I realize that title sounds like we’re leading into a “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me…” moment, but there is no worm eating going on over here. Bear with me because I think where we’re going is important.
Last week I had the serious good fortune to be in Italy. Now, there’s a lot to say about Italy, but what I want to say today was also prompted by a friend of mine who just decided, in spite of her vociferous inner demons, to buy and wear a bikini to her local pool. She was pretty freaked out and decided that her fear was her best indicator that this was exactly what she ought to do. She did it, took a picture, and posted it on Facebook.
I’m guessing that the bikini to one piece ratio at her local pool in the U.S. (East Coast if that makes a difference, which now that I’m thinking about it, it might) is VERY different from said ratio in Italy. In Italy, I was one of maybe 4 women on the beach in a one piece, and two of the other 3 were great grandmothers. The other, perhaps another American. I lay there in my one piece which seemed kind of sassy when I tried it on, and felt like a total prude. I saw every shape go by and all of them were playing, at the beach, in their bikinis. Bikinis of all description, covering varying (within a relatively small range) amounts of flesh. The rest of the flesh? Out there, sunning, swimming, building sand castles, applying sunscreen, napping. Perfectly normal.
I considered getting a bikini before our trip, having been to vacation spots with lots of Europeans before, knowing that socially there seemed to be a little more wiggle room (Har, Har) in this area, but when I shopped for 10 minutes that inner critic just wouldn’t have it. And then, lying there in my previously sassy one piece that had felt like a compromise to begin with, that inner critic picked up right where she left off. She and all her friends (who the marvelous Martha Beck refers to as The Furies) were sure that everyone on that beach had an opinion about the fact that I was wearing a one piece. They must think I’m so uptight. They must think I’ve got something I’m trying to hide. Surely they’re laughing at me. I succumbed for a short time. I heard them and allowed them to distract me from the marvelous time I was having. I stopped noticing all the shapes on the beach and just looked at the tiny ones, the catalog worthy ones, and felt uncomfortable. What a waste.
The truth is not one of those people on the beach cared. They didn’t care about what bathing suit I chose to wear. They didn’t care why I made that choice. They were just there vacationing, doing their own thing, minding their own business, having their own good fun in their own sassy swimsuits.
It reminded me of a story another friend told me about a speech she was giving. She had joined a public speaking group knowing that it would be scary and was trying to sort out how much to share in her first speech. Should she talk about her anxiety? Should she be honest about her struggles? What would they think of all of those revelations? Would people be put off by all of the transparency? She gave that speech. She put it out there. Guess what she found out. Nobody cares. They talked about her speech, the way she delivered it, offered her feedback in the way that such groups do, but nobody seemed at all troubled by her revealing her true self. Nobody cared.
Nobody cares about these inner battles. Nobody cares if you feel inadequate. Nobody cares if your belly is a roadmap or if being in a room with 200 people makes you queasy. They’re doing their thing. They’re living their own lives, thinking their own thoughts, sorting out their own choices. You are tremendously important in the world, but the level of scrutiny others give you will never match the level of scrutiny your inner critic revels in. Nobody cares, love. Do what you want to do. When that inner critic pipes up, just tell her, “But darling, nobody cares. I know you’re trying to protect me, but I’m okay now, really.” And you know what? You are.