I always felt I was a lot bigger than the other girls at school.
I was fit, I played a lot of sports,
I was in all of the sporting teams; hockey, netball, swimming, athletics, even tennis and rounders.
I don't rememeber eating anything but what was on my plate so nothing excessive or restrictive but I went to a boarding school and disordered eating and thinking were common place.
I don't ever remember a time when I didn't hear "I'm so fat" comments that the girls would make of themselves. This made me often think
"If that's what they think of themselves, then what the hell do they see of me? What the hell am I? A barge?"
Seriously what else would a 15, 16, 17 year old self-conscious girl, away from home, believe when that's all she was hearing? I remeber asking them "well what does that make me?" and never got a response to help alleviate any of the negative thoughts I felt.
This photo is of me in Australia when I was on my gap year. I was 18 and we were travelling up the East coast of Australia. At that time we were sailing around the Whitsundays on a beautiful yacht called the Southern Cross (an ex-America's cup yacht). We were going snorkelling and we were in perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the world doing it. And yet all I thought about when I saw this photo was 'look at those bulges'.
I remember commenting on my "bulges" and one of the other girls mumbled something about "er... no... just look at your..." and she mentioned some other physical attribute but clearly with a taste of either disgust or non-belief in what she was saying, she was completely unconvincing. She meanwhile knew she could prance in her bikini without a care in the world; she owned her physicality. I just blobbed.
And then there are my moles.
I am covered in them. All over. Face, neck, arms, legs, torso and of course my back. And for some reason it's the ones on my back that I dislike the most. I've never liked them. There are some bigger than the others, one in oarticular causes me pain if I lean back hard on something as it's right on my spine. Another just looks like a map, spread out and engulfing any islands it comes across. I don't see them much (thankfully) but I know they are there.
I was called "Moley" by some of the girls at school as it was a smart play on my maiden name. It also embedded my dislike for these large brown, often circular, blemishes that I hardly ever saw on anyone else's skin.
When I did our most recent photoshoot, my heart was gently reminding me 'This is the right thing to be doing, we have to do this, keep going, other women need to see these - it's so important'
My head was otherwise screaming 'God no! Your moles! those big ones particularly... ooh no way!'
Yes I was exhausted and emotional after a long day, yet my tired brain still thought and I mentioned "I don't like my moles, can you see them?"
Our first photoshoot took my quite by surprise and afterwards I believed I had really changed my perception of myself. I honestly I didn't recognise it was me in the photos. The following weekend I knew I was thinking differently because I packed my bikini when we went to the beach thinking "Sod it, who cares? It's just me that would" I stayed in that bikini in the garden for the rest of the day.
This time, whether it was the anxiety, the emotions or the exhaustion, I knew I could do better (I can also do away with the plain bikini bottoms and go for the side tie string. I had no idea until I saw these photos, that plain is just safe). Not long after, I took my girls to the local pool and played safe again by wearing my ageing Speedo swimsuit from eons ago that is just about on it's last legs. I thought being a public pool no-one would wear a bikini. I was wrong and duely noted.
And yet I keep doing it, I keep going.
I am pulled to do it because it's important and this week it was all validated after talking to Amy Keller Laird, the former Editor in Chief of Woman's Health Magazine in New York. She was interviewing me for a piece she was writing for TIME. I'm equally nervous and excited.
Talking with Amy for over an hour confirmed that my idea, our project, campaign and my vision is important, it's valid. Women do want to see more and do more. That's why there are now over 145 women joining us. So I keep going even when its tough because I know those negative thoughts and moments are temporary. They don't last.
My white bikini from when I was 18 I fondly named my Ursula Andress bikini (and oddly enough there is a link to James Bond with an ex of mine). I know my girls love my moles, they were a vital part of my connection with my eldest whilst she breast fed. She still goes to them as a place of comfort.
I'm right there with you ladies. I feel everything you are feeling when I ask you to get into a bikini and step in front of the camera. I feel awkward and self conscious yet focussed, strong, determined, enormously encouraged, excited and optimistic.
I believe in it, I really do.
I look back now at my 18 year old self and wish I could tell myself to stop worrying so much. Use this precious time to do more, be more and be inspired. I just don't want to look back at these days, at 40, and still be living with those 18 year old self doubts. Way way too much time has been wasted already. So at 60 I want to look back at my 40 year old self and say "nice one - you rock that bikini by the way." I'll be living fully wearing what the hell I like with far fewer shi*ts given.
We are really doing something great here for both ourselves and for each other; for our collective wellbeing and for our families.
So get involved. Share.
This is some ripple effect ladies. Let's keep it going.
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