It’s 2005. I’m staring at myself in the dressing room mirror of a major retail store in disgust. I’ve been inside this room for twenty minutes trying and untrying summer wear. I am turning sideways, crouching down, bending backwards. “Nothing fits right!” I yell. “You’re fat.” The words spill out of my mouth as I taunt my reflection. I smack the hangers on the door, and I imagine smashing the mirror so I don’t have to look at myself any longer. But there’s my reflection staring back at me with disappointment.
Eight years later I’m hosting a blog about refusing the word no, getting out of our shell, and overcoming our biggest fears.
In the past year, I have tried everything from pole dancing to sky diving, from beatboxing to plane piloting, and from archery to shark diving. I’ve looked fear in the face on several occasions and I’ve laughed, loudly. I’ve told fear that I am bigger than it. I’ve started saying, “Yes!” instead of, “No way.” This past year I’ve given myself a chance to live—freely and happily. But just because I’ve laughed fear in the face on occasion, doesn’t mean I’m completely immune to feelings of anxiety and uneasiness.
Throughout this blog, I’ve discussed my fear of the ocean, and I’ve mentioned how downhill ski mountains kind of sort of give me the heebie jeebies.
But the truth is my biggest fear doesn’t involve heights or falling. It doesn’t involve dying in a fire nor does it involve being eaten by a shark (though, my second biggest fear IS ocean water). “Why?” you ask. Well because none of these things asks me to stand in front of another human being and be vulnerable to their thoughts, their judgments, and their feelings. My biggest fear is much deeper—much darker. And while the panic I feel towards this specific fear seems silly to write about, it is this fear that tears at my self-esteem and that makes me feel more human than any of the others — the one that I even feel vulnerable writing about now.
My biggest fear involves an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot—oh wait no, I mean it involves ANY itsy bitsy teenie weenie bikini.
That’s right, the girl who has gone swimming with sharks, who has jumped out of an airplane, and who has let the Great Throwdini throw knives all around her is scared of nothing more than donning a bikini.
This isn’t a new fear. It’s always been my fear. When I was younger, I’d go into the dressing room—two or three one pieces in hand, and a dreadful aching feeling in my heart.
“Does it really have to be swim suit season again?” I’d painfully ask my mother.
As I got older, those dreadful aching feelings remained, though one summer—the summer of 2005, I decided to be daring, and bring a bikini into the fitting room. I removed my t-shirt, and went to clasp the top piece of the bikini. That’s when World War 3 broke out within the confines of a small fitting room: the disgust, the self-emotional abuse, the smacking of the hangers, and the yelling at the mirror.
I screamed, “Nothing fits right! You’re fat.” I continued the conversation with myself and added: “Really, Libby? Really? You thought you would suddenly have all the confidence in the world?”
I relentlessly continued the abuse. I felt sick to my stomach. “I can’t do this,” I told myself, and before even attempting to pull on the bottom piece, I had already unclasped the top and started throwing my baggy hoody back on.
Saddened, tears swelled and fell from my eyes. I was falling apart in the dressing room of a major retail store. There was no one there to confide in—just my disappointed reflection.
I was sixteen going on seventeen at the time—and I was terrified of my own reflection. Each time I took a look, I’d pick out all my problems—my flaws. So instead of looking—I just stopped. I stopped seeing myself.
My failure to accept my size and myself resulted in me turning down many shopping trips with friends. And during the times when I did tag along, I’d avoid trying on any of the clothes. I didn’t want have to pick up the size 12 from the jean shelf while my friends were pulling off the 4s, 6s, and 8s. I didn’t want to have to try and squeeze into an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt that was never made to fit me anyway. Put simply, I didn’t want to be publicly embarrassed in front of my best friends—who probably would have never judged me either way. At this point, the only person truly judging me–was me.
Years later, when I was a junior in college, I lost a significant amount of weight. I was thin as a board. But still, I could never find comfort in sporting a two-piece that bared my stomach. A Tankini—yes, but a bikini? No way. Even though I wasn’t as big as I once was—or felt I was—I knew I was still bigger than someone. And that was enough to trigger all those irrational self-conscious feelings from the past.
To this day, I have never publically worn a bikini. Part of my goal on this blog—and in this life—is to inspire others to experiment without fear; to push past the judgmental thoughts of others and ourselves; and to live life freely—without chains holding us back. I want to show people that we are capable of overcoming even our deepest darkest fears—ones that don’t always appear on the surface. So often, we are fearful of telling people our age, our weight, our height, or our innermost beliefs, but we never admit it as our “fear.” The scariest part of it all? Is that these things—our age, our weight, our height, our beliefs, our ability to stand in front of people—all these things that make us vulnerable—are a huge piece of what make us as beautiful as who we are.
I can’t say that I came to the decision to admit my fear on my own. Recently, author Torre DeRoche launched her memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning, which chronicles her willingness to overcome her biggest fear (sailing the ocean) to salvage love. She refers to it as a “fearful adventure.” With the launch of her book, DeRoche invited her followers and fellow bloggers to take a challenge and share their own fearful adventure. She said the entries could be as ridiculous or as simple and sweet as the writer wanted. And she made the requirements clear that each story should focus on that one “special” fear “that keeps getting in the way of what you want to be doing.”
So I decided to accept DeRoche’s challenge and invitation and describe my own fearful adventure. At first, I was ready to get comical—and outline something “absolutely ridiculous.” I jotted down a few ideas like riding a dolphin around the world—or throwing on a cape and being a real life superhero! But then I realized, I was getting ready to use comedy to cover up what I really wanted to talk about: My Real Fear—the one of wearing a bikini—the one of being vulnerable.
So this summer, I am setting out on a fearful adventure to leave my insecurities behind, squash my low self-esteem and to glide seamlessly along the sands of even the most crowded shores. When the sun finally heats up this summer, I am setting out on a fearful adventure to don an itsy bitsy teenie weenie bikini – or at least get back into that dressing room and try.
This post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.
“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press
“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.” Nomadicmatt.com
“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail