Growing up, my summers were spent at the neighborhood pool. I have very fond memories of playing Marco Polo with my pals, perfecting my swan dive, and snacking on frozen candy bars and sour taffy.
I also have a very vivid memory of one of my girlfriends. I’ll call her Kim. She was about 13 years old at the time.
To this day, I can still see Kim walking down the diving board and around the pool deck in her magenta one-piece swimsuit sucking in her stomach like crazy.
I was struck by Kim’s vigilance and unwavering determination to reveal nothing but a perfectly flat stomach. We never talked about it, but I could sense how strongly she felt her body wasn’t acceptable unless she shape shifted it to fit a cultural ideal.
Protection from Rejection
Of course, I can totally relate to Kim's actions. Maybe you can, too.
There have been many times over the years that I either intentionally or subconsciously walked around chronically sucking in my stomach.
I felt it was critical to hide this protruding part of myself that I feared others would find unattractive and label as a weakness, ultimately leading them to reject me.
Deeply ingrained, I still sometimes catch myself resorting to this tactic when feeling vulnerable. Unlike my butt or thighs, I can instantly suck in my gut.
By controlling the size of my stomach, I mistakenly believe I can control a world full of uncertainty, including how others perceive me and the degree to which they admire, accept and love me.
As you pull on your swimsuit this summer, you may find yourself also getting pulled into the false stories about what the size of your belly (or butt, thighs, arms, etc.) says about you.
Such toxic thoughts can trap you in a negative mindset that drives you to relentlessly beat yourself up for not having the "perfect" body while missing out on all the fun.
Instead, what if you used this moment as a life-changing opportunity to liberate yourself from the conditioning and beliefs that are no longer serving you?
It takes courage and commitment to change your relationship with your body, to accept and love yourself even when you don't always like what you see in the mirror, to let go of what others might be thinking of you, to let it all hang out.
But, in the words of one of my beloved healers and authors, Mary O’Malley…
"Nothing less than freedom comes when you can let go of being somebody that needs to be different in order to be okay."