For many of us, being a teenager and having to wear a swimsuit was not a fun thing.
Putting on a bikini at the age of 13 and then heading to the local pool caused a world of worry — how would other kids look at you and your body in this awkward stage of your life? These are the types of memories that can play into a case of low self-esteem that lingers around with you until adulthood.
So when Rachel Spencer, a life coach in New York City, took to Instagram one week ago to share a photo of her 13-year-old self, hiding her tummy while sitting down and wearing a swimsuit, her message didn't start on a happy note, but rather, a sad one.
I've been sitting here trying to think of a good caption but this photo just makes me sad when I look at it. So how about I ask you a question: Who taught the young girl on the left to hide her tummy before taking pictures in a swimsuit❓ Who taught her that at only 13 years old, her chubby little body was unworthy of a photographic memory❓ It definitely wasn't her parents or family, so who was it? Well, did you know that this innocent young girl was bullied for her weight? Not by the girls. The girls were nice. But the boys...the boys were mean. From then on out, she never wanted to go to the pool, saw boys as a threat, cried to her teachers, etc etc. Things started to get better in middle school, but then came the media. *Knock Knock* Diet culture, fitness, cellulite cream--CELLULITE?? Why was a 13 year old worried about cellulite??? Because the media told her it was bad. That SHE was bad and needed to change. If you couldn't tell by now, the young girl was me. There's a big difference between the closed off, hiding, young girl on the left and the carefree, happy, open girl on the right. ❤️And that difference is self love.❤️ I taught it to myself. I had to. I had to find a way to be happy. The process wasn't quick. I'm still working on it at 26 years old. But I have a message for all the women who are much older and STILL feel ashamed to show their tummy at the pool: Don't be. Put on that bikini and smile. Don't feel the need to let other people's opinions ruin precious memories with your friends and family. Show your daughters what it's like to flaunt their flaws at the pool. No shame. Your imperfections tell a story. Your body is beautiful. You are BEAUTIFUL.
"I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a good caption but this photo just makes me sad when I look at it," Spencer wrote beside the double image — one showing her teenage self with the words "low self-esteem" written under it, and the other side, a photo of her 26-year-old self with the words "self-love queen."
Rachel notes that societal influence was playing a role far too early in her life, and she wishes that hadn't been the case.
"Who taught her that at only 13 years old, her chubby little body was unworthy of a photographic memory? It definitely wasn't her parents or family, so who was it?" Spencer asked.
She goes on to recall being bullied in her youth for her weight. And not by other girls, but by boys, describing them as "threats." And as she grew older, it was images and messages in the media that began to knock her down.
"Things started to get better in middle school, but then came the media. *Knock Knock* Diet culture, fitness, cellulite cream — CELLULITE?? Why was a 13 year old worried about cellulite??? Because the media told her it was bad. That SHE was bad and needed to change," Spencer wrote.
I've been fairly open about my journey, but if you haven't read about it yet, here's a #Repost from @theeverybodybeautystandard ❤️ ・・・ 4 years ago, I hated myself. I barely ate anything, went to the tanning salon, thought I needed to go on a bunch of juice cleanses, and I worked out 2-3 times a day. I was hurting my body in order for it to look good. I remember one time, I went to the gym for 3 hours after dinner because I felt guilty for eating a slice of pizza. I would get cramps from running so hard after eating, but I figured a little bit of pain didn't matter as long as I was burning calories. I thought that by changing myself on the outside, I would feel better about myself on the inside. I kept going and going, not because I loved myself, but because I wasn't happy with my results. I never starved myself, but I would always look in the mirror and see all of my imperfections staring back at me. So here I am 4 years later, feeling like I don't even know who that girl was. I have grown so much because I finally realized that self-love comes from within. I started telling myself how special I was and I began discovering my worth. My body no longer defines me and it never will again. The old me who cared so much about her looks was unhappy, and filled with hate. The girl I am now (the one who focuses on what's on the inside) is happy, healthy, and the most confident she's ever been in her life -- even at her highest weight. So, moral of the story (if there is one), is that true beauty comes from within. Instead of transforming into my best body, I've transformed into my best self, and that's much more important to me. I see so many women trying to 'fix' themselves, but hopefully now you'll see that the true transformation happens within. Thank you girls for asking me to submit and letting me share my story 🙏🏼 . . . #lifecoach #femaleempowerment #selflove #bodylove #confidence #fearless #imperfections #flawsandall #repostapp #motivation #gratitude #goals #newyork #miami #losangeles #chicago #london #positivity #loveyourself #women #girlpower #womenempoweringwomen #yougotthis #loveyourself #followyourdreams #success #bopo #bodypositive
Like other body image heroes on Instagram, her reason for sharing a photo from a time that brought her pain is to remind others that their bodies are beautiful, and their imperfections always tell a story.
"There's a big difference between the closed off, hiding, young girl on the left and the carefree, happy, open girl on the right. And that difference is self love," Spencer said. "I taught it to myself. I had to. I had to find a way to be happy. The process wasn't quick. I'm still working on it at 26 years old."
Hi! Today my #womancrush...is ME! And I'll tell you why. 1.) Self Love is all the rage 🥂💕 2.) I'm proud of myself. I went shopping today and was so excited to try on summer clothing. To my surprise, over 75% of the clothes I tried on didn't fit me. I had two choices: sit there and cry while focusing on my body, or put on my clothes and go back out for a bigger size. 2 years ago, I would've sat in the dressing room and cried--wishing I could fit into these slinky summer dresses that everyone else wore. But not this time. Today, I chose option number 2. I simply shrugged, put on my clothes, and went back out for a larger size that fit me better and made me look good🔥. My size and weight don't define me. Why am I going to let a dress or a pair of pants ruin my whole day? I'm NOT. I'm still the woman I was yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that. I don't want to be known for my size, I want to be known for my heart and my desire to help others. It took years to change my mindset and develop the skills that I now teach to my clients. You don't have to live your life hating yourself. You can start loving yourself today. 💕 DM or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your free call! #lifecoach #femaleempowerment #girlboss #girlpower #confidence #key #selflove #bodylove #selfesteem #mentalhealth #plussize #youcandoit #beauty #flawsandall #youareenough #motivation #fearless #positivity #inspireothers #women #love #powerful #lovetheskinyourein #wcw #bopo #bodypositive
And yes, for many women ashamed in their bodies, the journey towards self-love is a long road. One that takes years to reach. So Rachel's advice for accepting yourself just as you are? Throw on your bikini and smile!
"Don't feel the need to let other people's opinions ruin precious memories with your friends and family. Show your daughters what it's like to flaunt their flaws at the pool. No shame. You are BEAUTIFUL."
Stay On Top Of The Trends
Get the biggest lifestyle news sent to your inbox
Also on HuffPost