As you know, I was privileged enough to spend three years in Germany and I loved every minute of it enjoying the culture, food and scenery of that country! During all that I learned two very important things in my life: Bravery and Confidence. You could say they are almost the same thing...but, not quite.
Being in another country without knowing the language or fully understanding the "ins and outs" can be really intimidating but when you have to go to that doctor appointment or drive to that one place, there really isn't anyway around it. I stumbled and mumbled and made wrong turns, got lost a few times and froze when asked a question in German (even though I practiced and practiced so I could correctly respond) and thankfully I'm still here, made it to that appointment safely and managed to drive around that gorgeous country (and a few others) for three years. You could say that I grew confident in my time there but first, I had to be brave.
All my life I have always been self conscious and insecure about my body. It controlled my life and the honest truth is that people around me fed off of my fear. I was an easy target to pick on such as family, of course(but who hasn't said things to family members, as terrible and unacceptable as it is), extended family and random strangers looking to hurt someone without feeling the consequences.
When I would go swimming I would wear shorts and a t-shirt over my bathing suit unless in the privacy of my parent's yard, though I still found myself nervous.
Summer came along and I was invited to go to the local German pool with a friend. Water is like a magnet to me and I can never stay away from it for too long. When I got there I was geared up with my usual t-shirt and shorts but realized that no one else was:
1. wearing anything over their bathing suit
2. even cared about what I looked like
3. there to enjoy the nice weather and fun in the pool.
I eventually took off those cumbersome clothes that day (I wasn't allowed to swim with them on) and found myself holding my arms in front of me and trying stay in the water...still attempting hide while continually looking over my shoulder for that classic smirk or scoff. I never saw any. Don't get me wrong, I'm no saint and found myself rudely commenting to myself about other people at the pool.
As that summer went by my confidence grew and my harsh words and thoughts diminished almost to nothing (I still find myself struggling with it).
One day I went to a water park with a large group of friends(all Americans) and we were really enjoying ourselves until I realized that one guy was saying nasty, mean things about anyone and everyone that didn't meet his standards, body wise. I began to feel very self conscious...again. Then I grew angry.
I eventually asked, "Why do you need to be mean? They are here to enjoy themselves as much as you are."
He looked dumbfounded for a moment, but only a moment. He wasn't the only one in the group acting that way and I will never forget that day and the shame and embarrassment I felt just for being associated with them. Amazing how much my mindset had changed at that point.
We are now stateside and it is once again summer and the water is calling to me. I have been to some of the local pools and have observed something that makes my heart heavy. All the women and even some men have stayed covered up while at and in the pool. Many of these people are Mom's, Dad's and teenagers. I (now habitually) strip down to my bathing suit whenever I arrive and get in the water with my kiddo and have noticed that many women looked at me rather stunned. One woman actually took off her shorts and shirt after a little and I was so happy for her! I don't know if I was an encouragement but it didn't matter because I felt so inspired. Bravery comes in all different shapes and sizes and I hope to be that inspiration for all the beautiful ladies in this world. Be BRAVE and you will become confident and I truly believe that confidence brings out your true beauty.
People will still judge and scoff and laugh but now I truly pity them. When I'm at the pool, water park, beach or sunbathing with friends it's because I'm there to enjoy the pool, water park, beach or sunbathing not to compare with, judge or envy others. Those that spend all their time "pounding their gavels" must be so consumed by body image that the truly beautiful and important things in life are completely missed.
You are beautiful.
If you truly struggle with that truth then do something about it for only we can fix ourselves.