It was the aquatic version of Sports Day (did that have a name? Pool Day?).
I waited until the last possible minute to go into the girls locker room to change into my swimsuit. I stalled until the loud speaker announced my race was coming up.
I sucked in my belly and stepped out of the locker room with my arms wrapped across my flat chest, forming an X that conveniently covered my small breasts. I justified this awkward pose by saying loudly to the girls nearby, “Oh my gosh, it’s so cold! Aren’t you cold?”. I fake-shivered for emphasis.
(I went to school in the Caribbean. Nobody was cold.)
After I pretended to be cold to a few more people, I turned towards the starting blocks and almost bumped into James (name changed to protect the ignorant).
Without skipping a beat, he eyed my body from top to bottom and said, “You really have a beautiful face, but your body doesn’t match up.”
He said it just as casually as he might have told me the granola bars were really good and I should get some before they ran out.
And he walked off just as nonchalantly. No big deal. It’s whatever.
I jumped in the pool and swam so hard that I beat my personal record.
And I didn’t wear a swimsuit in public for another 15 years.
There is nothing rare about what happened to me that day at the pool. You probably have a story like this, too. (Maybe you have so many versions of this story, it’s hard to keep track.)
A story of an insensitive ‘joke’.
A story of relatives claiming ‘tough love’ to justify un-loving behavior.
A story of violation. Of boundaries crossed.
A story of feeling unsafe (emotionally or physically) because your body was mistreated, rejected, or entirely overlooked.
Most of my clients have at least one story like this, and at least one ‘James’ in their life.
It’s that person who believes your body is a bulletin board they can pin anything to. That person who thinks they’re ‘helping’ you by challenging your eating or exercise habits every.single.time they see you.
And with the holidays coming up, you might be tensing in anticipation of seeing that person.
You’re going to sit through (what feels like a thousand!) family dinners and holiday lunches with your very own ‘James’ sitting right across the table from you.
And you know what I have to say to the James’ of the world?
NOT THIS YEAR, BUDDY. This year is going to be different.
That was the declaration I made to myself after I realized how long I’d let that James moment (along with several other James-esque experiences) define my life.
I let his opinion decide whether I could swim in the ocean or go to a pool party. I let his assessment of my body fuel the anxiety that lead me down a path of self-sabotage and overeating. For years.
Everything changed for me when I decided to take back my life from the ‘James’ people.
I recently posted about the crap that someone told me she deals with at her family holiday gatherings on Facebook and so many people responded to say “Me too!”
That, combined with how many women who’ve told me they secretly dread most holiday events because of their fears about their body being judged or criticized, inspired me to do this..
I’m hosting 2 holiday-themed workshops over the next 2 months. I’ll tell you more about them next week.
Basically, my hope is that they’ll help you have a very different holiday experience this year. They’ll help you face your ‘James’ moments in a new way, in a way that leaves you feeling stronger and more self-loving, instead of wanting to swan dive into the macaroni and cheese.
So until next week, sit with your version of my James declaration:
Not this year, buddy. This year will be different!
And so it shall!