Kate Zenger, 34, Columbus, OH

This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.

"You're Too Big To Hide Here"

I was six and in the middle of a fervent game of hide-and-seek. My best friend hid behind a garbage can, and I gleefully ran to hide with him. And that's when he said it.
You're. Too big. To hide here.
At first, I was confused. But he immediately put his hand over his mouth and I saw instant fear and regret in his eyes. I understood it then: Pointing out someone's bigness was bad. Being big was even worse.
I was tall for my age — like, really tall — and broad, too. (Surprise! I'm still tall, and I'm still broad.) But I had never once thought about my size being too anything for something.
For nearly 30 years, that one tiny sentence has been on repeat in the back of my mind. It's become a bit of a low buzz that's just always there. (Kind of like when it's silent and you're typing away at work, and you suddenly start humming "Call Me Maybe" for no obvious reason.)
From that moment on the playground, I started believing I was too big for lots of other things, too. It became my life theme. At 12, I was too big to be the lead in the school play. At 15, too big to be a cheerleader. At 26, too big to be on top. No one ever said these things to me, but I just knew them to be true.
Nothing has changed since that day. I haven't had an epiphany that suddenly opened my eyes and made me love my body. I haven't lost a gazillion pounds or turned into a model. I didn't even "grow into" my broadness, like my mother had predicted I would.
But what I did have is a daughter. She's now six. And she's tall and broad and beautiful. She barrels into every adventure without a thought about her gangly, awkward body. I'm so proud.
But I'm also a little bit jealous.
I wish I could sit next to my 6-year-old self while she held back tears on the playground. I wish I could tell her that her body is hers to love and to admire and to embrace. It's an amazing body.
But instead now, at 34, I just try to not let my "bigness" — real or perceived — ruin any future experiences. I'm strong. I'm healthy. I'm happy. That's all that matters, and that's what I try teach my daughter, too.
But also, maybe most importantly and definitely worth mentioning, I'm one of the best damn hide-and-seekers you'll ever not find.
#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.

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