When I was younger, I used to swim with a t-shirt on. It wasn’t due to concerns about sunburn — I wasn’t smart enough about sunscreen yet — and it wasn’t due to being a kid who was overweight. My mom’s nickname for me was, “Skinny Boy,” after all. So, at that time, I was very skinny, that sort of kid skinny where it looks like you have 24 abs and just as many ribs showing.
Why did I wear a t-shirt then? I’m not sure! I was thinking about this post, of going shirtless at the waterpark, and it occurred to me, I also wore a t-shirt when swimming as a kid. But without what I think makes me insecure about it now: Not having a flat stomach!
I guess, then, I’ve just always been insecure about my chest/stomach region, and I don’t know what the catalyst for that was, especially early-on as a kid.
But, being that I’m at one of the world’s largest waterpark here in Wisconsin (I think one of the actual biggest is nearby at Noah’s Ark), I’ve thought about being shirtless at the waterpark. I was nervous about it! And insecure. As I mentioned, now that I’m 31, and haven’t exactly kept consistent with my FitOn working out and MyFitnessPal calorie-counting — I’ve done a few exercise/diet posts on the blog, and I haven’t updated with where my “progress” has been since April; spoilers, not good! — so, by the time vacation rolled around, I still have a bit of pudge in the ol’ stomach.
Then, I get out to the waterpark, and people seem totally carefree with their bodies. Big bodies, small bodies, in-between bodies, outlier bodies, fit bodies, all kinds of swimwear, and hairiness, and paleness/redness/tanning, etc.. In other words, the beautiful array of human shapes and sizes and colors was on display. It didn’t completely assuage my insecurities about my own body, but it made me feel less self-conscious to take my shirt off and walk around.
At the end of the day, the adage is apt here: Nobody is thinking about you because they’re all thinking about themselves. But also, as a rejoinder to the adage, I people watch, and I assume a lot of people people watch, too! How do we reconcile these two?! They can watch, but it doesn’t mean they care, or given your body a more than second thought.
Given my recalcitrance to go shirtless even as a kid, I sometimes wonder if I do ever get the “stomach I want,” will I still be insecure about it? Still be reluctant to take my shirt off? Because of something as-of-yet-unknown, but deeper in my psyche? I don’t know! I try not to think of it in those terms, otherwise I will never get to my hope of having abs again. Or at least, a flatter stomach.
I also know it may seem odd for a male to have such thoughts. I also know we are quick to blame social media comparisons, glossy magazines, and Hollywoodizing of the perfect female and male figure, but I mean, my brain was apparently already insecure about my body when I was a kid and hadn’t even been exposed to any of those things yet, unless I Just picked it up by osmosis since I’m immersed in the culture I grew up in.
It occurs to me that it is also possible that these are two different things, i.e., when I was a kid, I wore a t-shirt to swim because I was shy around others, and now that I’m adult, my impulse is to want to keep my t-shirt on because of insecurity around my stomach; thus, the former wasn’t about insecurity but shyness.
Have you also struggled with these body issues, especially around summertime?