Now I am not afraid of wearing a swimsuitTracey R
I have spent most of my life feeling uncomfortable in a swimsuit. For as long as I can remember, every time I put one on, the material felt too tight, my hips felt too big and my thighs were rubbing.
So I stopped using them. I avoided pool parties and beach days, and in the first 3.5 years of my daughter’s life, I only wore a swimsuit two or three times. That’s especially crazy because I live in Southern California, where I could honestly use one every day.
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Another brutal truth: I cried every time I put on a suit. That may sound silly. It’s just a bathing suit, right? Well, it is and it is not. For many of us, our body image and our self-image are wrapped in what we see and how we feel when we put on a swimsuit. I know because I talk a lot about the positivity of the body as a blogger in fashion, style and fashion. And although I had posted photos of myself online in almost any kind of outfit you can imagine, I never posed in a swimsuit.
One day in 2015, while recording an Instagram story, I started talking about how to avoid swimsuits. I explained that I was beginning to feel like I was missing the fun on the beach and in the pool because I refused to wear a swimsuit. I also wondered about the message he sent to my daughter, and I knew that I did not like the negative inner thoughts I had about the “bad” aspect of a swimsuit.
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So I made a joke, suggesting that maybe I should just take pictures in a swimsuit and post them online. Maybe if the Internet saw them, I would not mind what anyone thought in the pool or on the beach, I said with a laugh.
I was only joking. It really was a misplaced comment. I had no intention of putting on a suit, much less taking a picture in one and posting it online. But over the next few days, a tsunami of messages arrived, and hundreds of women shared that they too had this deep fear. I had never had a reaction like this to anything I had done, and I felt the responsibility to do something about it.
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So I decided that, in fact, I would take a picture in a swimsuit and publish it online. I assumed it would only be once, saying that I had done it. So I looked for a long time a suit in which I felt very well. Once I found a strong pink piece that I loved, I called a friend who is a photographer and asked her to take pictures of me by the pool in her yard.
When he sent me the photos – I cried. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it now. But I did it. I think it was because I could see that I looked good in the suit. The images were certainly not as bad as what was in my head. Then I felt a bit overwhelming when I realized that I had been holding back for so long.
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Even so, I did not publish the photos immediately. I kept them for about a month and finally I published them in a blog post along with some style advice on how to choose a swimsuit that makes you feel comfortable. “My ladies on end,” I wrote. “Just do it, use the swimsuit, drop the cover and jump into the pool.”
Let’s say the post made a big splash. The reaction was the biggest he had ever had. Hundreds of women encouraged me and it became clear that I had touched a nerve. Clearly I was not alone in my insecurities. It turns out that many of us have been hiding in the pool and on the beach, or we have not put on a swimsuit, and almost everyone is fed up with that.
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Publishing those photos brought me a sense of freedom that I never expected. My insecurities were not erased magically, but I realized that I no longer cared what anyone in the pool might think. I also decided that I would not hide anymore if my daughter wanted to go swimming. So I started putting on a bathing suit and headed to the pool and beach with my family and friends. And the more I did that, the more comfortable I became.
Online, the positive messages kept coming, so I started buying more swimsuits, taking pictures and publishing them with the #justwearswimsuit. Over time, my swimsuit collection has increased to almost 100, and my thinking has changed. After about a year of this, I decided that I wanted others to also experience this kind of transformation. So in the summer of 2017, I asked other women to put on a swimsuit and to post pictures of themselves wearing the #justwearswimsuit.
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My biggest fear was that no one did it, so some friends helped me launch the effort. But I did not have to worry. A year later, women around the world are still posting pictures of themselves in swimsuits and in the #justwearswimsuit. So many have participated that in reality it has created a community focused on the positivity of the body where women of all ages, body types and lifestyles encourage each other and share openly the two things that they all have in common: insecurity about their bodies and a desire to get rid of that insecurity.
The most important lesson I have learned from all this is how much we limit ourselves to all. Society presents a certain image of beauty, but many of us allow it to take root in our heads and become infected and grow into a toxic insecurity over our bodies. This campaign is about realizing that you do not have to let that happen.
The incredible part of taking a picture in a swimsuit and posting it online is the discovery that you are not waiting to see what others are saying. It’s about taking a step in your own life to change what YOU see. There are certainly many other ways in which you can do that. If you do not want to publish a photo online, how about letting a friend or family member take a picture of you with a swimsuit and simply put it in a family photo album instead of erasing it? Or maybe you do not take a picture and just put on the suit and jump into the pool the next time your friends or children ask for it.
A swimsuit is just a symbol, but it is powerful. It is also a great reminder that there is a very real and beautiful freedom to let go of the insecurities that hold it back. There is hunger for this kind of courageous liberation. Our children need us to show that we feel comfortable in our bodies and, honestly, as adults we must also send that message to ourselves.
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