I’ve been working for quite some time on accepting my body. Pretty sure it started in 5th grade. It’s sad that I started to have body image issues so young, but I remember exactly why. Some boys used to make fun of me. While I was always very popular with all the girls in school, for whatever reason a group of the “cool” boys liked to make fun of my nose. I have a Pacific Islander nose for sure, and it took a little bit of time to grow into it. The boys used to tell me that my nose was exceptionally flat. I took it pretty well. I would make smart remarks back or roll my eyes.
But one day it was too much for me. They told me that my nose looked extra flat that day and I must’ve run into a door. Despite my strong confidence, even at age 11, I broke down. It was in the middle of art class and I’ll never forget that my two best friends at the time (ironically, I am still friends with them both, though we very rarely speak) chased them around the art room attempting to beat them up. The entire class got a long winded speech that day from our teacher, Mrs. DeWitt (perhaps one of the best teacher’s I’ve ever had), who informed us that: “Sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will shatter the soul.” I remember that night my mom found me in my room with a clothespin on my nose. I was trying to make it less flat.
It wasn’t the last time boys would make fun of me. In middle school I had a horrible nickname. My maiden name is Tometich (pronounced Tah-muh-titch) some boys decided to start calling me Amber Tiny-tits. It’s hilarious and ridiculous now, and again, being such a confident person surrounded by a great group of girlfriends at that time, I never really let it get to me that they noticed. But for the next 8 years or so I wanted a boob job. I never did get it, and am pretty glad I didn’t because I actually like being so petite in that area.
You probably know (haha, is that even really a question?) that I’ve been working my ass off to lose some weight.
All of this is me prefacing… stick with me, ok? (You always do, and I always appreciate it.)
We decided to take the family to the beach on Sunday. It was a completely out of the blue decision because the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We decided to go despite the recent Lake Okeechobee releases, which have made the water brown and caused a lot of issues with red tide and bacteria levels in our typically beautiful water. My daughter hasn’t been to the beach since she was 3 months old or so (blame it on my lack of desire to be in a bathing suit since I had her). So, I donned the only bathing suit that I had and we headed down there.
Now, for the last… 20 months that my daughter has been around I’ve been pinning one-piece swimsuits online. My second pregnancy wreaked some legit havoc on my midsection. Let’s just say I’ve earned my stripes and then some. My belly button will probably never be the same. I’m okay with that, but I’m not okay with one-pieces. I haven’t been able to find a single bathing suit that I like. And anything I do find that I like is either sold out or $300. And while I am somewhat of a shopaholic, the thought of spending $300 on a swimsuit is just… no, thank you. And you know what? The bikinis are cuter on me.
Long part of that story made shorter, I currently only own bikinis. No big deal – I had a cute dress I bought from Gap and I decided I would just follow the kids around and not take it off.
So, we’re sitting on the beach. We have a cocktail in hand, the kids are playing and Kyle is helping them build a sand castle… and here I am, dress pulled up so my legs can get sun and I’m looking around kind of assessing whether or not I can take off my dress.
Like someone was supposed to come up to me and be like, “Yeah, Amber. It’s okay. You can take it off.”
Then I started crying. I started crying because I worked so hard to lose 30 pounds and yet somehow I still couldn’t find it in myself to take my swim cover up off.
I did a boudoir shoot with a friend of mine a few weeks ago for my anniversary. She was incredible and took the most amazing photos of me. I’ll treasure them forever and I’ve looked at them every day since I got them back from her. During the shoot she said something that is so far beyond her years…. I had said something along the lines of, “I really appreciate you doing this for me. I have really bad body hatred, so it’s hard for me to get comfortable.”
She said, “I’ve never worked with a girl who didn’t have body hatred. Every single one of them. And if almost every woman hates their body I think that tells you – we’re not the problem.”
But I realized as I was crying on the beach that the problem is us – because the only reason that we have the standards for beauty that we have is because we cover up everything else. We get stretch marks and we start wearing one-pieces or we wear our maternity swimsuits for the next 12 years into middle age when the rest of the body changes too – and we cover that up.
So, I took off my swim cover up. I took off my swim cover up because for too long I’ve obsessed in perfection. I realized if I don’t embrace myself at the most fit I’ve ever been, after working my tail off to be strong and lose weight – then I’ll never be happy.
I realized in walking around the hotel that day in my bikini getting drinks for us and food for the kids that very few people even bothered to look at my stomach. The only ones that did were other women. Other women assessing my body and comparing it to their own.
I can see why we’re all so insecure. We look around and we think that we have to fit in. That we have to be like every other woman, or that if they’re prettier or have a better stomach, or better arms, or better legs, that we have to change ourselves so that we can be that way too.
Society makes it very, very difficult to accept ourselves. It’s human nature to want to categorize, to fit into something. To be like the people that are close to you – but part of what makes humans beautiful is being so different. We’re all different shapes and sizes. We have different personalities.
You would never want your personality to look exactly the same as everyone else’s, so why are you applying that logic to your body?
In the wise words of my boy Bruno Mars, “You’re amazing. Just the way you are.”
So, there it is. Go to the beach. Wear what you want. Love you for you. Because if you keep waiting, you’re going to look back and regret that you failed to love yourself because of other people.
Stop being part of the problem. Wear bikinis to the beach. And, for the love of god, let’s teach our children to respect each other.
I took a picture for you guys that day. I meant for it to be farther down on my stomach, but you can’t see your screen when you’re taking selfies on the beach, so…
Here’s to bunking societal norms. And embracing mom stomach.