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I’m an adult who still can’t change in the locker room

Locker rooms are an inevitable part of life growing up. Whether you’re participating in sports or changing for gym class, there’s no way to completely avoid taking off your clothes in the locker room. Most of us quickly learned how to draw less attention to ourselves, hoping to change quickly so that nobody would ever see us naked.

Few young women are fully comfortable with their bodies, and it’s even worse for the many teens who are overweight. If someone comments on our appearance at that age, it can create emotional wounds that won’t ever heal.

More: I decided I would stop being a victim of body-shaming, and you can too

I’m now well beyond my high school locker room years, and I still can’t change in front of other people. At the gym, I slip into one of the restroom stalls to switch into workout clothes, only changing my shoes in the open area. But I’m always made aware that I’m one of the few women who seems to have this hang-up thanks to the many women who have no problem taking off all their clothes in front of everyone.

Those women would tell me I’m silly for worrying about changing in front of them. We’re all women, after all, and many of us aren’t in perfect shape. Most of us wear sports bras to work out, and the coverage on those is better than some swimsuits.

Unfortunately, earlier this year, a Playboy playmate shared a photo on social media of a naked woman in a gym locker room. It was followed by a second photo of her with her hand over her mouth, presumably stifling a laugh. While the model has since suffered the repercussions of her actions, it only affirmed my decision to change in the bathroom stall. While most people wouldn’t snap a picture and share it online, who wants to risk being the story someone tells that evening to her friends?

More: The way we talk about female athletes is so messed up

“You should see the woman who was changing in the locker room today.”

For the most part, I don’t really worry what people think of me, but locker rooms take me back to my high school insecurities, when changing in the bathroom stall wasn’t an option. Maybe I’ve just heard too many women use terms like “skinny-fat” and “cankles” to ever be fully assured that someone won’t say those words about me.

Maybe I should force myself to change in the locker room every day, ignoring my insecurities about it. In time, I might even start feeling comfortable with it. If I don’t, I’ll still be making an important statement that women should be proud of their bodies, no matter how we think we look.

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