I'm going to the beach next Weekend. This is how I feel.

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Next weekend, I plan on going to the ocean and doing my darnedest to revert to the simplicities of the early aughts. Usually (if I focus hard enough), I do quite well at letting the monotonies of life fall away, like being too awkward to the person sharing an elevator with me, saying the wrong thing on a date, or feeling less-than in professional pursuits. I am practised at watching these frequent insecurities fall, like leaves do in September. 

On weekends like the particular one ahead of me, I am grateful to leave my phone indoors, smile at the sun and drive down dirt roads barefoot with no hairbrush in sight. It’s a cultivated practise, certainly, and one that has come from the understanding of what happens when I do overthink (so much! Too much!). As we sometimes need to tell ourselves to eat a few vegetables, I also need to make sure I’m keeping my feet firmly grounded, and these kinds of weekends do that for me. But this kind of disposition takes work.

Though keeping cool is a strength I’m proud of, feeling 100% comfortable in a bathing suit is not. My history of body confidence at the beach had always been conditional as a teenager. If I go for a run first, if I don’t eat a lot beforehand...as long as I’m constantly sucking in, I'd think...then I’ll be ok.

This kind of mentality, I believe, spawned during my modelling days. I’d often find myself most anxious throughout the month of August, when most of the fashion industry takes a month off for vacation. For these four weeks, I did not feel that I could relax. In late July before us models would board our flights from New York, we were reminded, constantly, that fashion week would be waiting when we returned. “The Shows,” as we called them, would set us up for the editorial year, and September was always the most important season. The translation, at least in my mind? Don’t you dare gain weight, or else.

The translation, at least in my mind? Don’t you dare gain weight, or else.

Now that I’m no longer living up to a standard I don’t align with, I don’t feel this way in August, or really at any time of the year. I feel good in my skin; but thing is, my skin is almost always covered. When I show my stomach, my upper thighs? Yeah...it’s (still) a huge adjustment.

When I wear a bikini, for instance...I love, truly, every inch of who I am. I do think it's important to state that I do feel - for even a fleeting moment now - myself grimace and rotate my shoulders inward, apologizing for the space I occupy, looking for a way to grow invisible. And that's a problem, because it's silly. My body has a right to take up the space it needs, and so does yours. 

What’s helped tremendously with this has been the people I’ve surrounded myself with over the past four years. I’ve moved more towards friends who have healthy ideas of the female body; who don’t talk down about themselves, who always try and see beauty where beauty lives (read: EVERYWHERE). Women who have so many dimensions to them that they’re like kaleidoscopes; so much more than their forms, so much thanks to their forms, their staggering capacity for resiliency. I’ve learned to listen to the stories of others; to expand my pigeon-holed notion of “worthiness,” to practice what I have been preaching for always, always, always.

And it's worked. Of course it has.

My statement is this: You can wear whatever you want, be whomever you want, and look however ever you want. Always, always know this. Never feel like you need to wear a sweater because your bones stick out in a funny way. Never feel like you must wear shorts to hide your beautiful, life-given stretch marks. Don’t wear a towel to hide cellulite; it’s a part of you and it’s beautiful, just like your heart and eyes and dreams. Don’t for a moment discount these bits of who you are just because a few commercials have deemed them worth deleting. Why would you ever, ever do that.

I’m not going to.

In love and SPF,

Madison