Body Image

I Used to Feel Insecure in a Bathing Suit–Here’s Exactly How I Changed That

"I made it my mission to rid any feelings of insecurity in a bathing suit."
bathing suit confidence"
bathing suit confidence
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

Now that it’s summer, I’m revamping my wardrobe to coincide with the coastal granddaughter vibe and trying not to overdo it on the lobster rolls. There is one other thing on my mind: bathing suit season. I’m always down for a day at the beach, but I often forget the stress that can come with shopping for and wearing a bathing suit that I feel confident in.

In summers past, I had an irrational fear of how my stomach looked when I’d sit down in a bikini, I thought every pair of swimsuit bottoms made my hips and thighs look big, and I always felt like I was falling short of social media expectations when taking pictures in my swimsuit. Sometimes, the insecurities felt so exhausting that canceling any plans where I’d have to wear a bathing suit altogether seemed like the best option. But last year, I made it my mission to rid any feelings of insecurity in a bathing suit so I could truly enjoy my life. After all, I had just moved to Cape Cod from Cleveland for the summer, and it would be my first time living by the ocean (I’m here to live my best The Summer I Turned Pretty life).

I realized that feeling confident has nothing to actually do with your body; it’s all mental. Your body is supposed to carry you through life experiences, not be your life’s experience. I cared so much about my size and how I looked in pictures that I robbed myself of joy in so many memories. Here is how I achieved not only loving how I look in a bathing suit but also feeling grateful for my body as a whole.

“The size of your bathing suit doesn’t dictate whether you’re a supportive friend, a loving partner, or a good dog parent… Size is nothing but a number printed on the back of your clothes.”

1. I cut out pictures of celebrities that actually look like me

The first thing I did was reflect on my biggest trigger: comparing myself to models and celebrities who don’t look like me. Throughout my adolescence, I thought being skinny was healthy. When I started developing an unhealthy relationship with food, my mom sat me down and explained that environmental factors, hormones, and genetics all play a part in my body composition. She’d always remind me that the models don’t look like their true selves either (thanks to retouching), so it’s unrealistic and unhealthy to try to make myself look like them.

So, I cut out pictures of Beyoncé and Janelle Monae and stuck them onto my full-length mirror. If I surrounded myself with people who had similar figures to mine and who I thought were gorgeous, it would serve as a reminder that just because I didn’t have a flat stomach with abs, I was still beautiful and, most importantly, healthy. Go old school like me and grab some old magazines and start collaging, or make an inspiring Pinterest board. While you’re at it, unfollow anyone who makes you feel less than and follow people and accounts who boost your confidence.

2. I kept healthy habits all year round

With summer comes the social media videos that tout getting a bikini body and promote doing a juice cleanse to achieve it. While I used to fall victim to them, I learned the hard way that the biggest change in my “loving my body” journey was consistency. Instead of going hard at the gym and becoming a health nut from May through September, I created a consistent routine of eating and exercising that I kept year-round. I made sure that I ate enough greens and protein throughout the day, which reduced my bloating and tummy aches. I fit in cardio in the mornings to give me an extra boost of energy and endorphins. While simple, I also made sure I got enough sleep since I realized that when I was sleep-deprived, I would overthink and pick my body apart. I also tried different forms of exercise. I spent my whole life thinking I needed to weight train to be healthy and strong, but I found much more joy when boxing and taking Taylor Swift-themed spin classes.

There are 101 different tips to be healthy and not all of them will work for you, so you’re going to have to be patient until you figure out the perfect blend for you. And when you do, you will feel unstoppable all year round, not just for bathing suit season.

3. I looked in the mirror and did daily affirmations

As cliche as it may be, how you talk to yourself matters. I started practicing standing in front of a mirror and telling myself the things that I loved about my body. For example, “I love how strong my body is,” “I love how my body has carried me through my hardest days,” and “I love that my body is healthy.” Confidence comes from within, so if you don’t believe you are strong, beautiful, and courageous, you can’t expect others to think that you are either. After about a month, I found myself repeating these affirmations without even thinking about it. After two months, I found myself actually believing the words that I was telling myself in front of the mirror.

Your confidence won’t come overnight, and there are days when standing in front of a mirror will be the last thing you want to do, but those days are the most crucial days to take the time for your affirmations. Feeling good in your suit is as much physical as it is mental, so work on rewiring your brain to be grateful for all that your body offers instead of finding reasons why you want to change it.

“Your body is supposed to carry you through life experiences, not be your life’s experience.”

4. I bought the bathing suit that actually fit me

Once I finally got over the idea of sizing up, my life changed. I used to refuse to go up a size, and I’d either force myself to squeeze into bathing suits that I was so uncomfortable in or I’d leave the store empty-handed because I couldn’t get over my pride. I had to ask and remind myself whether fitting into my 18-year-old size small was worth feeling confined in when I was supposed to be letting loose and unwinding from the stresses of life—it wasn’t. The size of your bathing suit doesn’t dictate whether you’re a supportive friend, a hard-working employee, a loving partner, or a good dog parent. It also doesn’t determine whether you’re worthy of strong friendships, recognition, and a loving relationship. Size is really nothing but a number or letter printed on the back of your clothes.

While wearing a two-piece swimsuit might be the trendier choice, wearing the size and style you feel most confident in is what matters. No one is going to ask you what size suit you’re wearing when they go up to compliment you on how good you look! So be brave enough to size up, and remember that your clothes are meant to fit you, not the other way around.

5. I realized no one actually cares what I look like in a bathing suit

When I’m at the beach, I’m not judging others as if they were on America’s Next Top Model, so why would I assume that I’m on the podium with them? No one is paying attention to how you look in your swimsuit. In fact, a national study conducted by Planet Fitness found that 76 percent of those surveyed said they’re more critical of their own appearance than they are of the way others look.

Everyone else at the beach is caught up in worrying about how they look themselves. Plus, they’re busy soaking up the sun, reading, getting the perfect shot for Instagram, or corralling their kids. Personally, my biggest concern at the beach is getting the perfect tan while still protecting my skin (and maybe looking for my IRL Conrad Fisher #teamconnie). The main takeaway? Embrace your bathing suit body as it is and for all it is because everyone else is just trying to do the same.