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?

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I imagine most people have at least one part of their body they are dissatisfied with. I still am in awe of people who can love themselves for who they are now and shrug off what the "world" may say. It took me a awhile to get there, but I love my whole self, overweight jiggly body and all. The healthier I become the less it matters what my body looks like. At 51 I am not looking to start a career as a model, just be the fittest I can be. Report
How did you learn to love yourself? I have anorexia, and I cannot figure out how to trust my body or love myself. Report
Jenn, I saw your Cancun bikini pic and you rock a bikini! You have a beautiful body and are clearly proud of your accomplishments.

Go Jenn!! Report
One of my secrets to success is that for the past 9 years I've really only worn a bathing suit in Mexico and once you leave America...women's bodies become beautiful in all shapes and sizes. It is easy to feel beautiful at any weight outside America! Now that I've had practice, I wore one in America this year, and it wasn't so bad!!!!! I had the leftover confidence I built on my trips overseas to get me through it, even with the little skinnny American chicks around. I know I am fit, and beautiful and even with a few pounds I have muscle and it's beautiful! Report
This is a great blog, I have never had a problem wearing a bathing suit, but my husband did and I always knew that was his problem not mine. Rock it because you can. Thank you for sharing. Report
I started feeling good about my body when my fitness goals shifted from changing my body to changing the things my body was capable of. It was easier to measure the changes of how long/fast I could run or how much weight I could lift than the inches of my waist or the kg on the scale. It was only then that I started appreciating my body and only then that my body started changing shape. Report
I love this blog! I wish that I could feel this way...I just returned from my 1st 2 week holiday back to the States with my kids (husband had to work). I bought 2 new suits that I felt as good as I could in and still felt like I was out of place. After my sports injury 2 yrs ago- I can't get my self confidence back:( I can't gain weight- I am 5'6" and weigh 101lbs -yet I still have curves. Problem is that I have very little body fat- except in my butt!!! My injury tore my hamstring and glute muscles on my left side and gave me a bad hip and stenosis in my back. My S1-L3 are really messed up. So- I like my body-except for my butt. I swear I feel it hanging down- rather than high and tight like it used to be. I worked 5 long years to get the body that I wanted which was 10lbs more muscle also- then this. If anyone knows how to help me get my self confidence back. PLEASE HELP!!! I don't want anyone looking at this article and thinking- what is she complaining about...She is 5'6" and 101lbs. It isn't like that. It is since this sports injury that I feel like I have lost myself! I would do ANYTHING to go back and change that day if I could...Yet- I can't. I just need some words of wisdom or strength to get me through this. I can't go the rest of my life wearing clothes that cover my butt. My body image stinks now- I need advice on how to get it back:) Thanks for letting me vent... Report
This summer I got a membership to our neighborhood pool for the 1st time, for my kids who are now old enough to go swimming frequently. I decided I wasn't going to worry about what I look like in my swimsuit, no matter if even my very fit next-door-neighbor was there. I'm there to have fun with my kids, and get some exercise -- not to show off my body! Not like I have time to "lay out" anyway, and when I'm in the water, who can even see my belly?! I'm working on it and sometimes that old self-consciousness pops into my mind. What's helped me most is telling myself "I'm a good/funny/happy person, no matter what I look like in a bathing suit!" And like you, Coach Nicole, I think it's important to model for my daughter that our bodies are all different, and probably imperfect, and JUST FINE. :) Report
At 66 and 60 lbs over weight, I balked at going to the pool, even though I love to swim. I have quite a few health issues so find it hard to exercise and water was my last resource to health! I just made my mind up to the fact that if I didn't get over this foolish pride, I would be doomed to be over weight for the rest of my life. So I went out and invested in a good bathing suit with support, and gulped a few times , but managed to get myself in the pool. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, the biggest number of people there were in the same boat as me. (overweight) and needing exercise. I'm so glad I got the courage up to go, now I swim for an hour everyday, and feel great! Report
Great blog and timely for me. Previous to SP, the thought of wearing a bathing suit didn't compute. Since participating in SP, I've had fleeting thoughts of the possibility of trying one on "just" to see. Now, after reading your blog and everyone's comments, I do believe I can do this. Thanks Nicole and everyone for sharing and putting in print how many of us feel, no matter what size we are. hmmm, it's just occurred to me how empowering it is when we share with each other. Report
What a great blog! And super cute bathing suit! Makes me feel like going online shopping... hehe Report
Wow, you really put a lot of thought into wearing a swimsuit! Thank for sharing. Report
Thank you for sharing this, Coach Nicole! It means a lot to know that we all have insecurities, and that those insecurities can be overcome! Report
Great job ! My goal is to wear a bikini :) Report
Congratulations on your new-found freedom! Report
I so get this. I didn't wear a bathing suit for years, and then when I did get one ( a one-piece, full coverage bathing suit) I would only wear it when it was just my family around. Last year, at my husband's insistence, I bought a two-piece bathing suit. I wore it when we went to a water park. Oddly, in a water park where no one knew me I didn't feel too uncomfortable, but I wouldn't allow my photo to be taken. I'm going to Florida in a few months and the beach will certainly be on our agenda. I hope I will have the confidence to don a bathing suit again. Report
Thank you for this! I have a very pronounced pear shape- very bottom heavy. Just makes me very self conscious and I feel like I am sticking out all over the place. But you are right! I have to go and shop for a new bathing suit, something I have not done for many many years. But I am going to do it! Report
For me it's always been about my very small chest. Very subconscious about that in a world full of cleavage. Now that I'm losing weight and its finally coming off my bottom half, I think I will feel a little more confident, but I go for the full skirted tankini to hide my belly and feel more covered. Report
Way to go - you are already modeling - for all of us. It also helps to remind those of us who have been overweight most of our lives that we aren't the only ones struggling with body image issues.
Thanks for sharing your struggle and don't forget to protect that skin from the sun - we've found Bull Frog to be a good, effective sun screen. Have a great time at the beach! :o) Report
I associate wearing a swim suit with healthy activities such as water aerobics, swimming and snorkeling so at this point I don't really stress out too much about being seen in a swim suit. I do have to buy a new one soon as my old favorite is now about 2 sizes too large and I'm afraid I'll lose it one day! I do dread the shopping process. Fit is really, really important to me and it seems as though some years there's a lot to choose from and other years almost nothing and this seems to be one of the latter years!

Thanks, Nicole, for sharing your struggles and insights. Enjoy your new suits!! Report
I'm so PROUD of you! Report
I hear you my sister,been there,done that;but how good it feels to put on a bathing suit again and it not only fits,but there are no bulges. Hallelujah. Report
Great blog!
Finding a suit that suits you is key - I love my tankini with a skirted bottom. I also found I prefer halter-style tops, which appear more flattering on me than 2 straps straight up and down. Everyone is shaped differently and has different "problem areas" so finding a comfy, well-fitting suit is worth the struggle! Once you find it, you'll be so much more confident out and about, no matter your size (which, BTW, I remember reading somewhere once that swimsuit sizes are always 1-2 sizes larger than your normal size, so no biggie there, Coach Nicole!). Report
What a great blog! I was swimsuit shopping last weekend for an upcoming vacation. I found a suit I liked, but was too worried about how I looked in it to buy it. Thanks to this article, I am going to get it this weekend and wear it proudly on my vacation. I may not have the most toned or healthy body, but I am not going to hide it. Thank you! Report
Comment From a Guy - Ladies, I don't know how women think (even after 40 years of marriage). but I can tell you that men are initially attracted by physical beauty, but because most of us think round is a shape, we would be very hesitant to even try to make conversation with some so-called "stunning beauty".
Coach Nicole, I've been on this site since 2005 and I have NEVER seen a picture of you that I didn't think was attractive.
You are dedicated to your job of helping others and you have always looked very fit to me.
The sexiest organ in a woman's body is ..... her brain.
Skinny, with big boobs and air-headed grosses me out and the woman who thinks she is a better person than any other woman has my pity.
I have made a lot of friends her at Spark, many of whom I've never seen a picture of - but every single one of them is beautiful, well, unless they disagree with me too strongly.
Ladies, I know that today is a beautiful day for all of you. Be proud of yourselves!
Body Dysmorphia in women is all too common, and mostly for absolutely no reason.
I went to high school with Richard and Karen Carpenter. When Karen died due to complications of an eating disorder I was totally and completely stunned.She had always been Richards cute little sister, the Perfect Girl Next Door, with so much talent it was unbelievable (Richard was talented too, but being a guy, he never caught my attention - except for the fact that being a friend of his meant I had a 'reason' to be around Karen. Report
I finally got enough confidence to wear a 2 piece bathing suit in SC beach a couple of weeks ago. This was a HUGE breakthrough for me!
I've lost the 100lbs a full year ago now, but still see myself as so much larger than I am. I was even brave enough to have a picture taken and upload it to facebook! Report
Your swimsuit is adorable! I love it. I may have purchase one similar! Report
Great blog. So true what you say. I always wore a coverup before, now in my 50's I have much more confidence!!!! Report
I live in MA and I always felt like there wasn't much choice in the stores for flattering suits. Thank goodness now for the Internet! The other great thing I've found is that when on vacation in a warm climate (for example, Florida), the stores in that place usually carry a better variety of suits. I also wanted to comment that wearing a two-piece today doesn't necessarily mean a bikini. A lot of tankinis these days cover the whole belly (especially the ones from L.L. Bean) and can be very flattering. I bought one with a little skirt that I like.

I especially like the self-talk that you gave yourself (before, during, and after). I am self-conscious of my legs (no matter how small I get, my legs will never be pretty), so changing in the summer from pants to shorts has always been a mental challenge, never mind a bathing suit! Thanks for sharing this blog, Nicole, and I hope you have a wonderful time on your beach vacation! I hope you blog about that, too, when you return. Report
So glad to hear that I'm not the only one who had to go up 2 sizes to fit into the swimsuit without the bathing suit bulge! I was so bummed out in the dressing room. Thank you so much for sharing!!! Report
Thanks for sharing your bathing suit story. I just went through the ordeal of buying my first bathing suit in over five years. What a horror! But I managed to find one that fit and that I'm comfortable with. Like you, I find a two-piece shows more than I'm willing to reveal (especially of a nearly 60-year-old body). My compromise, because I wear two different sizes for top and bottom, is the wonderful invention, the tankini. I got great coverage and a good fit all around. Report
Thanks for sharing your story!! Report
Thanksk for the comment about self-confidence. We often worry about other people judging us when in fact, we are so harsh with ourselves. Report
Thank you for voicing some of my exact fears. When I was younger (and hot) LOL), I still thought I looked too fat, too short, too everything. What I wouldn't give to have that "imperfect" body back now, but I have what I have. It's strong for a 62 yr. old woman. My legs that I always thought were too fat when they weren't, I now think of as "strong" & efficient.
I also have always bought a suit 2 sizes larger than my usual and thought I was the only one who had to do this. Obviously, they are NOT making them true to size. Thanks for validating that.
Oh, and I just bought the cutest suit! My first in at least 8 yr. The other dry rotted off my body-seriously. Report
Awesome blog! Report
This blog is timely as I just had to trot out my "serious" swimsuit to see if I can still wear it when our outdoor pool opens next week for lap swim. At over 200 lbs, I wont' feel confident, but I feel pretty darned determined to get back in that pool. Also, thanks to the great help at our favorite swim shop, I have a black suit that is comfortable, gets the job done, and is about as flattering as it gets at this size. For me, it isn't so much about how it looks as how if feels hour after hour in the water. That's important since one of my goals is to swim in my first Masters swim meet next April. Report
Like I tell my DD who is 20 "Flaunt while you got it because it doesn't last." Report
I look for one that won't fall off when I dive.... also can do the moves at aqua fit... Report
This blog is so fitting I just blogged today abut having to buy a bathing suit in ugh a bigger size since I haven't bought pone in 10 years!!! But I want to use it to get back to the size I WANT to buy one in. Thanks for all the pointers. Report
What a great read! I will definitely be using these tips...Thks! Report
I just bought myself my first pair of workout shorts. When I say shorts, I mean they are cut 6 inches or so above my knee. I've been wearing cute capri workout pants, but it's summer and I get so darned hot. Who cares what I wear? I've lost almost 50 lbs, am in a size 6 and my legs are toned, not fat - that's what I keep telling myself! But, I am wearing them without (much) fear at my next workout! The swimsuit has never been an issue for me, isn't that weird? Report
Thank you for the blog. You look great! Report
For me its shorts and swimsuits. Last year I wore my swimsuit in front of some nonjudgemental friends and now I spend my days by her pool. We don't judge each other. Shorts...well, I am still working on wearing those in public. Report
For me, it's jeans. I just bought my first pair of jeans in a decade the other day. They fit in the store, marginally, and when I got home, they didn't fit right. But, I'm going to keep them so I can try them on every month. When they fit, then I'll start weighing myself again! Report
Thanks for sharing. It is difficult to believe that someone in such great shape would feel so self-conscious. However, it is a mind-set and we all have those distorted images of ourselves in one way or another. I certainly relate to all you are saying. Not only do swimsuits give me difficutly, but the simple transition into summer clothing of any type is excruciating.

Enjoy your suit! Report
It is really hard to go out in a swim suit, and I totally agree with finding a suit that you feel comfortable in. For instance, my suit that I finally got had to be something that covered my hips and upper thighs, because I have a lot of stretch marks in that area that I feel look horrible! It took awhile to find a suit that covered them comfortably. I also have a really cute cover-up for outside the pool. I feel beautiful in the whole set, even when I take the cover-up off! Though I confess I still hurry into the pool when it is off... because I feel so uncovered!

Bravo! Have a great time on your vacation! Rock that Swimsuit! Report
i have always put on a bathing suit, i wont other people stop me for going to the pool or beach. If they dont like what they see look the other way.
I do wear a sport swimsuit, with a cross on the back.. Report
Wonderful blog! Here is what forced me to come to issues with wearing a suit in public...setting a goal to compete/complete a triathlon and taking swimming lessons to learn proper stroke technique and breathing. The first time I had to take of my cover up at the pool with dozens of other parents watching their kids having lessions, I thought I was going to have a panic attack! But now I just focus on how wonderful I feel after each swim lesson and how much stronger i'm becoming with each lesson. Report
I live in Hawaii, so it's almost impossible to go anywhere without a swimsuit and thank goodness there's lots of flattering styles available nowadays. I'll tell you right now, I'm NOT shaped like a toothpick (if I were, I guess I wouldn't be on SparkPeople so regularly). I still have quite a few pounds to lose before I'm considered in the "healthy weight" range. Despite that, I feel pretty confident wearing a 2-piece swimsuit because of the results of toning from the weight training. I'm 57 years old, but whenever I go paddleboarding, I use a bikini top and short boardshorts. Report
My body image has improved over the past few months as I have continued to go down in sizes. I bought a new bathing suit and am wearing it with pride. I still have a tendency to compare myself to others, but my self confidence is definately on the up swing! Report