in and out inside my head that’s exactly what the words are towards myself-hatred.
As I make my way though my yoga teacher training journey I’m learning about the limbs of yoga. One of which is non-violence- towards others and yourself.
My hatred and disgust of my body is literally violence towards myself. And as a woman, I know I’m not alone.
What I have found is that as my relationship with yoga expands, it allows my heart to open and understand what is real and what isn’t. What is made up in my mind and what is true of my spirit.
My spirit is not defined by a size, curve or number. My spirit is bigger than all of those things and more.
What would I say to the girl standing in her green bathing suit? What would I say to the 9 year old girl going on her first of a thousand diets?
I believe I would tell her, “The gifts and adventures that are coming for you in your life have nothing to do with the size of your jeans, and everything to do with the size of your heart.”
So as I do with every dream I chase after, I look to the thought leaders who are bravely sharing their stories. It’s because of women like Brittany Gibbons, Elizabeth Dialto, Jennifer Hoffman, Jessamyn, and Ashley Graham that I am slowly but surely shifting the 30 year paradigm that I have created for myself.
The girl in the green bathing suit would someday see a woman on the cover of a magazine looking just like her and she would feel just a little bit less alone.
When we share our stories we allow others to see our truth, which then allows all of us to feel a bit less alone.
I see myself in the amazing stories that women share. I need their voices, their curves, their truth.
I am finding more answers and freedom on my yoga mat which are then integrated into my everyday life.
My dream is that more women will do the same.
This dream is one worth chasing. My dream of freedom from this mindset, belief and long-held belief is slowly becoming reality.
May we as women not be defined by labels, sizes and that voice in our mind who can be so very cruel.
May each of us who have experienced that green bathing suit moment begin to feel the freedom that we all deserve.
This dream of freedom from hatred and disgust be the one that I chase and achieve because all of the other dreams on my heart will be bigger and better because of it.