I walked into a living nightmare. I timidly stepped forward onto the sand, heart racing fast. My heartbeat roared in my ears, replacing what should have been the sound of the ocean with the overwhelming battle cry of anxiety. I couldn’t understand how people found peace in this place– everywhere I looked was a threat to my already crippling insecurity.
My family begged me to take off my cover up. I sunk lower into my chair as I rapidly scanned my surroundings. Walking about 20 feet in front of me was a girl with a six pack and toned arms. I immediately looked down at my stomach, repulsed at what I saw. A strange thing started happening– the more I compared myself to others, the bigger I saw myself. With every pang of jealousy, my thighs grew larger, my stomach expanded, and my arms became increasingly flabby. I wished I could dig a hole and hide in it for the rest of the trip to the beach.
This experience repeated itself over and over again for years, until I was well into recovery. Now, I no longer compare myself to the other people on the beach. We are all there to relax and have fun, and I refuse to turn “paradise” into a body competition. When I go to the beach, I turn off my body checking radar and slip into relaxation mode. I focus on the beauty of the waves, the soft sand between my toes, the sound of my cousins laughing, and that unique beachy smell. I walk the shore with confidence and even make eye contact with the cute life guards on duty when I’m feeling extra brave!
Of course, I still struggle with bad body image from time to time. I don’t always like the pictures that are taken of me in a bathing suit, and sometimes I get bloated and feel a little self conscious about my midsection. However, I no longer let these insecurities define me, and I certainly don’t give them the power to ruin my beach experience. I acknowledge that these feelings are there, but then I tuck them in a safe place in my head so I can forget about my body and simply enjoy the beach.
Long story short, don’t compare your body to others. Instead, try thanking your body for doing the things you love to do. Your body loves you so much that it will do anything to keep you alive, no matter how you try to punish it. It’s time you reciprocate that love.