When I was 5 or 6 years old, I got this bathing suit. But this was not just any bathing suit, people. This was THE bathing suit.
The bathing suit to top all bathing suits, a thing of truly magical powers.
To be honest, it was probably from K-mart or something, and it probably cost all of $8 and change, but this suit was a miracle to me. Why? Because when I put it on, the hand crack of god whipped through the stratosphere and made me a bonafide STARRRR *queue rainbows and confetti and star-eyed-emojis to the moon*. 🌈🎉🦄🤩🤩🤩🌟✨
Okay, I’m definitely exaggerating, but this bathing suit just made me feel… special… good-about-me, amazing.
It had wide vertical rainbow stripes with a little dark navy blue ruffle skirt. It was probably the first time those little mini-ruffle skirts came out on girls bathing suits, so it was obviously the next best thing to being a prima ballerina.
We had gone on a camping trip with family friends, and my plan was to LIVE in this suit every day. By the end, they would not be able to peel it off my body if they tried, because I would have merged with the suit and become the fantastical person I always knew I was meant to be! (😂 again, I *MIGHT* be exaggerating a little)
There was only one problem.
I soon learned all my plans had been foiled when my mom informed me I would have to share the suit with my friend and take turns wearing it day to day. We were the same age, and she loved my suit too, and for all I know, our mothers split the cost of it, but I had no prior knowledge of this, and when I was informed, it absolutely CRUSHED ME.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, what you’re thinking is probably the same thing my mom was thinking: “How ridiculous! Don’t be absurd! Stop being selfish, and be a good girl and share!” (she probably didn’t say this, I don’t even remember, but I felt it)
But here’s the thing… I was a good girl, and I had absolutely no problem sharing my things and did so joyfully every day, but this, THIS thing, I wanted for myself.
It would take me about 35 years to figure out why, but I now know why it was so important to me. What I understand now, is that I wanted to hold onto that magic I felt, that self-confidence, that lightness and self-love, and I knew the moment the suit was on her body, all that magic would just… disappear.
I would be forced to compare myself, and be compared, against how she looked in the suit (which was going to be better than me for sure, because everyone knew she had the “better body” < — yes these thoughts were in my head at this age, and yes it is an absolute travesty that a 6-year-old was thinking such things), and after that the suit would make me feel bad about myself, instead of good.
It would no longer be mine. The magical suit that made me feel magical, would turn back into a pumpkin. *Queue tiny violins* 🎻
I know you’re probably rolling your eyes, but the reason I share this story with you, is because it is not always the big traumatic events of our lives that form our limiting subconscious beliefs about ourselves, but numerous tiny and seemingly trivial ones like this.
The lessons of sharing and giving are good lessons, lessons we all must learn. But there were other lessons that that little girl learned that day and internalized in ways that would be extremely unhelpful, such as:
1. It is not okay to have or want things just for you, ever.
2. What is given is not really yours, and will be taken away.
3. It is not okay to shine or feel shiny. It makes other people feel bad & get upset.
We all have incidents like this in our histories. From trivial ones to totally traumatic ones—moments where we got the message loud and clear that it HURTS other people when we shine, when we ask, when we HAVE, when we win, when we glow and feel amazing. And we don’t want to hurt people.
Because we have big hearts, we love, we want to HELP. So we learned to dim the light. To keep it quiet. To shut it down. To not get too big for our britches. And we lost ourselves in that along the way.
Now I don’t know about you, but I have two little cartoon characters sitting on my shoulders at all times, except instead of an angel on the right and a devil on the left, it’s a feminist badass on the right and a care-taking-self-sacrificing-female on the left. You know… a bit of a Maya Angelou vs. Mother Theresa situation.
And even now, you can catch me wrestling mightily between the two on any given day. (Cause you know I’m with Maya on this one right?! I mean OBS!) But I am learning, slowly but surely, that dimming our light, and giving at the expense of ourselves, helps ABSOLUTELY NO ONE. It’s just a band aid on a cut that cuts back harder later on.
You can spout feminist mantras for years, but the proof is in the pudding. And what is that pudding? Your YES to yourself, and your NO when you need it.
We’re all grown up now, and the permission for us to shine and have what we want and need for ourselves lies solely back in our hands.
Let’s give it to ourselves then, shall we?
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