Practicing self-acceptance. Or, how, at 43, I’m wearing lipstick & bought a bikini.

I used to be super skinny. Like, never-had-to-think-about-what-I-ate naturally skinny. For so much of my life, well into my 30s, and until I did two things in a very short period of time: quit smoking and got knocked up.

Because of the natural slender state of my body, I never thought about how I looked in clothes. I was super fortunate in that I didn’t have a lot of that self-critical baggage that many women have. I didn’t hate my body or my face. I was just kind of content with who I was and how I looked. After pregnancy, nothing physical snapped back like I had just kind of assumed it would. I started to more fully understand how other women felt about their bodies, because mine was not behaving in the way I was used to it behaving. Another pregnancy, another twenty (or so) pounds. Almost seven years later, and here I am. Not skinny. Not smooth. A little bit lumpy. Chubby. Maybe even (to some people) fat.

I’m thinking today, as I write this, about a couple of times since this sea change in my body type, when other women, quite inadvertently, have absolutely destroyed how I felt about myself. One time, back when I still had the shop, I was feeling pretty cute. It was a few months after Astrid was born, and I had a pink skirt on, with some of those spanks-ish undershorts underneath to kind of hold things in and smooth things out. I was chatting with a group of ladies that frequented the shop, and one (the very oldest) reached over, rubbed my belly, and congratulated me on being pregnant yet again. Gritting back tears, I squeaked out, “oh, I’m not pregnant, gotta go get back to work,” ran into the back room, and cried for a good long while. It was heartbreaking to feel so cute, and be told that not only was I not achieving the look I was going for, but I looked, in fact, like I had a bun percolating in my gut-oven.

Another time, a few years later, and me with the same basic body. I was in line at the grocery store, in another cute (I thought) outfit. This time, a dress with a full-ish skirt and a high-ish waist. Deep pockets, super comfortable, a fun print. Pretty much the ideal dress. I was the second person in line, and was looking at my phone. I made a noise reacting to a funny text, and the check-out woman gasped, and said, oh, don’t have that baby here! WHAT? I said. She said something about how I looked like I was about to burst, pregnancy-wise, and she wished I would not go into labor in her grocery check-out line. (To be totally fair to me, I did NOT look that pregnant. I would argue that I didn’t look pregnant AT ALL, but this woman kind of killed my love for that adorable dress.) The absolute worst thing was, she kept going. She would not shut up. Picture this: I’m standing there, waiting for her to ring through my weeks-worth-of-groceries-for-a-family-of-four, trying not to literally perish from embarrassment and self-loathing, and this woman keeps stammering and making excuses for why she assumed I was pregnant. Finally, I looked her in the eye, and said, as kindly as I could: “You need to stop. You should never tell another woman she looks pregnant. You should never assume anything about someone else’s body, let alone comment loudly on it. You need to stop talking.”

All of that to say, being a woman in this image-centered world is hard. Trying to see myself without all of the damned self-criticism and body-baggage, let alone the inadvertent criticism we women share with one another. Trying to look past the round belly, the saggy arms, the wrinkly-getting skin; those parts of my body that are so so different than they used to be. The parts that are showing their age and reactions to snacking and life and time. And getting to a place where I’m truly happy with who and where I am. Add to that the fact that I do my own modeling for my knitting patterns, and, woah, doggy. Can you say, constant-attempts-to-circumvent-self-criticism? Fortunately, Stefan loves the heck out of me, and his photos are, for the most part, taken full of love and admiration, so they are generally fairly complimentary. Plus, he never even shares the truly horrible ones with me. Unless, of course, they are hilarious, in which case, he generally makes gifs out of a few of them strung together.

I wrote a bit about this a few months ago, talking about my dressmaking and tattoo obsessions. Both the making of my own clothes and the getting pricked by super sharp needles for countless hours has helped me to accept my physical self. Having good friends who I have long conversations about this with (I’m looking at you, Lorajean) has been instrumental in my journey to radical self-acceptance.

And, I won’t even get into the whole “comparison-is-the-thief of joy” situation that our social-media-centered world lays on us with the striving for likes and clicks and engagement numbers. It’s particularly difficult when you have a business that relies on folks reacting positively to the aesthetics of your business, and by extension, you. There’s the selfie situation, and the careful application of filters, and taking a bazillion photos to find the one you are happy with. And all of this through the lens of our self-criticism.

Today, I’ll just leave you with the fact that I did, recently, purchase a [high-waisted] bikini bathing suit, and I will be wearing that bathing suit on the beach in Mexico with dear friends in a couple of weeks. And I will try really hard to rock that bikini, and leave all of those feelings of fatness and inadequacy and self-criticism in the suitcase, because they don’t belong on a beach in Mexico, am I right?

So, without further ado, but with a huge lump of anxiety in my belly, here are some photos of me, lumps and all, in my bikini.

Comments

  1. Beautiful, just beautiful. How did you know how much I needed this today. I’m so in awe and humbled by your strength and beauty. Thank you for living your truth. ❤️🙏 Niki Wolford

    1. Author

      Thanks so much, Niki!!! Glad this is helping and touching such a nerve. Let’s embrace who we are!!!

  2. Love, love, loved ve this❤️❤️ I couldn’t be prouder of my girl…I just wish the whole world would see the truth in this post. Love your bikini! Bring it to Montana this summer. I’ll be wearing a two piece too…probably not a bikini…😄😄😄😄👙👙👙👙

    1. Author

      Love love love YOU! Can’t wait to swim with you this summer!

    1. Author

      Love you, Jen! We do need self-love AND for our daughters never to have to hear that voice telling them they are not enough. <3

  3. Shannon, you look great. From what I see of you, you have a very free spirit. You can tell by the way Stefan and your girls look at you all they see is love. And the most beautiful woman they have ever know. I too as struggle (weight loss surgery in 2003) with a terrible weight issue and even at 66 I still worry about how people see me. I think the world has always tell us what wrong with us instead of what right with us. We all need to be grateful for how many wonderful things our bodies do for us. Like getting us around all day. And your body produced those two beautiful young daughters. How could that body not be something amazing and wonderful. Erin is 14 and not having self image issue so we went to see the movie “I feel pretty” the way Amy Shimer watch her self in that movie is the way we should all see ourselves. AMAZING. !!!!
    You rock that bikini and enjoy every moment in your amazing body!!!!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Mary Ann! This weight struggle is one that almost every woman I know has known at some point in her life. We need to be kinder to ourselves and other women, don’t we? Love you and all of your beautiful people!

  4. You are ROCKING that bikini!

    For my entire life I’ve had internal and external voices telling me that nothing less than perfect is acceptable, and let me tell you the internal voices are much harder to silence! It’s only been very recently that I’ve been able to accept that I am good enough just as I am, and I should embrace that and not give a fuck what anyone else thinks! Which is rather ironic since my body is currently as far from “socially perfect” as it’s ever been. It’s still a struggle every day, some more than others, but having a great support system of perfectly imperfect people in my life makes a huge difference, as do posts like this. Thank you for being brave enough to share your experience and put yourself out there, you are strong and perfect and a great role model for your little ladies and ladies everywhere!

    1. Author

      Girl, YES! Those internal voices are assholes, and they need to shut the eff up. And, we need to reserve our energies for things we need to devote them to, not to disliking who we are. You’re amazing and beautiful, and you’re rocking that lipstick from last weekend!!!

  5. Yeah, baby!! You are the second person I’ve recently run across with this F* that attitude about swimwear. I’m totally buying a 2 piece this summer, and will try to rock it half as well as you do. Ain’t nothing sexier than Confidence, right?

    Thank you for your words ❤

    1. Author

      YES YES YES! Confidence and self-love and acceptance are the sexiest and best things!

  6. I have dealt with my size and weight my whole life, Shannon. To the point I had my whole insides changed by bariatric surgery. The weird thing was how getting so thin that people didn’t recognize me REALLY messed with my head too!!

    I have gained back half of the 110 pounds I lost in 2002. Now, I also have dementia and osteoporosis, since I don’t absorb vitamins. It’s an uphill climb going both directions! I hate my wings under my arms and my chin hanging! My grandkids, however, LOVE those fat spots in my body. Lol

    I have to always tell myself it’s not my body that counts! It’s the people I help through this life.

    1. Author

      Oh, Aunt Pam, I love you so much! The small people in our lives, who love our soft spots and think that we are so beautiful because of the love they have for us sure can teach us a lot about self-acceptance, right? You are beautiful and so sweet and caring and just a straight-up wonderful person.

  7. Ms Shannon, it’s not what you see on the outside that should concern you. We love you just the way you are in all of your perfection. I don’t like the other word to describe anybody. . . . .At my age I just take the sagging as a natural form of aging, 70 gives me a new sense of freedom in not worrying about body image. Have a wonderful time in Mexico, as I’ve learned from traveling overseas you’ll see all body types and it’s no big deal for them to be in their swim wear.

  8. Having known you for a VERY long time I can tell you, you are still as beautiful as you were in high school! My whole life has been a struggle with my weight. After my first child I lost so much I was smaller than I was in HS and super proud of myself! Then my son came along and about 1 1/2 years later I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Ever since then I’ve been a yoyo. Love the ink!! I also have a lot of it, and I’m proud of it. Finally am accepting of who I am and how I look also…. I also knit and crochet, but mostly crochet as I feel it offers me more versatility. Designing bags, ponchos eyc….
    Anyway Shannon, I’m super happy for you, live yourself!! -Jessica Bodnovich Bish

    1. Author

      So good to hear from you, Jessica! You have always been a beautiful person and soul! Yay for self-acceptance and love and strength. Big hugs to you!!!

  9. You rock, Shannon! You’re a lot braver than I am when it comes to swimsuits.

    1. Author

      I’m going to DO THIS! And just try not to look too closely at myself and concentrate on enjoyment of the beach and the ocean and the margaritas 😉

  10. Your post brought me to tears. You articulated everything I have been feeling and by doing so have helped me to reevaluate how I view my aging (50 this summer!) body. Thank you so much. Also, you look gorgeous in your bikini!

    1. Author

      Dawn, thanks so much for this! I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about this lately, and I just really feel strongly that wasting our energies on self-criticism is so not worth it. It’s easier said than done a lot of days, and I am by no means completely healthy in my relationship to my physical appearance, but I’m trying. Big hugs and a very happy upcoming birthday to you!

    1. Author

      La-la-la-la-la! So good to see you a few weeks ago! <3

  11. My voice in my head is always critical of my body. Some days it’s all I can think about. Today for example… my pants are a bit snug. I’m beating myself up for indulging during a recent vacation to Vegas. It’s a constant battle of should I eat/drink this or that.
    I’d give anything to just have self acceptance and peace in my brain.
    I loved everything you wrote.
    Thank you.
    Oh! You look fab in that bikini! Have fun on your vacation!!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Corrina! I think it does take a lot of work, because we see ourselves through the most critical lens out there. Just be gentle with yourself, and if you need to, wear bigger pants 😉 My Dress No. 1 uniform has helped me so much, because before that, I felt like I was always tugging at my tops to not cling to my belly, and almost always felt like I needed to fix or adjust my clothes. Now that I found something I love wearing (and love what I look like in), I have more confidence and self-love. Big hugs, and you’ve got this!

  12. Wow! Thank you so much for all your heartfelt posts! They truly inspire me!! Not that it matters what I think about you, but I think you are adorable and are rockin’ that bikini!

    1. Author

      Thanks my dear! We should all work at lifting each other up, so we have the strength to work on those things that are truly important! <3 <3 <3

  13. I appreciate you addressing this issue, it is near and dear to my heart. I have found self acceptance a tough journey. Some days are better than others. I have roller coastered with my weight for over 45 years and having two kids 13 months apart. It’s all good and you are rocking it in your bikini! Have a great time on your trip!

    1. Author

      You’ve got this, Mona! It IS a constant struggle against the voice in our heads that are saying, are you sure you want to wear that? Why are you so lumpy? Why can’t you be more… But, you know what? Eff that voice! 😉

    1. Author

      Thanks, Andria! It was hard to push that publish button, but I’m so glad I did!

  14. Super awesome post, and I relate to it so much! Thank you for being deeply honest with all of us.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Kira! It’s a struggle, when our bodies change quite without our permission, but we’ve got this!

  15. Beautifully written, by a beautiful person! Love ya, Shannon!

    P.S. You’re going to be ON A BEACH IN MEXICO?!?! You better rock that bikini with confidence and take lots of pictures!

    1. Author

      MEXICO!!! So excited! Thanks so much for reaching, and I love you to bits and pieces!!!

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