Share A Secret: I was so ashamed of my body that I never wore swimsuits in public

The Weekly's readers share their most well-kept and intimate secrets

little friends swimming in the pool
“Can we go for a swim lesson together, Mummy? You bring me okay?”

My five-year-old daughter, Felise*, would always ask this question every weekend. Sometimes, I would lie and say that I was too busy, tired or sick, and ask her to get our helper or Daddy to go with her. Other times, I would go but just sit by the pool and watch her paddle. Felise would always look disappointed, and complain that “Mummy cannot swim” or that “Mummy is scared of the water”.

But how could I tell my daughter the truth: That her mum isn’t willing to get into a swimming costume because “Mummy is afraid of her own body”?

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I have always been uncomfortable with how my body looked – not with my weight, but my shape and size. I have never been stick-thin, but I have never been overweight, either. I’ve always been fine with how much I weighed (I eat healthily and do simple exercises at home).

My body shape was not the “banana”, “apple” or “hourglass” type, but “pear” – my hips were relatively larger than my upper body.

My parents are both stocky, so it’s possible that I had inherited the family genes. Unfortunately, this was a genetic trait I disliked. I was teased endlessly during my student days for having elephant thighs and hips, and being bottom-heavy but top-light (yes, I had a “humble” chest size).

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Despite my efforts at dieting and sports during my school days, I only lost weight and gained muscle, but my physique never changed. And what was worse, after my pregnancy, I ended up even more spoon-shaped, having gained more weight and even noticeable stretch marks on my thighs, hips, and abdomen.

After pregnancy, my insecurities deepened. I became more conscious of how I dressed, avoiding any clothes and activities like swimming that would bring attention to my hips or expose my legs in any way.

When I was with my friends, my husband or daughter, I would criticise female celebrities for their minor imperfections whenever I saw them in the news, or make disapproving remarks loudly of petite-sized strangers in public for showing too much skin or wearing tight hot shorts. And I would even make these mean comments of female colleagues at work!

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I was so insecure that my love life with my husband suffered – which would probably explain why we stopped at only one child, despite the fact that we really wanted a playmate for Felise. I was embarrassed about my body but never told anyone, preferring to be seen as a critical and frigid friend-wife-mother rather than admit to my own fears.

That changed one Sunday when my husband and I brought Felise to her usual swim lessons, and her swim teacher decided to talk to us about her behaviour. He told us that Felise has been quite naughty, refusing to swim properly, making fun of the other kids and their mothers by calling them fat, and even at one point, crying that she was scared of swimming because “Mummy is never around”.

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woman take crying billboard and body with blue background-asian
It suddenly hit me how much my insecurities had negatively affected my life, behaviour and family. How will my daughter feel about others and herself if I, her mother, cause her to feel this way? I started tearing up and my husband had to bring me away from the pool, comforting me with his arms around me and staying quietly by my side till I calmed down. He didn’t ask for an explanation, and instead made sure Felise didn’t notice my distress by taking care of her that whole day.

For the last few months, I have been reading up on body positivity on my own, to empower myself and learn to let go of my fears. I may have started with a simple goal to just be comfortable with my body, but I have since learnt that loving your body is also about being less judgmental of how other people look, and being more confident of who I am.

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woman-at-the-beach-hiding-from-the-sun2
Whether I can talk to my husband and my daughter about how I feel about my body is something I will leave for later, but for now, I am taking baby steps. First off, I’ll be looking for a suitable one-piece for myself for Felise’s next batch of swimming lessons!

*Name and key details changed to protect privacy.

Photos: 123rf.com, Pixabay, Pexels

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