I bought a bikini last week. I didn't mean to (cue the eye rolls of every partner who has heard this from a significant other). I went into the store with the intent to buy a black one-piece that would hide as much of my body as possible. Long before the impacts of having a baby, body confidence has never been a strength.
My adolescence involves vivid memories of being told that I was pretty, but "could be prettier if I had thinner legs". Or when I was 32 and told that breastfeeding would be the right choice as I may end up thinner than before I was pregnant.
Actually, pregnancy was horrible. Not because of the weight gain or the neverending "morning" sickness, but because of the comments. "At least you have an excuse to eat poorly" (even though I was trying to eat healthy for the human life I was growing), "don't worry you will lose most of the weight", and "you'll have time to go the gym on maternity leave".
While I had many health conversations with friends that were solicited, these comments above were all unsolicited pieces of "advice". Magazines, tailored for girls and women, have bold headlines claiming detox diets in 10 days or how to get your summer bod. I'm always thankful for not going through puberty in the age of social media, although navigating the themes in adulthood is no mean feat.
The words are accompanied by images of women who are tall, thin and flawless. It's not fair to criticise their appearance, because they very well could be healthy. But it's also not fair to only present one fragment of society and for media to decide that this is the epitome for women. Men are not spared. Instead, they get told to look big and muscular to be considered attractive.
The other day, I was at the Launceston Aquatic Centre, and I found my internal dialogue commenting on women's appearance. My thoughts would scoot from wishing for a similar figure to sympathising with a mum weighed down by wet shorts and shirt trying to hide her figure and how body confident other women were, wishing for the same.
Men walked past, and let me tell you, none of them looked photoshopped. But my husband commented that he noticed that some dads were attempting to suck in their bellies. Yet, I had not noticed the men or the degree of separation between them and what media tells us what handsome looks like.
If you look at the red carpet in Hollywood, it's the men who asked about their career and women are asked to do a twirl. Every day as I read the news, one particular news website often has headlines exclaiming how a woman wore a revealing dress or the "amazing" weight loss/gain of some female celebrity. Women are being told they are only worth how they look, and that look is based on a certain weight and height, not health.
Serena Williams was told this month by a former tennis player (who had never won a grand slam let alone 23 like Williams) that she should seriously consider retiring because of her weight. Serena should be applauded for her baby weight - not how she looks, because there is nothing wrong with her physical appearance, but all the other elements of her life after her daughter's arrival. It's the worrying about if your child is hot or cold, have you done enough imaginative play that day, is the washing done, what could you have for tea tonight, are you spending enough time with your child, should you have breastfed for longer even though you stopped 12 months ago, am I a good mother?
Williams' example is inspiring and should be celebrated, not degraded with trivial remarks that have no relevance. One sport that has intrigued me over the past couple of years, as I've discovered a love for the game, has been American football. There is beauty in the versatility of all the shapes, sizes or physical abilities needed to play the game. There are the quarterbacks who are, generally, tall, but height is not necessary. They are strategic thinkers, quick decision-makers and can have the ability to escape like Houdini. The running backs are more solid, can be short and elusive or a bulldozer. Speed and agility are key.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Wide receivers are the gazelles of the team. They're lean and quick. They have to be because on the defensive line is the cheetahs, or I should say the corners and safeties, whose job it is to get the gazelles. They too are agile and quick. The linebackers are not big enough to tackle and not fast enough to play in the secondary. The first line of defence is the tackles. They're big, strong, have agility, but don't have to sprint. They are programmed to stop the guy with the ball. It's actually one very inclusive sport when it comes to various bodies. It's refreshing to watch and hear the commentary based on skill, not appearance.
I've had some dear friends of late who lost a staggering amount of weight as they made the most of a slower pace that 2020 brought with it. I was mindful to never comment on the weight loss because that was just one of their hard work outcomes. Instead, I turned my comments about the glow of their complexion, the brightness of their eyes, their strength in physical exercise and admiration in their dedication to healthy eating.
I've been "diagnosed" with perfectionism in the past. I used to joke that I was a Virgo, so perfectionism was natural because I was born within that star sign. But it was pointed out to me recently that perfectionism isn't always a positive trait. A true perfectionist can never achieve their goal because the goal continues to change as improvements change. So with the issue of weight or image, what is perfect? The goalposts shift constantly that the mission for perfectionism is never met. So, I wore that bikini the other day. Unfortunately, I carefully inspected the pool to make sure I wasn't breaching a code of some description, and quickly jumped into the pool and sank to my knees, so I was covered.
I'm trying to not be self-deprecating about my image, something I do because I believe I beat people to thinking the same thoughts. After nearly 35 years, it's a hard slog to change this approach, but it's well worth the effort. But while I work on this, I will keep wearing that bikini, or that dress that would normally be binned in the "I wish I could wear if only I had the [insert ideal looking body part]".
As a colleague said the other day, "you can wear it".