How the 'Girl with the Scars' Learned to Survive the Locker Room

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan, ~INDYGIRL

Before being the fat girl, I was the girl with the scars. I was a burn victim at the age of 2, scalded by a coffee pot I managed to pull over on myself. I was burned over three quarters of my body and barely made it through.

Growing up with burn scars is hard because children are unusually cruel. Thank God that the scarring faded as I aged and now it is only on my neck, shoulder and chest. Still, in childhood and the delicate dating years, I learned to hide well.

Around third grade, I started gaining weight, so I was the fat girl with the scars. Talk about not wanting to be seen in a locker room, by the pool, or in anyplace I could be exposed, sheesh! I would avoid these places like I would die if forced into the position to be in one. In fact, I blatantly refused to dress with the other girls or shower in gym and took a grade deduction instead. The next year, I required mental therapy about my body image and luckily my psychiatrist said that it would be too damaging to put me in that situation again, especially since they didnít have a plus size gym suit for me or a uniform swimsuit required for the aquatics class.

By college I was still shy, but learned some things from life and from therapy that really helped me get over my fear of the locker room at gyms, showering there, and changing. Iím not going to say that Iím totally comfortable and stroll freely around the locker room, but I do muster the courage to swim, shower, and change clothing. Let me tell you a few of my concerns and how I dealt with them.

Concern: Iím disabled. I want to work out with others who want health benefits, not compete in a beauty pageant.

Solution: Find a gym associated with a hospital or a rehabilitation facility or the YMCA. Usually those places have programs for the disabled and for the health conscious without all of the pageantry.

Concern: I need something that meets my needs and is affordable.

Solution: Almost all gyms give tours, offer trial memberships, and a few sometimes operate on sliding fee scales according to your income. You can see the whole place and all of the equipment, including the locker rooms, changing area and showers before you ever purchase a membership.

Concern: I've decided to join a gym, but I still feel uncomfortable changing clothes in front of people.

Solution: Wear what youíre going to work out in, and then throw on a cover up, like at the beach and go. Youíll never have to change clothes. If you must change because you have to be somewhere after the gym, then buy a large beach towel or a robe and drape it around you while you dress. By exercising at off times (midafternoon or later in the evening), you will find that the dressing room is often empty.

Concern: Iím afraid to shower in front of people.

Solution: Make sure the shower room has curtains, or use the stall in the back. Most people donít want to walk all the way to the back to shower, so you get a little more privacy. Again, the large beach towel comes in handy for covering up, drying and changing.

Concern: I feel so ashamed of my body.

Solution: Thatís why youíve joined a gym. Try to focus on the things that are changing, the things you actually do like about yourself and appreciate them. Play them up by wearing new clothes when you work out or buying new underwear that makes you feel good.

Concern: I still donít think I can change in front of people.

Solution: Find discreet locations (behind a locker door, in the toilet stall, in the farthest corner of the room) to change if you must, but move out a little every now and then. Soon youíll be proud of your accomplishments and want to show them off. Remember that everyone there feels vulnerable. You are not alone.

The photo above represents how far I've come. I show you this picture of me less afraid to wear spaghetti straps now. You can see my scars and that I am overweight, but I am no longer ashamed to shower or change in the locker room.

Are you ashamed when you change in a public place? What will you do to reclaim your strength and overcome that fear?

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Girl - You're gorgeous! I'll remember this next time I'm starting to feel badly next to the "perfect" slim girls that are comfortable parading around naked LOL I've been going to the gym for years in good shape and not so good shape - my attitude is - hey at least we're all here to work out and be the best we can be - who cares where we're starting from - so you keep on going - and you Look Mahvelous in your spagetti straps - Go Girl!! Report
I am a long-time gym member, and would like to thank you for sharing your story. Lately I am feeling MORE self-conscious, as I am on the older side compared to others at my gym. Your post, your courage, your BEAUTY: really helpful! Report
Not only are you pretty..... You're an Inspiration!! =) Report
Thanks for sharing your story. You're an inspiration to us all! Report
Thank you for your story, makes me rethink and ponder and has helped me. Report
I love your blogs! Report
One thing that keeps me sane in locker rooms is the realization that everyone else feels exactly like I do. They're also concerned with how they look, whether someone is staring at their cellulite, if they look fat, etc. :) Report
You are awesome! Report
You are absolutely AMAZING!! Thank you so much for sharing... :) ... also you look very very veerryyyy GOOOD on that picture, congratulations on all you have accomplish Report
Thank you for sharing your story. I'm sure it helped many today. Report
Thank you for your story. You are an inspiration and you are truly beautiful. Best wishes for your future. Report
You should be proud of yourself for getting healthier in body and mind. As I teach my girls, we are all God's children and we are all different. No matter what the difference, each person deserves love and respect. I never want my daughters to judge someone by their appearance. I want them to always see the person inside. Way to go! Report
yes i need to lose weight you look fine good job Report
BRAVO! You are a perfect example of what this is all about. Don't let fear keep you from your bliss! I am so excited for all you have achieved. You have a wonderfully motivating story- thanks so much for sharing it here. Report
Thanks for sharing your inspirational story. Report
You are a beautiful person, and have a lovely and courageous spirit. Thank you for sharing your challenges. I don't think there are many people, women or men, who like to change or shower in the locker room at the gym. I go to the YMCA, and there it is all shapes, sizes and ages, so the locker room just is what it is - a place to change and shower and keep your stuff! After a while, I got to know several of the other ladies coming and going around the same time as me, and now *gasp* we TALK in the locker room! Really helps takes my mind off my overdeveloped modesty. :} All the best to you! Report
I alwasy enjoy reading your blog - you have such an upbeat and positive outlook in the face of many struggles and challenges. You are an inspiration! Report
Have you ever seen a picture of Mae West? She was a huge movie star in the 20s and 30s. You could be her brunette reincarnation (but something tells me that Mae wasn't born quite this blonde): Report
Thank you for sharing your story! Keep up the great work! Report
can somebody say corageous??? wow awesome Report
can somebody say corageous??? wow awesome Report
Beth, honestly, what I see is a very pretty woman with a sweet personality that shines through. Thank you for your courage, and thank you for sharing. Report
Thanks for sharing your story. Kids can be cruel and some adults never grow out of it. I tell my self it doesn't matter what other people say but it still really hurts. I have read so many inspirational stories it has given me a little bit of confidence that I am not the only one who feels embarrassed and that there is hope. You really beautiful both inside and out. Report
You are an amazing, beautiful person who must constantly inspire other people. "Scars", whether emotional, psychological or physical often give us a great gift of compassion for other people. You were not only given compassion but the great ability to inspire others! Though you may see scars, others see incredible beauty, both inside and out.
Beth, thanks for sharing your story. I had to look real hard to see the scars you were talking about. You have a pretty smile and your face and eyes radiates kindness. Keep up the good work and once again thank-you for sharing your story. You have inspire me. Report
All I see is a happy, smiling face - take care of yourself and the rest will take care of itself! Report
Another very motivational blog. Thank you so much! Report
You are absolutely without a doubt a gorgeous woman inside and out you have nothing at all to be ashamed of. Your story is an inspiration to all of us so keep up the good work and always keep your head up and be proud of who you are because who you are shines! Report
What a lovely smile, who would notice anything else. Report
Your story could be my stroy except for the burns. Instead I have a lot of flabby skin which happened when I was 15 and decided to starve myself in order to lose the weight fast. I lost the weight but had so much excess skin, I was ashamed to wear anything revealing. So in 1987 I had lipo and it was a botched job which left my right leg with a huge indented hole in it. But every year I get a little less intimidated. I'm getting there. Report
I, too, have many scars, plus I grew up in a very "modest" environment, and now I am obese. My first locker room experience had kids staring at me - and I never went back there. I've managed to overcome that because my health is more important then kids making fun of me. If the dressing room is occupied, I am now able to change in the locker room covering up parts of me as best as I can. I also joined a hospital based Health Center so there are more women preseant who don't qualify for the cover of Cosmospolitan or Playboy! Report
The only thing I see if your picture is a beautiful smile and an innate determination to succeed at any goal you set for yourself.

Best of luck to you and keep up the good work... :-) Report
Beth you ARE a beautiful lady on the outside - and your inner beauty inspires more people than you will ever know! Report
I must first say that you really need to give yourself props for coming so far, actually coming out from your shyness and realizing that your scars are who you are. Picture yourself without your scars, you wont be you. Now you must think of your scars as a piece of you, they are what make you unique and special. Good Luck and I wish you the best in life. Report
I admire you. I admire anyone who makes the most of their life despite any circumstances which might hold someone else down! Report
Dear Beth,
I, too, love and will feed off your new empowerment. I hope you take the suggestions to be a public speaker. Too many of us have been so mortified at a tender age of revealing our bodies to the point that we hide. And that begets weight gain and lack of activity. With more body image issues! It's an issue I will continue to address with my Girl Scouts! Thanks for sharing! Report
you look great; you're really beautiful lady. for me I'm not ashame as much as I'm shy and this is also a big deal with me too.
thank you for this great story.. this is will help alot of ladies. Report
I also didn't notice any scars, all I saw was your smile and pretty eyes! That just shows you that not everyone sees the bad, only the good. I work with some nasty women who comment on what people are wearing, their shoes, what they had for lunch, etc. I don't notice that stuff, shoot, I can't tell you what I wore yesterday let-a-lone what someone else wore. I was raised that way and tried to raise my children that way. I had a couple grandsons that use to comment about how fat people were (no telling what they said about me behind my back) and I always told them they were rude and that if their mom would have said something like that when she was their age, she would have been punished. I can't tolerate that sort of ignorance. Ok, let me get off my soap box - it's just a big pet peeve of mine! Report
I'm so sorry for what you have been through. Maybe I have a bad resolution screen or maybe you have come farther than you think because I didn't notice and scars and think you are terribly cute!!!!! Many, many people have dealt with your concerns about changing for different reasons and I am much more uncomfortable with the people who walk around in the gym room naked! There are plenty of areas to dress privately where we work out.

You are a great writer as well! Report
Beth - I really appreciate you sharing your story. Hidden scars can be very difficult for people of all ages. I am a burn survivor as well and am connected to the Phoenix society. Have you been involved with them at all? I think you could be an inspiration to other survivors. they have a website and the next conference for burn survivors is in Houston this October. Keep Up the great work, girl.
Marya, Colorado Report
Wow! You are such an inspiration! I loved your story and you are beautiful inside and out. I love the way you posted a solution to every one of your concerns. That is so positive. You should not be so hard on yourself. Report
You may still have a few scars and a few kilos to go but you are GORGEOUS! Report
You're an amazing, courageous and beautiful woman. An inspiration to many Report
i don't see scars - I see a beautiful young woman... thanks for being kind enough to share your experiences and more importantly, your perception and insights! WOW! Report
Thanks for your story. :) you are beautiful! I'm so proud of how far you've come. Report
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" How very wrong this old saying is. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on just how far you have come. I still am not comfortable walking around in a locker room and avoid it as much as possible. Maybe you have helped me. Report
Beth..your attitude totally outshines the scars..You a big girl?..didn't notice...You are beautiful and smart!! You have helped me in ways I can not express in rock Beth... Report
You have come a long way...Be proud of yourself. I am proud of you. You are a very pretty girl. Thank you for sharing your story and offering your concerns and solutions...very practical. Keep up the good work... Report
Have you ever thought about being a motivational speaker at schools or burn centers? Your story is such a wonderful thing and I am sure that others that are going thru what you did, would love to know that you can overcome anything if you set your mind to it! I don't know you but I am VERY proud of what you have accomplished! Report
You are so beautiful! Love the bright eyes and the sweet smile. Go, girl! Report
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