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," 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.
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."
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."
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