Body image

woman lying on white bed

I’ve recently got back from a lovely holiday in Greece, and it got me thinking about how I felt about my back while I was on holiday.

Ever since I was diagnosed with scoliosis, body image has been a difficult subject for me. All my body confidence issues seem to magnify by 1000 whenever I go on holiday and my back is on ‘display’ more. For me, post surgery, dealing with my body image hasn’t got any easier. Pre-surgey I thought that all my body image issues would disappear post surgery – I was so wrong. 

I’m aware that my back doesn’t look that bad but it’s not “normal” and somehow I feel even more conscious of it post surgery.

I dread wearing a bikini and generally, when I’m on a beach style holiday, I have several ‘techniques’ to try and hide my back from others:

1. I try and get a sunbed as close to the pool / sea as possible to avoid walking past others when getting in and out of the pool.
2. I won’t go to the pool bar etc without getting dressed again even if it’s really hot.
3. I won’t go to the swim up bar incase people notice my back while I’m sat having a drink.
4. I won’t go into the pool without a vest/t-shirt on over my bikini, some days I even avoid going into the pool at all (even if it’s hot) as I don’t want to walk past people.
5. If I want to get up off my sun lounger, I won’t even stand up in case people see my back, so I will try really hard to get my top on over my bikini before standing up.

In addition I get REALLY paranoid about people looking at me, to the point of obsession almost. If people look at me, I assume they are looking at my back and thinking bad things.

So what worried me this holiday, is that these behavioural traits that I’ve been doing for years pre-surgery, I STILL can’t seem to shake 3 years post op.

It’s really, really difficult for me to be in public in a bikini on holiday. To the point that I’d avoid it at all costs because I find people looking at me and my back too hard to cope with.

I write this post because it highlights that surgery is not a ‘quick fix’ for all the body confidence issue scoliosis causes. Yes, it improved how I looked, but it did not fix the psychological damage living with the condition for 10 years had already caused. 

It may not be this way for everyone but this is my experience, and it kind of makes me sad that I still feel this way and that it affects what I do or don’t do on my holiday.

To try and overcome this, on this holiday I purposely made myself do things I was uncomfortable with. I went into the pool without my vest top over my bikini several times, I sat on the edge of the pool reading (without a vest top over my bikini) AND I went to the pool bar, which were big things for me to do.

However, I have still not managed to walk past people just wearing my bikini. 

I think I’ll have to work up to that.

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4 thoughts on “Body image

  1. I can relate! (presurgery) That's why I love traveling to places that I won't know anyone. It makes me feel freer. But I frequently wonder if people are trying to figure out what's wrong with me.

    The funny thing is, even with two 65-degree curves, I've always been able to arrange myself relatively symmetrically from the front (just from looking in the mirror, and practicing yoga I guess), but from the back, it's a whole other crazy story.

    And I'll admit something to you…not only do I worry about the appearance of my own back…but I also study other people's straight spines. I'm a little obsessed with spines!

  2. I can understand- I've only just been told i have scoliosis as I hadn't noticed before because i obviously couldn't see my own back! But looking at photos you can see the right shoulder blade and ribs jutting out at a dodgy angle and this is such a knock to my already low self confidence. I hate te thought of people looking at my back and I hate the thought of my boyfriend even putting his arm across my shoulders for fear he'll realise how horrible it is and end it with me. I hate this. And i haven't even had the surgery yet :-/

  3. I had back surgery in 8th grade and I am now a junior in college. I had a lot of problems with my appearance but now I couldn't be happier. When I wear a bathing suit I dont even care if anyone sees my scar. I have been engaged to my fiancée for almost two years and he always reassures me that I look great. Ive never felt so happy with my body. My only complaint is that I never had ANY pain before my surgery, after surgery I have pain every few months, but I do not take anything for it. Actually right now my back is giving me a lot of pain, but nothing is wrong. This is the second time ive had major pain for no reason, but it eventually goes away. It usually happens when I over work my body (as in doubles at work). Also I had a 60 degree curve. I now have two bars and 17 screws. I was really worried about my surgery, but it was actually a breeze for me.

  4. This me too Louise You aren’t alone. Diagnosed at 11 – had a 60 degree curvature. After surgery I still feel ‘deformed’ it’s not nice is it? I have a 16″ scar that runs diagonally across my stomach too from the operation and my right hand rib cage is double the thickness of my left. I also have a very curvy waistline on the left and none to the right. It’s tough. I find it even tougher being around other women with more ‘normal’ body image issues like being over weight because I get frustrated and think to myself that they have the ability to deal with that and do something about that where as I do not. When I went back to the registrar he told me that if I had anymore surgery it would need to be private as it is purely cosmetic. Which upset me… How is a gastric band ok to have on the NHS but something that makes you feel THIS self conscious not an issue… Not to mention the pain. If you have no pain you are so lucky. In the winter I can feel my titanium rods more. Hard chairs make me ached. My nerves are permanently trapped at the bottom of my spine too. So imagine sciatica constantly. But most people in my life some how don’t even know I have scoliosis. It’s not something I advertise. I supposed I feel ashamed of it. I feel deformed. It’s a very personal feeling that only your or I could understand. Have you ever been into clothe shop changing rooms with the 360 degree view? Like Next or H&M? I feel physically sick when I see my reflection from behind. It upset me so much that I avoid changing rooms now.
    I’ve tried to be positive and focus on parts of my body that I like and on the whole I would say I do very well to forget I have scoliosis. It’s times like holidays or starting a new relationship or my upcoming wedding when the ‘rib hump’ really plays on your mind. I like your choice of wording ‘magnified’ that’s how it feels. It feels to me like the hump itself is magnified. I feel like everyone anywhere will notice the hump. I went for CBT – cognitive behaviour therapy and that taught me how to de-construct the negative ideas I was creating for myself. The hardest thing for me to accept is that while I’m one side of the pool worrying about my hump, someone else is the other side of the pool worried about their cellulite or slightly larger left breast to even notice my hump, they are also body image conscious. Because we haven’t had the luxury of being ‘normal’ I suppose we will never know if the ‘normal’ people feel as bad as we do. I was Scoliosis free until 11 years old and I don’t remember having this much self doubt beforehand. It’s tough. I’m writing this to say you aren’t alone. What you feeling is normal, our kind of normal.
    There is nothing worse than some awkwardly polite person saying ‘you can’t tell,’ ‘you can barely notice it’ ‘I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t told me’ because it just feels more awkward. It’s there. We know it’s there. We don’t have sexy backs, yet somehow we have to get to that place of learning to love them.
    I avoid horizontally striped clothing as I feel it would highlight all the wrong curved on me. I often wear black as it shows no shadow from humps and ridges and hollows. I try to have leg on show to draw the eye there and not up top… Ways and means. Then I hope that one day going and getting a rib hump removed will be as easy as getting a boob job. I literally live in hope that in my lifetime I will be able to experience some nearer sense of ‘normal’ again.
    I feel like I’m wearing a costume body that isn’t mine sometimes. There is definitely some detachment between what I think I am and what I actually am. Which sounds a little bit like you. When you are on holiday it’s like you are forced to face up to having it? I get this.
    Just thought I would share and see if you found any of it relatable?
    I certainly empathise with your account of it.

    I can walk past people wearing a bikini but the stares at my scare make me want to wear an ‘A-board’ over my torso reading ‘no I was not eaten by a shark’

    Take comfort in knowing that every one has something. We just got scoliosis. ❤️

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