I’ve been on a bit of a journey with my body confidence of late (yes, a journey! Like an X Factor contestant!). For the past few years, I’ve been pretty comfortable with being a size 16 (or a 14 in some amazing shops like M&S and White Stuff) but ask me to wear swimwear and I’d break out in an anxious sweat.
I decided in my late 20s that bikinis just aren’t for me – even when I was a size 12 and on my honeymoon, I didn’t LOVE wearing a bikini. So I hunted down flattering (read: slimming) one-piece swimming costumes and bought variations of the same one when I found the perfect style (black, plunging neckline, control panel on the tummy). But even still, I hated having to wear a swimming costume. It’s just so… revealing, isn’t it? All your lumps and bumps, just THERE for everyone to see.
But as I wrote about recently, seeing Instagram posts from Clemmie Hooper and Natalie Lee made me take another look at things, and it led to me posting some photos of myself in a one-piece swimming costume on Instagram and here on the blog. I realised: we ALL have body hang-ups. And the more people who post photos of their bodies – with all the lumps and bumps that are totally normal, especially once you’ve had a baby – the better everyone will feel about themselves.
So when Natalie Lee (check out her blog Style Me Sunday here) asked me to come along to a photo shoot she was organising as part of her Warrior Woman Project, in conjunction with Dove, I was intrigued. The idea was simple: a bunch of women, many of whom have body insecurities, getting together to strip off in front of a camera. So despite the warning bells ringing in my head, I said yes to Natalie. YES I’LL DO IT. “What are you doing?” a little voice in my head asked me. But I ignored it and just focused on the bigger picture: promoting body positivity.
As the day approached, I decided to face my bikini fears and went out to try to find one that I liked. If I was going to do this, I needed to do it properly. In for a penny, in for a pound. Brilliantly, I found a great bikini in M&S and bought it – high waisted bottoms and a flattering top.
On the day, something incredible happened. I arrived feeling quite cautious, unsure of how the day would go. I took a cool beach cover up in case I needed it and wasn’t entirely sure how I’d feel having my photo taken wearing a bikini. After chatting to some of the other ladies there (and watching a brilliant performance from the amazing Scummy Mummies) I braved it to go upstairs, where the photoshoot was happening. I got changed into my bikini and hung around, waiting for my turn. And while I was watching the other women have their photo taken, something shifted. I started to feel less nervous and more excited. It was just amazing to see women of all shapes and sizes posing for the cameras and looking totally comfortable in their own skin. If these women are totally cool doing this, I thought, then so am I.
But it wasn’t just a shift in thought that happened that day, it’s something that has stayed with me since. The following week, I went to Kos with my mum and six-year-old. Usually, I’d be feeling very self-conscious wearing swimwear on holiday, but for the first time ever, I didn’t give a crap! I wore my bikini (and this swimming costume pictured here) around the pool, and didn’t care that I don’t have an amazing bod. I was too busy eating Magnums and jumping into the swimming pool with my six-year-old to care what anyone else might think.
Even still, when the photos from the Warrior Woman Project shoot came through, I hesitated before posting them online. Being happy in swimwear on holiday, when everyone else is in swimwear too, is one thing, Posting photos of yourself in swimwear on the internet is a whole other kettle of fish.
But I did it. I pressed ‘publish’ on Instagram and I’m going to press publish here on my blog too. So what if I have a big tummy? So what if I have rolls of flab? It’s normal. It’s how I am. We can’t all look like Victoria’s Secret models and anyway, as we teach our kids: appearance isn’t everything. Beauty is only skin deep and it’s far more important to be a nice person, right?
So here I am. I’ve been on a bit of a journey. And I’m grateful to the women who have helped me along the way.