By Kate Kole
I went to the beach last week. And for the first time in 2 years, I decided to bare my belly in the sun. Because, I wanted to go into the water with my nephews and relax on our sprawled-out blanket. I wanted to listen to the soft waves roll onto the shore, and feel my feet sink into the sand, and watch the sunlight glisten on the water without giving my body as much as a second thought.
Mere moments after taking off my tank top, my desire to forget about my figure and focus on an afternoon with my family faded. I began studying my stomach, critiquing its imperfections and the way it folded as I sat down in my chair. I glanced around, staring at other women, feeling the all too familiar urge to compare my body to theirs.
I considered tossing my top back on. Hiding my insecurities. Or at the very least, standing up and sucking in.
And then I asked my oldest nephew if he wanted to go in the water, instead. He nodded, grabbed his boogie board, and we waded out into the gentle waves. I witnessed what it looks like to truly live in the moment while watching him laugh as he tried, time and time again, to stand up on his board.
I spent the rest of the afternoon cycling between taking a page out of his book, and living in the moment and resorting to old habits, and living in my mind. I noticed each time I began tormenting myself, lamenting over the fact that my figure isn’t exactly where I want it to be, obsessing over imperfections. And from there, I shifted my focus to something else. Like the way my dad picks up broken shells and places them in his mouth as a row of chipped teeth. Or the way my mom still enthusiastically plays in the sand. Or the way that being with my sister always makes me feel at home within myself. I tapped into gratitude, connection, and joy.
I saw the bigger picture around me. The one that’s more significant than a number on my swimsuit or a creased line on my midsection. I discovered awe for the vast magnificence of the ocean, and appreciation for the presence that nature provides. I felt a renewed perspective for what really matters most. For family, memories, and laughter. For the moments that stay with us for the rest of our lives.
I wish I could say that I’m at a place where I truly accept, always embrace, and wholeheartedly love my body. Where I constantly recognize and appreciate its strength and stamina. Where I see its own unique beauty, and resist the temptation to scrutinize its shape or compare it to the beautiful bodies around me. Where I can confidently stand in a swimsuit without concern.
I’m not quite there.
And maybe that’s okay. Because the realization of where I am right now is this: our lives are so much bigger than our bodies, anyway. We’re worth so much more than inches, numbers, pounds, and packs. We’re greater than the shell the world sees. And the scale will never satisfy us in the same way as living according to the longings of our soul.
Of course, I want to love my body. And I’m working on that. But in the meantime, I’m going to focus on appreciating this life. Its sights and sounds. The depth and breadth of all its feels. Knowing that I don’t want miss a second by sitting on the sandy sidelines when I have the option of running barefoot through the water instead.
Ultimately, getting to a place of appearing perfect isn’t what creates meaning in our lives. I know, because my body didn’t feel perfect that day, and it was still one of my favorite days of the summer. The moments I savor the most, the ones that still make me smile still, are the ones that had nothing to do with the way I looked and everything to do with the way I felt. In love, full of life, with my people. And that’s the good stuff.