“Wow, she looks all grown up,” my grandma said as I stepped out on her back patio.
“Yes! It fits!” said my mom, with more relief in her voice than anything else because she wouldn’t have to pay for a swimsuit for me that summer.
I was 11 on the cusp of turning 12 … and that’s the year I rocked a hand-me-down bathing suit from my 75 year old grandma.
It was green with tiny little pastel flowers all over it. There were cups for cleavage I didn’t have yet. And I obviously looked grown up in it because no other 11 year old was wearing the same bathing suit as the “age 75 to dead” demographic.
Did I think twice about my fashion choice? Hell no.
I wore that suit daily. Gut out, hair slicked back wet and loving life. That was the last summer I can remember when I had zero self awareness.
This memory came back to me as I saw kids riding their bikes to the pool to kick off another summer. I don’t know about you, but every summer I’m jealous of their carefree and blithe lifestyle. Is it really because of their age? Or the fact that they have a 3 month vacation from responsibility? Maybe it’s really about their natural approach to life.
Let’s go back to that summer when I wore my grandma’s bathing suit. For my birthday party, I had a few friends over to watch a movie. I popped in Strange Brew. It’s a decade old at that point and was about two Canadian men who work at a brewery. I thought it was hilarious! My friends looked bored. I remembered thinking, “why aren’t they laughing?”.
Ohhhhh wait, we’re supposed to watch Grease? At that point, I didn’t realize I should care what everyone else wanted to do. It was my party and that movie ended with two guys nearly drowning in vats of beer. Comedy genius.
The main man in my life was my dog. My biggest worries of the day would include: will I get ice cream? What flavor? And can my friends play?
If my friends weren’t around, I went to the pool alone. Or I jumped rope solo. Maybe I biked up to the library by myself. Who cares. I didn’t need an entourage.
I was blissfully unaware of any social norms. I was really truly just me discovering how to be me without worrying what anyone thought or saw from the outside.
Remember that time in your life? When it was more about focusing on your self than selfies?
While doing a little internet research on shaking off our tendency to be overly self aware, I found a few tid-bits that really help move from this mind set.
Fear of embarrassment
Around the time we discovered teen magazine and the opposite sex, we started to worry that our actions would embarrass us. All of a sudden, we became an edited version of ourselves, trying to desperately hide the awkward growing pains. And in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, somehow we haven’t shaken that feeling.
No one is watching you that closely
Trip over your shoelaces during a jog? Wearing mismatched socks? Gained an extra 5 lbs last week? Most likely, we, ourselves, are the only ones who noticed.
And even if they have noticed, is it that bad?
When we think other people see our flaws, most of the time we immediately assume they are thinking the worst of us. A study written up in Psychology Today points out that if we remain optimistic about outcomes, our insecurities will diminish.
Be kind to yourself
Basically, stop thinking the worst about ourselves! When we were pre-teens, we didn’t think that we sucked at life. We loved life! We didn’t over-analyze every behavior, outfit or interaction. We just focused on fun.
So, let’s try and toss out self awareness every once in a while this summer like an awkward pre-teen would?
- Let’s wear our swimsuits and confidence to the public pool and not look in the mirror before. None of us have abs. We are all in the same boat.
- Let’s throw a party for our friends and not spend days making Pinterest worthy recipes and decorations. Let’s throw a bunch of Cheez-its into a random bowl and not care if it color coordinates with the napkins.
- Let’s try an activity we never have before and NOT post it on social media. Because when we were kids, we didn’t care how many “likes” or “retweets” we had. They didn’t exist.
- Let’s focus on the people (or dogs) who love us unconditionally and not those whose affection we have to earn.
- Let’s go somewhere alone. Anywhere. Just be with ourselves for a long time.
This is easier said than done. Even as I sit here and write this post, I’m thinking: “does this make sense? Will anyone read it?”
I guess this is one of those moments when I have to follow my own advice.