I can’t remember a time when I felt at ease in my body. When I didn’t instinctively cover my stomach as I sat down, when I didn’t calculate each calorie, when I didn’t choose my clothing on their ability to hide me.
From a young age, I’ve been aware of my body. Or rather, I’ve been aware of its flaws.
This awareness escalated with ease into an eating disorder by the age of fifteen, which took over every inch of my existence and stole years of my life. Even now, when I’m in a better place, able to both eat and exercise for pleasure, it will always claim rent-free space in my mind. Even now, when I’m supposedly better, I can’t enjoy summer without the threat of people realising I’m fat.
Somehow it feels okay to be my size when I cover it strategically. When the right pair of dark high-waisted pants and a tucked-in t-shirt can almost fool people into mistaking my size. But in summer, we lose this opportunity to trick people, and so the fear begins.
What if people see my body for what it is? What if people discover *gasp* that I’m not skinny?
It feels like I’m waiting for autumn so that I can exist again.
Summer is a scary time for those of us existing in bodies that don't fit the societal norm. We are made to feel like this season was designed for smaller frames. Shorts can come with the risk of chaffing, bikinis can be poorly fitted and often sizing on summer-appropriate clothing stops short.
In colder months, you can hide behind layers and revel in the choices available, as if this season is more welcoming of different sizes. But summer comes with no forgiveness, it demands to be bare and yet criticises you for it.
If you manage to move past self-consciousness to wear the bikini or crop top or shorts (likely looking fabulous in it), you’re judged more critically. We act as if those items have a size limit, as if those options shouldn’t extend despite being available for purchase. Your body becomes a statement. You’ve supposedly made a choice in a way that a thin person never had to. You’re choosing to reveal your bigger figure and so you’re starting a debate on body positivity, when all you wanted to do was be comfortable and enjoy the weather.
It feels like the safer choice to choose the one-piece or to just keep your trousers on and claim you don’t feel like swimming. It feels easier to pretend long skirts are a fashion choice and that you never liked skimpy tops anyways. You might even begin to believe it yourself, you might confuse society’s rules with your own clothing preferences, as it’s just easier that way. You stop wanting the same things, like running into the waves, joining a group photo at the beach or just sitting outside without sweating an extra bucketful. And in those moments, you lose the carefree nature of summer.
Sometimes I notice little girls running across the beach or leaping into swimming pools. I wonder at what age they’ll lose that fearlessness. When the swimsuit won’t be about their favourite colour, but the best way to hide themselves. I wish they never had to cross that line. I wish they could keep seeing their bodies are vessels to enjoy themselves in, and not the cage that they often become. I wish I could’ve stayed that way.
When you look back years from now, you’ll wish you hadn’t covered yourself or hidden away.
You’ll wish that you had run along while your limbs could still manage it. You’ll miss the moments you didn’t swim in the ocean and revel in the salt against your skin. You’ll regret hiding yourself and always delaying the time you could love your body. But most of all, you’ll hate that you contributed to the idea that summer bodies only look one way.
Because it feels like such a statement as so few do it, but the more we refuse to accept these ridiculous views on what makes a body beautiful, the more we fight against a societal norm that is literally killing people, the closer we come.
When little girls get to watch their mothers be comfortable at the beach rather than hiding away and insulting the body they look up to. We let them learn from the youngest age that every body is different and beautiful, that however you look is exactly how you should, that you should never turn down the chance to run into the water, no matter how you look doing it.
We become their milestone. We become their proof.
When I see a curvy woman enjoying herself in a bikini, I feel proud of her. But what if I could be that person for someone else? What if I could be the confirmation that they look good just as they are?
I don’t want to lose another summer to my body insecurity, because it has taken enough from me. I don’t want to lose another minute to my self-hatred, because my body gives me so much, and I take it for granted.
I want to run into the waves like that carefree little girl I once must have been.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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