When you live in Western Pennsylvania, you don’t visit the beach often. And, for a long time, this was perfectly fine with me. In fact, I dreaded summer rolling around each year. The bathing suits. The tank tops. The short shorts. Summer clothing has a way of making you feel exposed and, if you aren’t confident in your own skin, it can be traumatizing.
Over the years, I’ve done pretty zany things to avoid wearing summer clothing. I’ve worn sweaters overtop tanks when it was far too hot. I’ve worn sweaters covered in burrs (yes, the spiky growth in trees), itching away all night because I didn’t like my arms. I wore the longest shorts a person can get away with, just to cover up my thighs and legs.
My reflection of myself hasn’t always been positive — especially during these exposed months. I’d like to write that I’ve always been content with myself. But I know that isn’t true. When you struggle with weight as a kid, it has this way of creeping up on you throughout your life. It messes with your self image. You start remembering those days when you were trying on clothes in a store and nothing fit. How you looked SO HUGE next to your skinny best friend at the basketball game. The way your legs looked when you rode the roller coaster, squished into the seat.
The hardest part of those memories is fighting them back. I have to constantly tell myself: I’m not that chubby kid anymore. I’ve worked hard to maintain a healthy weight, which isn’t easy given my genetics. And this summer, for probably the first time in my life, I actually feel confident in my own skin. I’m not afraid of tank tops or shorts. And I even wore a two-piece bathing suit to the beach this past weekend.
While some of this has something to do with working hard in my workouts (I finally have muscles!), most of it comes from me just finally accepting who I am — and being proud of that. I really just don’t care what anyone thinks anymore. I’ve spent most of my life worrying about this, and it feels good to relinquish that a little bit. It still crops up, like any bad habit. But for now I am feeling secure in my own skin.
I’m thankful that I surround myself with these kinds of confident people. They’ve really taught me a lot — how to be happy with yourself, how to own who you are, how to fight through feelings of self-doubt. No doubt this is a journey that will need constant maintenance, but I’m up for the challenge. And I’m feeling really good about who I am, where I’m at and how my life has evolved up until this point. Here’s to a more confident and healthy future!