Confession: I Won't Wear a Bathing Suit in Public

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Swimsuit season is almost here, and while I love summer, I downright DREAD the skimpy clothes that come with it. I can handle sleeveless shirts. I'll even sport shorts on occasion. But I am too uncomfortable with my own body to wear a bathing suit in public. Call me prudish, but we don't parade around in our underwear in front of strangers, so why do we wear bathing suits that leave about as much to the imagination as a bra and panties? Doesn't anyone besides me think that's a bit odd?

I admit though, I don't avoid the pool or the beach because of prudishness (although that could be a tiny part of it). The real reason is that I'm embarrassed to wear a bathing suit in public, and that self-consciousness has kept me from doing so for 8 years!

While I have come a long way, after struggling with an eating disorder in college and learning how to treat myself better without expecting perfection, I have to be honest. I haven't fully accepted my own body yet, and I'm definitely a long way from really loving it. My friends and family think I'm CRAZY to not wear a swimsuit. They assure me that I look great and that no one will be analyzing me. My best friend (who has a pool in her backyard, that I won't jump into unless it's dark outside!) confidently says that bathing suits don't offer any surprises—that you can pretty much tell what a person's body looks like, even when they're fully dressed.

None of this helps me. First, all the people in the world can tell me that I look good and it won't matter—what matters is how I feel about myself. Second, in my head, everyone IS analyzing and silently judging me, and I "know" what they're thinking: Her stomach doesn't look very good; she has cellulite on her thighs; she should be more toned since she's a fitness expert. And I can counter my best friend's claim, too. I strongly disagree that you can tell what a person's body looks like when they're clothed. I feel great about myself in clothes because I know how to dress well for my body shape. Plus, clothes hide those imperfections in skin tone, and the lumps and bumps of a less-than-hard body.

What's more likely is that I'm projecting my negative feelings about myself onto others. I think that I should look better because I'm a fitness expert, but others probably don't think that (or even care). I think that I should look perfect to be "allowed" to wear a bikini, but there are no rules about that. And I feel safe and confident in my daily wardrobe, but that's probably just because it's normal and habitual whereas wearing a swimsuit is not. Most likely, I've built this event up to be something more important and powerful than it really is. I know it's silly. I know that many people would trade in their bodies for mine in a heartbeat. I know that there are way more important things in life than worrying about how you look. Still, it's a source of struggle for me, and I can't really explain why.

All I know is that I've missed out on fun opportunities (going to the pool with my friends, relaxing on the beach with my family) and I've been hot and uncomfortable on unbearably warm summer days. All because I'd rather cover up than wear a bikini in front of others. I've decided that I'm too young to have avoided a bathing suit for nearly 10 years, and I'm sick of sitting on the sidelines over something as trivial as the shape of my body (which I only have so much control over). Moreover, I'm extremely concerned about passing my negative thoughts or body issues on to my future children, especially if I have daughters. Even though I'm years away from that, it's motivation enough for me to get used to wearing a bathing suit, say good things about myself, and focus on the positive traits that REALLY matter because I'd never want my own kids to deal with the unrealistic body and eating issues that I've dealt with.

So I've set a goal for myself this year, and I've started to tell others about it. My goal is to wear my bathing suit in public, at the pool, on vacation—anywhere that it's appropriate. And I'm going to do it this summer. It's been a long time coming.

Two catalysts helped me arrive at and set this goal once and for all, and I hope that they'll help you, too.

First, Coach Dean blogged recently about exercises he wouldn't do in public because he felt too self-conscious about his body. One of his comments in particular resonated with me (emphasis added):

"These days, I rarely worry enough about how other people might see me to let that restrict my activity. And it's not just because I've lost a lot of weight. It's because I made myself do the things that made me feel uncomfortably self-conscious, until it was no longer a problem. I think that's much more powerful than simply trying to talk yourself into accepting your body."

I've decided that's exactly what I'll do. Like my bathing suit phobia, I didn't wear shorts for several years—in fact, I just started wearing them last year. While I was uncomfortable and felt almost naked at first, the novelty wore off and now I can do it comfortably without feeling weird. It gets easier each time and I realize that no one cares about my legs or pays attention to them as I once thought. I think that by wearing my swimsuit enough, I'll get over my fears and feel more comfortable, even if I haven't accepted my body; if I waited for that fateful day, it might never happen.

Second, one member (GRANCY) left a comment on that post of Dean's that offered some of the best advice I've heard in a while. In fact, I've turned it into my own personal mantra, one that I'll surely tell myself once swimsuit season arrives. She said (emphasis added):

"If people have a problem with you, it's THEIR problem, not yours. You're doing something about improving yourself. That's AWESOME! Please, for the sake of YOU, take a big breath, hold your head high, and try that something that you've been avoiding. I have a feeling you'll wind up having fun and wonder what all the fuss was about."

I hope that this confession has been eye opening for some. Body image is a real issue for people of all shapes and sizes, and it's not a problem you can solve just by losing weight or toning up. It has to come from within, regardless of what you look like from the outside, and it's something all of us should work on improving no matter where we are in our lifestyle journeys (myself included). So who's ready to conquer their fears and hit the beach with me this summer?

Have you ever let your own self-consciousness stop you from enjoying certain aspects of your life? How do you feel about wearing a swimsuit? Have you learned to accept your body, just as it is right now?

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You mentioned wearing a bikini, but it doesn't have to be a bikini does it? I have seen some beautiful swim suits that look almost like a dress, you could almost wear it to a party! The only reason I don't have one is because I couldn't afford to buy it. That's a topic I would like to see someone address, why are swim suits that cover you up a little more, like for older or larger women, made so ugly? They always have big brown and white flower patterns, yuck! If they look decent they are way out of my price range! Anyway, I don't think you would have anything to worry about, you would look just fine. You also mentioned that you know how to dress to flatter your shape, you can do that with swimming suits too. But I think you are right, get out of your comfort zone a little and you will become used to and it won't bother you any more. Report
Once again I will have to say that with age comes wisdom, well sometimes anyway. At 51 I not only have cellulite, but stretchmarks from 4 pregnancies, spider veins galore in my legs and around my ribcage area, really awful looking feet from arthritis, wrinkles, sagging, fat rolls, gray hair (but I color it red) I can only wear glasses now, no contact lenses because of dry eye, etc. Will I be wearing a swimsuit? I am going to work swimming laps into my workouts at the gym to give my deteriorating joints some relief. I don't care what ANYONE thinks or says about how I look in my swimsuit. I have gone skinny dipping in the lake at night several times over the last 30 years (Luckily the rangers didn't catch us!)For those who have waited so long to experience life to the fullest because you are worried about what someone else thinks, I'm sorry. Start living!!!! Report
I never wear shorts and despise swimming suits. The biggie for me is I have larger thighs (and always have). Even one piece suits show off the "dreaded" thighs and shorts make me uncomfortable. My swimming routine consisted of wearing knee long board shorts, then shedding them seconds before I hit the water.
Last summer my husband convinced me to shed the shorts at the lake up in Maine we vacation at. I thought for sure I was doomed. I was up there with family who were very vocal about their feelings. If I had thighs of doom, surely I would hear about it. The only comment I heard "Oh wow, I didn't know you had a pierced navel". Report
It's true that sometimes you just have to do what makes you uncomfortable...I mean for myself it was changing in the change room at the gym. If the private rooms were unavailable I would wait or change in the washroom stall. Then one day I just told myself who is really watching you change when everyone is busy getting changed themseleves?? So I just started to change in the open change room more often...I still use the private ones now and again but I can comfortably change in the open area now. It's nice to know everyone has some fears when it comes to their bodies but it's even nicer to know that we can overcome them! Report
I love swimming so much, and I can usually cover up my stomach/thighs by wearing swimshorts, but I hate shaving! I don't wear shorts, either, because I hate to shave! I'm really conscious of both my weight and my lack of shaviness, so I haven't swam in about 6-7 years. It's sad, but I'll keep my leg hair! Report
I am probably the wierdest person ever because I actually embraced my fatness there for a while. I knew there was no hiding my rolls, and I wasnt fooling anyone. I was at 296 pounds and there was nothing i could do to hide it. So I just wore what I thought was fun or an expression of me- and often times had rolls sticking out everywhere. Then again before the doctor told me I had to lose weight for a treatment this year I had gotten up to 271 again. I did it on purpose too- its a long story. But now I am getting into being healthy but not because of anyone elses opinion of me. If it wasnt for the doctor Id still be eating ice cream sandwhiches and LOVING it. But I am getting used to this and have found fun things about this too. But bathing suits? I am into modesty. Plus I have scars all over and some offensive tattoos that I grew out of spiritually. For those reasons I dont think i will be showing any actual skin. I have short shorts I have goten now but because of tattoos on my legs I have decided to invest in leggings as well. I am tattooed from head to foot and find most of them offensive now so I stay covered for that reason. Otherwise I am comfy at any weight. The opinions of others dont matter. Its what I think about my size that effects me. God bless Report
I'll wear a swimsuit but the ones that cover alot!!! You know the bottoms that look like a skirt and the top that looks like a tank top lol!!!! But thats only in front of family!!!! I can't accept this body, I can accept me but not this body!!! Thats why I'm working hard to change it!!! Report
I absoluty DO not mind what others thinking of me seeing me in my swimming suit!

I have so much fun swimming - i don't want to miss this!

And i 'm far from a perfect body ;) Report
lol...i haven't worn a bathing suit in yrs......i may run around the house with my birthday suit on (in the early morning) lol hubbie and i are happy and even though i've gained over 90 lbs. since i got married ... i still think i look pretty good but not good enough to wear a bathing suit in public now! lol hubbie's fat now...I'm fat we plan on working out more in our little mini gym more...we'll see..... Report
I love swimming! Have since I was very very little, but I barely swim anymore, and if I do, it's not swimming for exercise or for fun, it's for my son. And I don't wear a bathing suit. Well, I do, but I wear it under a shirt and shorts, and I still HATE being in shorts. Actually, I will NOT wear shorts unless I'm swimming. I don't do lots of things because I'm self concious. I won't run, partly because I really can't, I have a concave chest and about half the lung capacity of most other women, but also because I can feel myself jiggling as I run, or jog, so I won't even attempt to try, or work up my stamina. It's so sad how self concious we're brainwashed to be. When I was a teenager I hated going to the gym because I thought people would judge me for sweating. Sweating too much, at the gym... haha. Also in gym class I was afraid to work myself too hard because I was self concious about people noticing how hard I was breathing.... All these things prevented me from being in shape. I started working out for hours at a time when I was 15, but at an intensity that wouldn't make me sweat, and I'd try so hard not to breath loud enough for any other ears, and I became annorexic. And even being way too thin for my bone structure and height, I would still limit ALL public activities because I was soooooo concious of my body, and thought everyone was studying every bump, every jiggle, everything. It's still haunting me and I don't know how to overcome it. Report
I didn't even think about wearing a bathing suit for years!! I gained 25 pounds my freshman year, transfered to a university closer to home, moved in with some friends, switched to a low-carb diet and promptly lost that 25 in about 6 months. I never exercised. Later in college as I started doing more theatre shows, while taking full time classes and part time working I had long days, ate on campus a lot (though I was never a fan of fast food, I had no idea at that time that how much you ate made just as much to do with weight gain as what you ate. I never ate junk or fast food, but "healthy" foods can be just as fattening!) and ballooned to 200 pounds by the time I finished school. I didn't even want to get my graduation pictures taken because I was so ashamed!
And then I moved to Naples, FL for an internship. I didn't even own a bathing suit. But one weekend we were having a big pool party at one of the apartments and my roommates dragged me out to Walmart to buy a bathing suit. I of course wore shorts over it, and felt horribly uncomfortable all day. I think I wore it one other time in my whole 8 months in Florida! Not that I had a lot of time off, but I can't help but think of what fun I probably missed because I didn't want to get in the water. In fact there are lots of moments I can think of now where I could have had fun swimming (I always LOVED swimming growing up-first one in the pool every summer, last one out!) in the lake at our cottage but I just couldn't bring myself to put on that bathing suit.
I'm happy to report that this summer I got a new bathing suit and not only went swimming in the lake and the pool at my apartment a few times, but I did it without shorts!! Even when I was a teen at size 8 I have big thighs and always wore shorts! Sure I was uncomfortable, but then I thought about the fact that (at least at the cottage) the only people looking at me were family and friends who come to the neighbouring cottages at the same time so they don't care! I especially felt uncomfortable when the daughter from our next door neighbour who is about my age and tall and skinny came out in her bikini, but I reminded myself that my body is a work in progress (and there are certainly women bigger than me sporting bathing suits!). So I'm working on it, and I know that once I start losing weight again, and reach my goal I will be just fine in my bathing suit! Report
I wear a swimsuit, but we are in the mountains a lot and I have to admit I wear shorts over it most the time. Report
I am comfortable in a one-piece suit with lower-cut leg openings, but not a bikini. Part of that is body insecurity; part is feeling more secure actually swimming in a suit that is less likely to ride up or down and expose more than I wanted to!

There are actually some great-looking suits that are more like bodysuits or wetsuits. If you google search for "modest bathing suits", you'll find them. Many are produced and sold by people who have religious beliefs about not showing their bodies, but I can see being more comfortable in this kind of suit even if you don't have religious beliefs about it. It would be a shame to give up swimming because you're not comfortable in a typical bathing suit -- swimming is great exercise and a lot of fun! Report
Sadly I cant wear a swimsuit or shorts. They just dont fit right or look good at all, and thats why I need to slim down and trim up. I miss having fun in the sun w/out feeling like a blimp. Hopefully next year this will change :) Report
i'm the same way..... Report
I wont be comfy in a bathing suit either, even if I am of the right size and weight. Report
I won't wear a suit in public and part of it is because of my weight and part is because of horrendous scars from 11 surgeries. I make other people more uncomfortable than I am.
Erin Report
Thanks for this great article. I always had a hard time wearing a bathing suit in public, too. I thought it was just me being uncomfortable with it. This summer DH and I went on vacation and it was just us and a bunch of strangers on the beach. After a couple of days, I was okay with wearing my bathing suit. I realized that being around people who are saying critical things about THEMSELVES made me wonder what they must think about me (who is bigger than they are) and that's what was making me uncomfortable. Hopefully now that I've realized that, I can keep that in mind when I am home, too, and not just on vacation! Report
I dread too fitting shirts, especially those that cling to my stomach, and it's very hard for me to wear a one-piece dress, because I'm afraid my tummy will stick out.

The weird thing is, when I'm wearing a bikini or completely naked, I don't feel any discomfort at all. I grew up in a country where bathing naked in mixed company is common. I think it was great. Ever since I was a kid, I've seen women with different body shapes and sizes, and as mean as it sounds, it was fun knowing that even if my friends were thinner than me, underneath their clothes they were hardly perfect. It's also nice to see naked men in a non-sexual environment and realize that most of them are actually just as uncomfortable with their looks as we are. Ever tried calming your nerves in a job interview by imagining your interviewer in his underwear? Let me tell you, they actually do become much nicer once they take off their clothes. :D Report
This made me think. I was fairly thin through my teens and early 20's after having kids I went up to about 170 on a 5'3" frame (not huge but definatly not small). However I've always had a thing about wearing shorts and skirts (more so skirts because I associate them with torturous family dinners on Sunday when it was mandatory to wear one and my male cousins got away with jeans and dress shirts).

From the first day my hubby met me I was reluctant to wear skirts or dresses although did so when we went out for dinner on special occasions. After kids however because nothing fit me and I never made it a priority to spend money on clothes for me I wore jeans or sweats and over sized t-shirts. I still don't like to wear revealing clothes or short sleeves and the last time I wore shorts was to go swimming with my kids at a friend's pool and they were the long soccer shorts and a t-shirt.

The last time I wore a bikini I was probably 8 years old and the neighbour boy pulled the bottoms off as I was getting out of the public pool during the peak swim time (I think my whole body turned red from embarassment).

Thank you for this blog and maybe next summer I will find some cute shorts or capris to test the waters of going "bare" legged. Report
I won't even wear shorts or a sleeveless top. In fact, I don't like short sleeves unless the reach almost to my elbows. Report
Yaaaay so refreching to hear that I am not the only one! I have a stick thin sister and spent too much time comparing myself to her just like I felt everone else did. People do compare us but I don't care anymore. I allow myself to wear clothes that I like. I refuse to wait until I am just a little thinner to buy clothes or to show off my less than perfect body. I have dressed very conservatively all my life because I never wanted to give anyone the wrong impression. Yet I love people who have body confidence and that is my goal. To inspire others to be confident!!!! Thank you Nicole for being honest. Report
I understand the feeling, but I never let it stop me because it was too important to me to go in the water and ENJOY myself! When I was a solid size 20, I still went out there and got that bathing suit on, figuring if someone saw a fat person in a bathing suit, well, that's what they saw! We go overseas to visit my husband's family nearly every year, and it's an absolute hoot how many women of ALL ages (seriously -- elderly women!) , shapes and sizes wear bikinis. I'm not in one myself (yet) but I hope to be back in one again before I hit 50. After seeing some of the women on the beach there, my husband turned to me and said, you see, I TOLD you, you could wear a bikini! Report
Whatever happened to good ol' one piece bathing suits? More and more when I hear people talking about swimwear they almost always restrict it to bikinis. Some things I have learned about swimsuit shyness is to wear a one piece if you are self conscious about your mid section, or one of those cute wraps for the bottom and leg area. OR... if you're still too timid, wear swim trunks and a tank-top like the boys so you can still swim while easing yourself into your beach body confidence. (I do this because my bathing suit is too small and I can't afford a new one :P) One last tip: get a suit that accentuates your chest to take attention away from the lower sections. Trust me... it works! ^_^ Report
my mom actually never let us wear bikinis- but one pieces are still pretty revealing when you contrast them with regulate clothes. i've never had a problem with them until recently- i used to be a spry naturally skinny person- and now i'm a mother of 2 and doing everything i can to become a runner and feel better about myself and my body. sometimes i still want people to look at me and say how pretty or skinny or whatever i am- but more then that, i want to look in the mirror and not have anything that i feel like i have to cover up or hide-- i want to feel good and look good.

"Body image is a real issue for people of all shapes and sizes, and it's not a problem you can solve just by losing weight or toning up"

this statement really touched me-- it's not a problem you can get rid of by loosing weight or toning up-- i think that's true, unfortunately for me! but i've come to the understanding that if i focus on my running and my eating, and make sure i'm more concerned about reaching my measurable goals (like running a 5K in October) then i am about my weight, then i'll be moving in the right direction. Report
It's nice to know it's not just me! I avoided shorts and skirts, too, until this season. I kept saying, "Oh, I'm too pale; Oh, jeans are more comfortable"--pretty much any excuse to hide my legs. I'm OK with people seeing my knees summer, mid-thigh shorts! Report
Your appearance shouldn't matter to other people. Just wear whatever you want to wear. You shouldn't care about what other people think. Your opinion is what matters the most. If you don't feel comfortable, then you need to make a change for yourself. Report
I will wear my bikini top with a skirt bottom...and I have had my two children, have stretch marks on my tummy and the whole she-bang! But Im slowly learning to walk around and be confident...its a long journey, but im making it! This is the only body i have....and I dont want to miss out on anything! Report
I wore a bathing suit when I went to Florida in April and just felt plain silly. It was part of my motivation to get serious about getting back to my goal weight. Thanks for this... Report
Women! No wonder we all feel so embarrassed wearing swimming suits! If everyone who felt shy about wearing a suit did go out anyway, then all of us would see each other and know what real women's bodies look like! Then we wouldn't feel so embarrassed! And the rest of the world might change their expectations! This summer I went on a trip to Southern California. I wore a "swim dress" and decided not to worry about how I looked compared to all of the trendy bodies at the beach. I had the time of my life learning to body board. I ended up spending the rest of my vacation body boarding. It was so exhilarating! When I look at the pictures, I look better because I look happy and active. I'm scared about swimming suits, too, but I'm so glad I took the plunge! Report
Last year (at my lowest maintenance weight) I wore the most prudish of suits.

Well, today, I am up from my maintenance weight (whatever *that* is!?!) and I'm not comfortable with it, but I decided I AM comfortable with my body!! So, to celebrate, last weekend I wore a BIKINI on a PUBLIC beach, extra belly pooch, cellulite and all! Walked to the car without the coverup shorts and shirt. Felt a bit odd, but I'll get used to it. It paid off in spades because since then I've been living healthier than ever!

Sweetie just LOVED it (bless him) , which helped somewhat, but I really did it for me! Report
Love the article, I would never be caught in a bathing suit either, would never show off my cellulite. But I'm comfortable with my body. Report
i wear a bathing suit but im a size 18, like i said,not perfect, but compared to the 24 i wore three years ago i look pretty good. seriously i have some issues with my legs at the tops so im very careful what kind i wear. i try for a cute skirt and a revealing top half. thats just me. Report
I understand completely where you're coming from with this. As of last year, it had been about 4 years since I'd worn a bathing suit. My boyfriend had plans to go to a local water park and wanted me to go with him. I fought him like crazy and even broke down crying at one point because I was so extremely uncomfortable with the idea of letting everyone see me as this flabby, pasty girl.
Somehow, after about a month of fighting him he got me to go (in a bikini no less, no clue how THAT happened). And after being there 5 minutes I began to notice that either no one cared that I was blindingly pale and kind of pudgy or they were too polite to say anything. Being forced to be that uncomfortable oddly enough made me more comfortable in general. Report
Oh goodness.... I too have an issue with wearing bathing suits in public. I also, like Nicole, haven't worn shorts in public in a couple yrs. Thank you sooo much for the motivation and the encouraging comments and really you are right "it's their problem". This just proves that I too have a ways to go in my thinking processes of myself. I'm just starting to get back on track with myself and I know that with this I'll find new self-confidence. Report
I really love this article. I am ok with wearing my bikini in public. My parents have a pool (my husband and I are currently living with them) and I go in every chance I get. My mom several times has said things like "Maybe you should get a one piece" and I cringe but keep wearing my two piece! I feel I look much better in the two piece (the one piece and tankinis actually accentuate my flaws more than just bearing it all!) I hope that you can get comfortable in your own skin. No one is judging you! It will take time but you will have so much fun with your kids, you'll forget about wearing a bathing suit!

Also, about the shorts thing, its hard for me to find shorts that I'm comfortable in. I'll be honest, I have a nice round butt. I love my butt. I think its my best asset! No pun intended;) But for some reason, I have a hard time finding shorts that don't ride down in the back giving everyone a little plumber's crack, don't bear the bottom of my butt cheeks, or don't make me look like I have a ski slope for a butt. I actually just found a pair yesterday that are just long enough and really let it show! After years of searching... Who knew that shorts were so hard to shop for? Report
I DREAD summer, tank tops, shorts (which I haven't worn in public since Middle School, even through out high school when I was 110 pounds) and the bathing suit which I refuse to wear. I have forced myself at least once a summer to brave it, but I run into and out of the pool, and will hold my pee until I almost burst to keep from getting out. You brought up a great point that I think too many people, especialy men, ignore it doesn't matter how good other people tell you you look, YOU have to feel good about yourself. Report
I feel that it is true of all of us. We are all a little self conscious. Guess what even guys are self conscious too. I went on vacation last year and hated being on the beach without a shirt on. It wasn't that there was anyone looking at me, it was all in my head. To be honest I am unhealthily big, and I know it. I am also doing something about it. It is funny, but now that I have taken some action I feel like a different person. I don't feel self conscious as much. Right now the only thing that bursts my bubble is to be working out at the gym, look in the mirror and see a body that I don't feel is mine. It is who I used to be. I have changed my self image in my mind, now I just have to get my body to catch up. No one is perfect and I accept that about myself. So here is to the last summer where I will feel uncomfortable without a shirt. Hello to many better summers to come. Report
Very interesting!

I have finally purchased my first pair of shorts in 40 years - and I am slowly getting use to wearing them. I have a great support network and the pictures that they took, show that I look somewhat decent, but when I look in the mirror, well that is another story.

As to the bathing suit, I will never be in a bikini again, but I have found a great store that specializes only in bathing suits with a very understanding sales person - I found a suit that I felt somewhat comfortable in. Now that I have lost weight and had a figure analysis done, I am going to look at getting one more that will be more flattering than the tank. As a former racer and swim instructor/life guard, I always wore a cover up until it was absolutely necessary to take it off - so I understand your concern.

As an older person, I have more lumps, sags, squeaks and jiggles (yep, I can even applaud myself!) then I thought were feasibly possible to have. I envied my daughter and various other women who were slim/trim, until I realized that at my age with the body that I have, I can still roller skate outside, ride my bike. go for long walks, climb stairs, very rarely ill (unless I am silly enough to stay up to all hours doing things that could easily wait until another time)- so perhaps my imperfections are just perfect for me. Believe me, it took me a very long time to understand that concept. Yes some people can hurt with their comments, but I now put it down to their insecurities and they are just jealous!

Along the way I learned that fear is self made - you choose the fear, feed it and maintain the upkeep like growing a garden, but like a garden, it can be re-designed/cultivated a step at a time. Remember there are no victims, just volunteers. I will now choose what I volunteer for.

I believe this summer is going to be one of the best summers you have ever had - filled with much fun and happiness - spread your wings and fly!!! Report
To PITTMABD: Get in there with your kids! The memories your kids will have is not what Mom looked like in her suit but how much fun all of you had-together.
As for your family- shame on them, especially your partner, for not supporting you and saying something to defend you. Use this as a lesson for your children that we are all different sizes, shapes, colors and it is these attributes that makes each and every one of us unique. Remember they will love you regardless and really isn't that the best feeling in the world anyway??
Hang strong and you'll find your way- we on Sparkpeople are all supporting you in whatever you decide for yourself.
Here's my thing, I have 2 two year olds and they are so fun and cute and love to swim! They usually swim in the pool at my mother-in-law's house. I am dying to swim with them, but my husband's family already make fun of my weight and they have never seen me in a swim suit or shorts. My legs really are hidious. I have always received negative comments from family or old boyfriends. If I could have surgery, I would. I don't mean to be so negative, but this touched on a very big issue that I am dealing with right now. Thanks for reading! I am though happy for the readers who have overcome and done the right thing by not really caring what other people might think. Report
You've really hit the nail on the head here. I also feel like I could have written this blog!

Two things that I've realized lately is that having a teenage stepdaughter makes me so much more self-conscious than I used to be, which is probably pretty common, but goes completely against my intention to set a good example for her. I really need to get out there and show her some confidence!

The other thing is that I've really opened my eyes to the way we project our own concerns so strongly onto others that we poison anything they could possibly say or do to support us or make us feel confident. Just know that 99% of people are so busy worrying about what everyone else is thinking about them, that they really are too busy to judge you. Seriously, that girl in the purple two-piece by the lifeguard stand is giving you a dirty look because in her mind, you just thought out loud that she has chubby cankles... when really you were thinking, "my, her arms are so toned... I'll bet she thinks I'm a total cow."

So just keep in mind that everyone is probably just as concerned about what you're thinking as you are of what they're thinking. So much so that there's not a lot of room left in their head to make judgements about someone who looks fit and normal.

PS - Why do we all hate shorts so much? I know I struggle with shorts a lot. Are there just no flattering shorts out there for real people??? Report
I have a very hard time wearing a swim suit. Matter of fact I have a hard time wearing shorts. I tried to avoid wearing either. Report
I also have problems wearing a bath suit, going to the pool/lake, and wearing shorts. I try to remember something my mother said to me. She said that my children aren't going to remember what size I wore. They will remember the fun things we did together. That helps me overcome some things...but I still have trouble during the summer. Report
This situation is what actually motivated me to start working really hard to lose weight. I went all through college and years after without wearing a bathing suit because I was always in cold weather. I moved to California 4 years ago. Last summer I went to my boyfriend's parent's house on various occasions when the temperature was in the 100s and I silently fought going into the pool. But, wanting to make a good impression with the parents I didn't want them to think I was crazy for not swimming in the heat wave. So, I sucked it up and put on my bathing suit. While I spent most of the time moving around in the water so no one could see bulges, I decided at that moment that I never wanted to feel that uncomfortable again. Since then I've lost about 10 pounds and have another 15 to go. But the bathing suit and this summer's upcoming heat and pool time at the boyfriend's parents is definitely a huge motivation! Report
WOW I cant believe the amount of response on this topic. I too am guilty of suitaphobia. Even when I was at my lowest weight I thought I looked fat and would be so concerned with what I looked like I couldnt enjoy myself. Even with my husbands encouragement, I would just think he was just being sweet. When I think of all the fun I have missed out on being worried about what people are thinking I feel like a fool. Everyday I wake up hoping this will be the day Im happy in my own skin. Today I dont feel alone. Report
Ive been loosing great times at the beach because of this since I was a teenager. It's really bad for me because I love being in the water but I feel like everybody is starring at me just as a I walk with a t-shirt and a short, swimsuit I couldn't imagine! I live in Puerto Rico with plenty of beaches, where you are never more than 45 minutes away from water (I personaly live 5 minutes or so away from Cerro Gordo beach) and I go to the beach once every 2 or 3 years. Report
"If people have a problem with you, it's THEIR problem, not yours."

I have not only found this to be true, but I'm going to take it a step further. I find invariably that if a person is judgmental and focused negatively on themselves, they are usually focused negatively on others as well.

I realized this most powerfully in college when I realized that my most critical friend was also my most self-conscious friend. She was so focused on seeing flaws that she saw them not just in others, but also in herself and was always mortified to even change clothing in a locker room.

If people DO have a problem with someone else's body, I always remember that those people are probably just as critical when they see themselves in the mirror. I usually feel badly for them, because it is a sad way to go through life, never able to see the positive, only the negative.

I'm not immune, and no one is. It's just impossible to think only positive things about people all the time, and it's not always productive to do so, either. But the first thing I did when I realized I didn't want to be the kind of person who was scared to do the things I love merely because of the hypothetical opinion of others, was to work on my own negative responses.

Now, when I see someone with a less-than-desirable body in a bathing suit, or nude in the changing room, I focus on how much confidence that person must have to let others see them, and I feel a little envious, actually.

As my own negative responses dwindled, so did my worry that other people might think the same.

Those people with the problem, it's not just a poor opinion of your body they are fostering, it's a negative attitude that surely reflects on their poor opinion of themselves. Those aren't the kind of people whose opinions I seek in the first place.

Thanks for writing and admitting your insecurities--it makes me feel like maybe it's not silly to feel this way myself. Report
The way I look at it now is that if I don't think I look good in a swimsuit, it's because the suit is unflattering, not because there's anything wrong with my body. Every couple of years I will spend hours in a department store trying on 50 or more suits until I find one that fits me just right and makes me feel good. Report
I don't like wearing a swimsuit either. This is a problem because our family is a beach going family. A year ago I found some knee length board shorts and a short sleeved swim shirt that I love and wear now. I have more than just my imperfect body to use as an excuse to wear these, I am very fair skinned and just looking at the sun, or maybe just thinking about it, turns me a bright shade of pink. I think a more and more of us become aware of the dangers of sun damage we will cover ourselves more, one can only hope. I don't especially appreaciate anyone showing off their body inappropriately and it is offensive to me to have to look at one who is showing off their "ladies". Swim suit or no swim suit, please put them away! Report
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