A little over a month ago, I was embarking on a quest…a quest that most women and I bet many men dread. Alone, at Target, I was in the bathing suit section perusing a selection of suits that looked to be designed for 13-year-old girls. Ugh, here we go, I thought. It was early June and I was determined to get a new cute suit for our family’s upcoming beach trip.
I was actually feeling pretty proud of myself in terms of my health and my body. I have been working out regularly and eating healthy for the most part. I am not in the same shape or size as I was in my early 20s before I had my three girls, but I feel good. I think I look good. In clothes.
After trying on a few handfuls of suits and pushing the dressing room item limit, I gave up. Absolutely nothing – not one suit – looked or felt right for my body. See above first paragraph – I am most definitely not a 13-year-old girl. The harshness of fluorescent lighting, coupled with mirrors that show parts of our bodies we simply weren’t meant to see, made me feel – less than. Not tan enough. Not fit enough. Not young enough.
I stormed out of there empty handed, feeling defeated and annoyed. Really? I’m in good shape. Why doesn’t anything look right? Internal sigh, groan, eye roll. Clearly swimsuit designers don’t understand women’s bodies. Or maybe bathing suits don’t understand women’s bodies.
In any case, my empty shopping cart and I headed back toward the front of the store, when out of nowhere, a tiny girl appeared, sitting in her Mommy’s shopping cart. She pointed right at me and said, “Look, she’s so pretty, Mommy!” I gazed over my shoulder to see if there was someone behind me – perhaps even a Barbie doll or something, but no. It was just me. And she looked right at me.
My heart skipped a beat and I managed to say, “Thank you, you are so sweet. You just made my day.” She smiled and then her mom quietly praised her for saying something so very nice. That one small kindness from a little stranger completely changed my thinking and jolted me out of my swimsuit funk.
It doesn’t matter. None of it. Not how I think I look or actually look in a swimsuit or any other article of clothing. The truth is that we all see beauty in each other, even when we don’t see it in ourselves. So for that moment, I tried to see myself through the eyes of a stranger, to throw out my own self-effacing, overly critical thoughts, and just love myself as I am.
I do, and I promise, I will. Not just for me, but for that little girl, and all the little girls in my life who look to me and to other women as examples on how they should be, and how they should see themselves. Be proud of yourself. You are more than enough. If we believe it, they’ll believe it and there will be plenty of beauty to be shared in this world – inside and out.