How I Found the Confidence To Wear a Bikini Again

Maya G. Pete

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When did you first realize you were plus-size? I think I was about 6 years old.

When I was a young girl, I used to love to wear bikini tops. I think it was a product of me watching Bring It On so many times—and maybe wanting to be sexy far too early—but they were the closest I had to a cheerleading uniform. I used to wear them and have no shame about how my body looked in the mirror—I don’t even think I looked in the mirror!

Mind you, for most of my life, I’ve been a chubby girl, but back then I wore anything and everything without a care in the world. I don’t know when exactly that changed, but I remember growing acutely aware of my size in comparison to the other little girls at school, daycare, and especially dance class as I got older. I would beg my mom to let me wear the little sarong-type skirt over my leotards in an effort to cover my belly for ballet lessons. I think my “fatness” really dawned on me the summer after fourth grade, also known as the summer I discovered toasted bread and butter (I ate it with every meal; grandparents really do let you do whatever you want). Upon returning to school, I could feel people comparing my size to my peers in what I perceived to be disgust. It was then that I stopped looking in mirrors regularly and I stopped wearing bikinis. I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin.

Nearly 20 years after that realization, I’m finally regaining a semblance of that confidence and self-love (or self-contentment) that I had as a little girl. It’s taken years of unlearning and self-reflection, but now I wear my bikinis loudly and proudly, and here’s why:

(P.S. these reflections work for any size)  


It’s not my fault, but I’m the one who can change it

I blame the media for ever making me believe that my size and weight were unpretty.  When we’re young, our minds are so malleable and easily conform to the opinions we consume. I abhor the fact that shows like The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club, and Revenge Body ever existed. I resent the fact that tabloids and magazines made me feel like the celebrities I saw myself in growing up—Raven Symone, America Ferrera, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Hudson, Oprah, and more—were dangerously overweight and unhealthy. And I’m sad that we watched their weight fluctuate on camera while wondering if we should be doing more to look like the Cameron Diazes and Jennifer Lopezes of the world.

However, somewhere between failing at dieting because I love pizza and realizing that I can outrun, outlift, and outwork some of my friends that society would deem “healthier,” I decided that this is the body that I have and I’m proud of what it can do, so I should be proud of how it looks. 

After that realization—which, I should clarify, happened over the course of many years—I’ve vowed to unlearn everything the media had taught me about my “plus-size” body, consume media that empowers me, and love myself out loud for the world to see and be inspired by. 


People already know what I look like, so why hide?

My friends, my family, and the people I interact with on a daily basis (or used to pre-COVID), all know what I look like from all of my angles—even though I prefer to be viewed from the left side (my “good” side). They’ve known what I’ve looked like for years and still love me just the way I am and no matter how much I weigh. If these people, that have seen a 360 degree view of my body, know what I look like and still love me, what sense does it make for me to feel like I need to hide my body away when I go swimming or go to the beach, or just want to put a bikini on? Short answer: it makes no sense.

Nobody benefits from me feeling so uncomfortable in my skin that I don’t want to go to the pool parties or I feel too self-conscious to take off my clothes and dive into the water.  Actually, everyone loses, because I’m a great party guest and look great in a bikini, if I do say so myself. And I do! 



Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—and I’m the beholder

OK friends, hear me out! I saw this TikTok the other day that reminded viewers to view themselves through the eyes of women, because we’ve been conditioned to assess beauty from the male perspective since men have historically been the primary creators of the media we consume. While that statistic is changing and women are continuing to make their marks in all sectors of entertainment, I have to wonder: is the damage already done? 

I’ve always said that I don’t get dressed in the morning for male attention, but for the women in my life to compliment my shoes, and I mean that! However, when it comes to reconstructing what I think about myself and how I view my body, I’ve taken it a step further. Women are the best, truly, but sometimes we don’t always agree, and that’s OK because we’re human. That being said, I don’t want to just rely on the female gaze to make me feel good in my skin. I’ve decided to make myself feel good in my own body by focusing deeply on how what I wear makes me feel.  


Here are some questions I ask myself when I put on my bikinis: 

  • Do I like the way I feel? 
  • Am I comfortable?
  • Does this color make my skin pop?
  • Does this suit pass the “pool jumping” test?
  • Will this suit withstand the dancing I plan to do after drinking the margaritas I’ll inevitably drink?  

Try asking yourself these questions next time you put on your bikini, and if the answers are “yes,” please grab your favorite cover-up, a towel, your speaker, and that book you’re pretending to read, and head to the pool. 


Don’t have a bikini you’re in love with? Have I ever left you without recommendations? Here are some suits I own or have my eye on for this summer: