Self Conscious

November 2nd, 2013, 9am

I have always strived to be fully aware of who I am for myself, who I am for those close to me, and who I am for the world. I definitely have a lot more practicing to get there, but I my goal is to be very Conscious and mindful of my Self (or Selves), and I am proud of the progress I have made so far.

More often that not, however, I find myself being very self-conscious in a way that limits my freedom. One thing that I have been very self-conscious about is my body. I’ve always been thin and scrawny, and it didn’t help that I was born with a slight chest deformity that made it look like someone had punched me in the chest, hard. In fact, I have a vivid memory of being in the locker room in high school and someone literally saying “Did someone punch you in the chest hard? Ha ha.” Ouch.

So I grew up always wearing something to cover up my chest, and long sleeves to cover my scrawny arms. I avoided any threat of having to go shirtless, and dreaded the “shirts vs skins” soccer games at school.

The one exception when I was a kid was when we went to the beach and I could lose myself playing in the surf with my family. Those were some of my best memories of childhood. I think one reason that I love the ocean is that it accepts you who you are and embraces you in its expansiveness. Out of the ocean, however, I have to quickly put my shirt back on.

I wasn’t until later that I discovered that I was not the only person with this condition, and it had a name: Pectus Excavatum (thanks, Internet!). I felt a little less like a freak, but still avoided being shirtless.

As I got older, I trusted my body more as I put more demands on it and it was there for me. I dance, swim, and run marathons. I can race my daughter in the park, and comfortably carry her upstairs when she falls asleep in the car. I can repair machines, build furniture, and haul garbage. I can play the ukulele and guitar. I am thankful for having this amazing body and for the health that I have cultivated. Yet, the self-consciousness is there.

Today, I ran shirtless for the first time, ever. Here’s what happened:

On my way out the door this morning, it was in the 40s, so I wore a long sleeve shirt. It continued to be cool on the drive to the start of the run, and was still freezing when we started. You can never trust the weather in the Bay Area, and soon it was in the high 60s and I was overheating. By the time we reached the high point of the run, the heat overrode any twinge of self-consciousness. So, off went the shirt.

It was exhilarating! I could feel the breeze as I ran along the ridge, and listened carefully as all the cells in my skin thanked me for listening to common sense. Now to be fair, as you can see above, I wasn’t completely topless. I still had on my hydration pack, but it was more than I had ever dared before.

I felt a twinge of embarrassment when I noticed a group of runners (women, even!) heading my way. I was going to own this, so even though I didn’t have a shirt, I wore my best “isn’t it a beautiful day for running” smile. And surprise, they did not avert their eyes in disgust at my deformity, but returned my warm smile.

I’m not quite ready for going shirtless all the time– you’ll notice that the picture above is from behind and does not reveal my chest, but today was a good first step.

David Wade, Louie and Deana said thanks.

Share this moment

Ed Nanale

I like pandesal.

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook