FOR the first time in my life, I was a little nervous to wear a bikini.
A little more tentative and a lot more anxious than normal. Not like me at all in fact.
I was thirteen weeks pregnant when we jetted off on our summer hols the day after announcing our second pregnancy and I was just at that really awkward stage when you don’t look quite pregnant but neither do you look quite your normal self.
From one angle, to many it would be clear that I was ‘with child’, whereas from another well, it could look like I’d just eaten far too many pies. Or in my pregnancy case, Big Macs.
My breasts, larger and swollen thanks to all those lovely pregnancy hormones, looked slightly obscene to me, through my eyes, with my bikini struggling to keep them covered and at bay.
And my hips, much bigger than normal, felt like they belonged to someone else. Certainly not to me.
On the one hand, I cannot help but marvel at the changes happening to my body, through the miracle of pregnancy.
Whilst on the other, as much as I hate to admit it, there are times when I can’t help but grieve a little for the body I used to have too. It’s inevitable I guess to some degree.
So this year, although I couldn’t wait to dive into the pool or soak up some serious sunny rays on a Kefalonian beach, I most definitely had a few wobbles when it came to body confidence.
Many of you who have read my blog for a while, will know that I have often written about the importance of body confidence. The importance of loving what we have, making the most of ourselves and learning to be appreciative and comfortable in our own skin.
So when my doubts began to take up some head space, I gave myself a severe talking to, reminded myself of the words that I’ve often said to you, got a grip, popped on my bikini and headed to the beach.
And it was blissful.
I swam in the sea and occasionally floated. I collected sea shells with Elsie as we walked along the shore, the waves gently lapping at our hot and grateful feet.
When I got tired – that hit by a bus kind of exhaustion that pregnancy owns – I retired to my sun bed, sitting back to read a chapter or two of my book or more often than not, just people watching.
We’d only been in Kefalonia for a few days when something suddenly struck me. When something made me angry.
Have you ever really sat back and watched people on a beach? Have you ever noticed the incredible mixture of different shapes and sizes?
Perhaps you’ve spotted the people who strut and the people who cover up. Or the mothers that play with their children in comparison to the ones that hide away under an umbrella.
Because what I witnessed was a mixture of people just being people. Authentic humans, relaxing and playing, away from the strains of their everyday lives. People enjoying the sunshine and the glorious turquoise Meditteranean Sea.
I looked and watched really carefully but not once did I notice anyone commenting on someone’s body shape or staring at anyone who was slightly bigger than the norm or different.
Nor did the waves stop coming or the sun stop shining when an older lady walked down the beach in a teeny tiny bikini, even though she was much bigger than a ‘perfect’ size ten.
Amazingly, and contrary to what the media and advertisers like us to believe, there wasn’t one person I saw who seemed to care one bloody jot about what anyone else looked like because well, everyone was far too busy enjoying themselves to care!
And it was then that I became angry.
Angry because I couldn’t help but think of all the many, many magazines which have had ‘how to get bikini ready’ headlines splashed across their covers over the years.
Or the many times that a woman I know and love has been too nervous or embarassed to wear a bikini or swimsuit on her yearly holiday that she’s worked so hard and saved so long for.
Remembering made me livid.
Because whether we realise it or not, we’re all still sold this lie of ‘perfection’, a lie that tells us that we somehow don’t have a right to enjoy life if we don’t have the perfect body, relationship, career or family.
When we don’t look how the airbrushers say we should. Or live our lives in the way we are expected to.
And this lie is killing our happiness.
It is this lie which stops mums having their photos taken with their children on holiday or prevents women from wearing something that they love.
This lie which is stopping so many of us from truly living our lives, from feeling the sea carry us gently as we float to enjoying the heat of the sun on our almost naked bodies.
And it is just utter bullshit.
There are too many women covering up, hiding away, slinking into the shadows because they don’t feel or believe that they are good enough.
Too many women, feeling so ashamed of their bodies that they won’t don a swimsuit in public and play with their kids on a beach.
Too many women always stuck behind the camera capturing memories, instead of being the one making them.
And I refuse to be the same.
Perfection is nonsense. But when it hits a nerve or speaks to one of our insecurities, it’s frighteningly powerful and insidious, taking a sledgehammer to our confidence and brilliantly shaming us so that we lurk around in the dark shadows of life.
But you and I were not created to hide away. We were created to live. To bloom. To soar. We are here to feel and see and hear and experience everything that we possibly can.
So as imperfect as we are, that’s exactly what we all must get on and do.
Even, and especially, in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini.