How I Learned to Rock My Swimsuit with Confidence

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Two years ago, I confessed a big secret. Back then, it had been eight long years since I wore a bathing suit in public. I was simply too uncomfortable "showing off" my body in that manner. No matter how much fun I was missing, my fear of judgment from others won out.

I know how silly it seems. I know that while I idolized the bodies of others, many women would cut off their arm for the chance to look like me in a bathing suit. And I know that it seems a little immature and self-centered. After all, who am I to think that anyone is even paying me any attention or cares what I'm wearing?

Still. After years of disordered eating and obsessive exercising, which I'm proud to have overcome, I just wasn't mentally "there" yet. While I took steps to start loving my body and began to eat and exercise without extremes, I could not shake major body dissatisfaction. I did not feel like I looked good enough to parade around in next to nothing.

When I wrote that blog, I was determined to change my fate. For one, I was tired of missing out. Secondly, I was tired of talking and thinking so negatively about myself. But mostly, I thought about the future. Someday I hope to have kids of my own and—especially if they are girls—I never want them to struggle with body image or eating issues the way I did. And the only way for me to model confidence and self-love is to really live it. So why wait? Might as well start now.

My previous confession received so many great comments, from men and women who felt similarly, to people who were giving advice for taking the plunge (literally). I firmly believe that sharing ANY goal with others—even my goal of wearing a bathing suit!—makes you more accountable, and that is the real reason I blogged that day. It wasn't that I had changed overnight and suddenly felt OK about myself—not even close. But I said I was going to do it, and by gosh, that meant I had to follow through.

Over the past couple of years, I'm proud to say that not only did I conquer my fear of wearing a bathing suit, but that I have worn my (beloved) bathing suit on many occasions and in front of many different people: at the beach in Chicago with one of my good friends, during the daylight (I formerly would only jump in after dark), and at multiple pools with my family and friends. And you know what? I lived through it. NOTHING happened. No one stared at me. No one commented about me or my body. No one paid me any attention. And next week, I'm going on my first-ever beach vacation since I was a young kid. Other than my bathing suit, I'm not packing much—I plan to live in it!

Still, I didn't go from not wearing a bathing suit for almost a decade to suddenly feeling confident and great in it. It took time, and a lot of positive self-talk. Here are some of the things I did to conquer my fear.
  1. Buy a bathing suit that feels comfortable. I always felt like I had to wear a two-piece bathing suit. They're so commonplace and people of all sizes wear them, but especially people my age. I thought a one-piece was too "old" or stuffy. But wearing a two-piece, I learned, just made me feel WAY too exposed. Baby steps. So I shopped for a one-piece suit that I thought was cute and flattering. I found an awesome suit that fit great, offered all the coverage I wanted, and didn't leave me feeling so naked. I liked it so much that I purchased it in two colors!
  2. Size doesn't matter. It's never fun to try on a swimsuit—it's the most dreadful shopping most women experience. What's more, I had to order my bathing suit online, so I had no idea what to order. When I ordered my normal size, it was so tiny that I couldn't even pull it up. I was not off to a good start. I ended up going up TWO sizes until I found the suit that really fit me properly. I just kept reminding myself that the size doesn't matter—only fit does. No one else is going to see my size tag, but I'll tell you what they will notice: someone squeezing into a too-small suit because she refused to go up a size or two.
  3. Fake it till you make it. The first several times I wore a bathing suit in public, I felt really strange. Do you remember wearing shorts or sandals all summer as a kid, then finally putting on pants or boots for the first time come fall? How strange that feels for your body? That is how I felt in my swimsuit. It was so out of the norm that it felt weird. But the only way to get used to it is to do it. Repetition made me feel more and more comfortable. I just tried to project confidence by not covering up, not shielding myself awkwardly with a towel, and not crossing my arms in front of me.
  4. Give yourself a pep talk. The first several times I wore my swimsuit, I had to mentally prepare before the event, during it, and even afterward. I reminded myself that no one was paying attention to me, and that everyone can wear a swimsuit. I kept the words of another member's comments in my mind: "If someone has a problem with you, it's their problem, not yours." It really helped. If I found myself feeling self-conscious in the moment, or starting to compare myself to other women and feel lousy about it, I just told myself that we all have different shapes and sizes and we can't all look like Heidi Klum. And when it was over, I did a recap in my head, telling myself that it wasn't so bad after all—it was fun!
It may seem like other people have it easier than you do in some ways, but we all have our baggage and challenges. I'm no different than you or any other woman who feels swimsuit dread coming on. But that also means we're similar enough to get over our fears and start becoming active participants in our lives once again. Trust me—if I can do it, you can, too!

Sorry, you won't see a photo of me in my suit for this blog. Although I have no problem sharing one, confidence in your swimsuit has nothing to do with how your body really looks, and I certainly don't need comments one way or the other on how I actually look in my swimsuit. This new confidence—it comes from inside myself.

What helps you feel confident in your swimsuit?