Learning Self-Love During Swimsuit Season

I’ve always been a bigger person and being in a bathing suit has often made me self conscious.

Ever since I was little, I’ve always been bigger than my peers. Now that I’m in my 30s, it’s something I’ve gotten used to over time and have fully embraced now that the body positive movement is so prevalent.

My journey toward self-love in a bathing suit was a long, but ultimately fulfilling one.

11 in my Leopard Plus Print

Growing up, boutiques like Charlotte Russe and Wet Seal were out of the question. In middle school I was well off the charts for both height and weight, which ultimately gave my mom the only choice but to try taking me to Macy’s. Back then, the only plus-size options were in the women’s department. The options were slim. I remember standing in a dressing room at about 11 years old, trying on a leopard print tank suit. I noticed the label on the suit said it had a “bust minimizer.” I was 11 and barely had a bust, why did I need a bust minimizer? It was frustrating and made me sad. You know that scene from This is Us where Kate wore a t-shirt at the pool around the same age? It definitely made me emotional because I identified with it so much.

My mom later ended up cutting out the minimizer so I could feel like the small hills I did have for breasts meant something. At 11, that meant a lot to me. I still remember feeling like I didn’t love my bathing suit. Compared to my peers, I was in a leopard-print suit while they donned bright colors and Lisa Frank bikinis. Since I didn’t love my suit, my confidence was definitely not the best.

Happy Young Plus Size Woman In Bikini On Sea

Sweet 16, Self Conscious Pool Party

Despite not being comfortable in a bathing suit, I still chose to have my 16th birthday party as a pool party. My parents had built a backyard pool four years prior, and I longed to have a Sweet 16 just like I saw in the movies. I convinced them to hire a DJ and let me invite 30 friends. N’SYNC, Britney, Christina and the Backstreet Boys blared from speakers on our patio and the pool was hopping. I wanted to wear a chic blue halter-style tankini and felt just the teensiest bit confident in it.

Once my friends came and cover-ups started coming off I was immediately self-conscious. The truth is, we were all different body shapes and types but to my 16-year-old self, I was the nearly six-foot-tall, 280 lb. giant.

During the party, we played Truth or Dare and Seven Minutes in Heaven (okay more like three) in this gigantic inflatable rocket float that you could climb inside. My friends tried to no avail to get my crush to go into the rocket with me but he refused. I wanted desperately to have my first kiss and wondered if maybe I’d have to continue waiting impatiently. There was just something so special about getting my first kiss on my 16th birthday though.

After cake and ice cream (where most of my photos have me crossing my arms over my stomach), a male friend of mine at the party approached me and said he’d heard I didn’t get my first kiss. He asked to give it to me instead. I briefly considered saying no, as it wasn’t someone I was romantically attracted to, but I let my teenage hormones take the lead. I said yes and that kiss, that pizza and Surge soda tasting kiss, helped me become slightly less self conscious about my body.

Body Positive Now

It’s been 22 summers since that day I spent in a dressing room with my leopard print tank suit. I bought my first bikini a couple years ago from Forever 21’s plus-size department. I was so scared to wear it to my apartment complex’s pool. The thin stripe of my stomach that hadn’t seen the light of day for decades made me so nervous. I realized though that what was important was that the two piece suit made me happy. For once, I actually felt confident in a bathing suit.

In recent years, the body positive movement has taken off. I admire women like Hunter McGrady and Tess Holliday and have personally had the opportunity to interview Chrissy Metz and speak with Ashley Graham at a party. I even nerded out and asked her for a picture that day—see below.

I am so grateful I can sign onto social media and see girls who look like me celebrated. Even more importantly, I am glad middle and high school girls have access to much better fashion than I did and gorgeous, smart, talented and kind women like these ladies to look up to. I’ve learned that everybody and every body deserves to be in a swimsuit.

Not to sound cliché, but life’s too short to care about what other people think of you as you’re sipping a margarita poolside with your best friends. Don’t miss out on making memories because you’re embarrassed about thighs that touch, a flat chest or a full belly. It took me some time, but I know now most people embrace others no matter what they look like. Summer is meant for fun so don’t stop having it because of a body hang up. You know what the kids say these days…YOLO.

Beautiful girl with white fabric walking on the beach. Happy you

Learning self-love is hard, especially during swimsuit season

Sometimes, it’s hard to put on that bathing suit. Girls are so hard on themselves, author Kate Oczypok included.

Kate takes us on her journey learning to love her body in a swimsuit.

Want to read more on the body positive movement? Check out this piece on how big girls should be able to wear bikinis.