Growing up in Australia, I had a lot of friends who were "beach people." They wore Havaianas and bikinis at 9 years old, and they would ace swimming class when we had to tread water wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. I was not one of those people. I came in last in almost every swim test. I would avoid any sort of beach party, and when I was forced to go, I was permanently swaddled in an oversized T-shirt and an ill-fitting tankini (yeah, I fucking rocked my tankini). Still, to this day, the thought of lounging in a beach chair or hopping on a jet ski takes me immediately back to being that anxiety-ridden 10-year-old begging her mother not to make her go to the party. As an adult, I have struggled constantly with self-worth and what that means to me. Is it defined by how validated I feel by others? Is it tied to how many "likes" that picture got on Instagram? Is it about inner beauty? Self-awareness? Or simply knowing I’m not perfect but I’m beautiful anyway?
Looking back on my childhood, so much of the crippling anxiety I had about my body was self-inflicted. Nobody ever pointed and laughed at me, or yelled cruel things to me while I wore that aforementioned tankini. I was lucky enough to be left completely alone to my own neuroses. But my own self-loathing was enough to ingrain less-than-compassionate habits: I still won’t go tubing on the lake on Fourth of July. I still wear a button-up over my bikini when I’m by a pool. I still hate swimming. And I've lived in Southern California for a year now, and I have yet to go to the beach. So why did I do this to myself at such a young age? And why does it still affect me to this day?
I honestly don’t have answers to these questions, except for maybe this: I’m different. Every woman — every human — is different. We are so beautifully unique, but it's my uniqueness that drove me to the brink of insanity. I had to let go of my desire to become a "beach person" to find my unabashed sense of body positivity I now pride myself on. Letting go of my desire to fit in everywhere, including beaches and pools, has allowed me to realize that my body is incredible. It's tough. It fights for me and gets me through the best and worst moments of my life: touring, playing shows every night, dancing and singing through any and all illnesses and fatigue. My body can handle more than I ever thought it would, and I am so amazed by it every day. I’m a strong bitch, and I can do anything (except maybe tread water in jeans and a sweatshirt).
Learning all of this and finding the reason to praise and thank my body, instead of dismissing and critiquing it, has deeply changed my relationship with myself. As a grown, beautiful, self-loving, ass-kicking, name-taking, beach-hating lady, I can proudly lay in my tasteful one-piece by the ocean and be completely at peace. I can feel the sun soaking into my skin, rather than my thighs aching from trying to hold them in a "flattering" position. I can fall asleep with a book over my face instead of a towel over my arms and legs. I’m still not a beach person — never have been, never will be. But I’m a whole person, a completely self-adoring and goddess-worshiping person. So hand me my suit and a margarita, babe. I’m hitting the beach.
Betty Who is an Australian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter who's been featured in Vogue, Elle, Glamour, and New York Magazine, and who's toured with Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, and Kiesza. Her 2017 album, The Valley, is available for streaming on Spotify.
It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.