All of us have flashbacks to our younger self that make you feel like they are touching a hot stove. I recently watched Bo Burnham’s film Eighth Grade and it seemed to bring me right back to my adolescence the early 2000s. Some of my most vivid and uncomfortable memories revolve around my younger self and the image I had of my body and my weight.
I look back at film camera pictures of my rag tag group of elementary friends in bathing suits at a birthday party, and to my surprise, all of us look the same. We are all dorky, and awkward, but colorful and full of energy.
But one of the main things I remember, as I return back to that swimming pool and back to that birthday party, is how incredibly different I felt.
I was convinced that unlike my other friends, I was too fat to flail and jump and dance around the pool. I was convinced, without a doubt, that I was too fat to climb the ladder to the slide, let alone go down. I was convinced, one hundred percent, that if I did, the splash alone from my body hitting the water would make all of my friends explode with laugher and disbelieve. I was paralyzed with fear, all surrounding a distorted image of my body.
My parents always urged me to go out and have fun with the other kids in my school, to do whatever the next birthday party had us do, to roller-skate, to horseback ride, to tube down the rainbow river. It was so much bigger than feeling unattractive, my body felt awkward and clumsy and destructive. I spent so many afternoons at the picnic table rather than running towards the slip in slide for fear of red hot embarrassment and fear that I would allow my body the slack to betray me.
I skipped out on so much, including the corner piece of the perfect Publix birthday cake for fear reminding my friends of the overweight boy from Matilda. It’s a ridiculous and irrational thought, but there are no rational thoughts when you’re 10 and puberty is a wild time to be alive.
The only objective difference between my friends and I was that I was in a one piece bathing suit that my mom got me at Bealls and the other girls were in neon tankinis their mom got them at Limited Too. Objectively, we were all either pudgy or lanky, but we all looked like children. The was no comparison, only the comparison I was obsessed over in my mind and the comparison I thought I deserved. Even at such a young age.
With age and through the body positivity movement, I have been able to make significant and meaningful breakthroughs in the way I treat myself and the way I view my body. The distortions have become less hazy, and the truth has been so much easier to uncover. It still takes work, it still takes an active choice and an active decision. More than anything though, it takes the boldness that I didn’t have back then.
I won’t be making these mistakes anymore, I won’t be missing out on anything in fear. I will cannonball into every pool. I will shake my booty to every Shakira song. I will always ask for the corner piece of cake. I will slide down every slide.
Adventure is powerful, especially when you take it into your own hands. Boldness is my most supreme tool to combat the hand on the hot stove, the cringey moments that I recount when I lay down for bed. The only way I can move towards healing is to give myself grace for the moments I was weak and wrong as a child, and be strong as an adult. I want to show myself and show others that we can do anything we want, and we deserve to do anything we want as cheesy as it sounds.
This Sunday was my little brother’s 10th birthday. In an effort to take my past back, I climbed the tallest ladder to the tallest blow up waterslide and shot down without a care. This one’s for you, 7 year old Lindsey, and all the little girls watching.