Hello. My name is Kristina. And I have body image issues.
I mean, I identify as female… so… it only makes sense that I have body image issues, right? I have personally done zero research on this other than talking to friends for the last 30 or so years, but I’m about 99% sure that 100% of people struggle with their physical appearance. Even the people who I look at and think, “Holy Moly, that bod is smokin’,” are thinking in their own heads, “I hate my ________.” All of us are struggling. Some of us have for longer than others. Some of us have more deeply than others. Some of us have more seriously than others. Some of us seek therapy or comfort in unhealthy coping skills. Some of us share openly with those near us and some of us keep our insecurities locked up like an NYC apartment.
But I know that as you read this, you’re most likely a mom. This means that (whether you birthed your kiddos or not) your body, soul, and mind have been flipped upside down 100 times over. I know that you hate your __________ and really wish your __________ was more ___________. I know, because those are my thoughts, minute by minute.
A few weeks ago my husband was traveling to Orlando for a work conference. We decided that I would tag along, sans child. We’d head out a day early, have evenings free and make it a little getaway. One of my close friends, a small business owner, had recently stumbled across another local, fantastic small business that she really likes frequenting. This friend of mine… had recently begun getting regular spray tans. And she looked phenomenal. But not only could I notice her glorious bronze skin, but I also noticed the way she carried herself. How she seemed emotionally lighter and more confident. She noticed those things in herself, as well, and was really feeling like this bi-weekly splurge was helping her mental health and helped her create a positive body image of herself.
So as I thought about my pasty white bod gracing the adult-only pool at our beautiful Orlando resort, I decided I was going to follow in my friend’s footsteps… and I booked my first spray tan in about 13 years. When I arrived at the cute little salon, I immediately felt at ease. My… sprayer? Spray lady? Spray attendant? I have no clue what you call them, but my spray lady met me at the door and was ready for my appointment. I followed her into the room and she immediately said, “Ok, go ahead and get undressed and I’ll be back in a few.” And then she left. And I was just expected to get naked.
Okay, so let’s go back to the beginning of this piece where I talked about those body image issues. I don’t enjoy looking at my own self in the mirror WITH CLOTHES ON, let alone being completely nude in front of a total (mind you, BEAUTIFUL) stranger.
But, I was ready to shine from the inside like my friend was so I quickly dropped trou in this tiny room that I now realize is absolutely freezing. Like, I could cut ice I was SO COLD. And also if you’ve never done anything like a spray tan, you need to know that there’s only like, 18 mirrors in the room which I’m sure is for the spray lady to utilize, but also I don’t need to see myself from THAT many angles.
I waited for her to return, trying not to scratch any of the glass around me with my nips. I could hear her getting ready to enter the room again and it was like time stopped.
Did you forget?
And I was about to just let this stranger waltz right in here? What on earth was I thinking? Like, of course, this is embarrassing for me but this poor, innocent, sweet, gorgeous stranger has to look at me. She’s the one who’s in for a real “treat.”
I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe for her to walk in, show this deer-in-headlights look and then run out of the room screaming? Or laugh right in my face? Or collapse into a weeping heap as she realizes her job is to look at naked people like me all day?
She walked in, grabbed her little spray tool, told me to “stand over there,” looked me in the eyes, smiled and said, “Okay, tell me everything about your Orlando trip and how excited you are for so much alone time with your husband!”
And then we got to it. We talked and laughed and she looked at me like I was a normal human, not some crazy beached whale-like I was particularly feeling like in that moment. She had me lift my breasts to get under there since nursing my daughter has made them the opposite of perky. I had to spread and squat so there’d be no butt creases. I had to pop my hip to the side, exposing my inner thigh so she could get my bikini area.
But, by this point, I had kind of forgotten that. She made me feel so relaxed and normal. Are you ready for this part? She made me feel… comfortable. I was naked. It doesn’t matter who I’m in front of or where I am or what I’m doing, but I haven’t felt comfortable while being naked in about… ever.
My husband is incredible. And he’s walked with me through some of my therapeutic exercises prescribed by my therapist. He tries to understand my body image insecurities, though I know he genuinely thinks I’m beautiful, and he just struggles to, “get it.” And I’ve felt confident in front of him, and sometimes comfortable being naked in front of him, but not since having our daughter. Not since I haven’t lost the baby weight. Not since everything has started to sag. I haven’t felt comfortable in my own skin in a saddening amount of time.
And I had no idea that part of my healing was to be completely naked in front of a strange woman.
Once we were all finished, I dried off, got dressed, paid this sweet spray lady, hugged her, accepted her well wishes on my travels and I walked out of that salon feeling like a celebrity. Not only was my see-through German skin much less translucent, but I was changed from the inside. Because my spray lady sees countless pasty bodies every day, to her, our bodies are normal and natural. The tall ones, the short ones, the thin ones, the curvy ones, the ones with scars or the ones with stretch marks. I wish we all could view every body like she does. She’s so accustomed to seeing all types of bodies that that’s all they become: bodies. Shells that carry around our beautiful, damaged, healing souls.
I wanted to write this piece not only so that you could have a few giggles thinking about this mom of a toddler getting a spray tan, but so that I could share a story of body image healing. I have a feeling that I’m not the only one out there who needs a little healing lately. And I’m not sure what your solution will be… in fact, there’s probably many different sized steps that need to be taken for you to heal, too. Apparently, unbeknownst to me before a month ago, standing in front of a stranger, completely naked, in compromising positions was a big step in my healing process. It was a step in the direction towards self-acceptance and self-love. And I wish the same for you. Maybe it’s therapy, or an intimate conversation with your partner, or a self-love book, or a spray tan, or all of the above. But I hope you find it. I hope you embrace the journey, even when it’s uncomfortable. Because each step we take in the direction of healing is a step in the direction of happiness. So, sweet friend, what’s it gonna be? What step can you take today to move towards healing?
Oh, and for one more laugh, the power went out in the salon MID SPRAY TAN. Like, while I was naked in that squat position and couldn’t move my body or else I’d smudge the tan. And I just had to stay there until they could get the power back on. But even in the midst of that blunder, I still felt comfortable, I felt healing happening, and I felt so empowered… and I was naked.