While I love the sunshine, warm breeze and all the other beauty the summer months bring, I dispise the anxiety I feel when summer officially arrives.  No matter how old I get, the negative memories associated with putting on a bathing suit take real effort to overcome.

Growing up I didn’t come to the realization that I was a “big girl” until the summer all my sixth grade friends bought the same bathing suit from the trendiest store in our small town stripe mall. I dragged my mom to the store on a Sunday afternoon, begging her to just let me try it on, before saying I couldn’t have it. 

Going through the rack of sizes small through large, I grabbed the medium without thinking twice. All of my other stretch clothing in my closet fit, so this spandex one piece shouldn’t be an issue. When I finally got it on after a 5 minute, sweaty struggle, I bursted into tears seeing how little of my body it actually covered and how much of my body was bulging from it – the string ties holding on for dear life around my neck.

My mom asked what was wrong and I said I didn’t want to talk about it, I just wanted to go home.

That summer I refused to go swimming altogether. I gave myself a pep talk when I got home from the store, explaining that big girls aren’t meant to go to the beach, the pool or camping. From there on out my life was going to change and as much as I hated it, I didn’t think I had any other choice. My mom and my aunt had searched every local mall for a bathing suit that fit me, but they always came back with options that looked like they were for them, not me, and I refused to wear shorts and a tee at the pool when everyone else my age could effortlessly wear cute one pieces and bikinis.

This sad, depressing memory comes up every single summer when our yearly Hawaii trip rolls around or I get an invite to a pool party. I automatically picture my eleven year old self sobbing in the dressing room, looking in the mirror and deciding right then and there that I wasn’t built for bathing suits or summer.

As a grown-up with a long list of body image issues under my belt, it still takes conscious effort to enjoy swimming and anything that involves a bathing suit. The biggest way I’ve been able to overcome my bathing suit anxiety is by being aware that the problem back then wasn’t my body, it was the bathing suit. It was simply too small, and if I’m being completely honest I didn’t even like it! I wanted to like it because everyone else did – similar to how the majority of society likes and praises thinness and six-pack abs, so most people strive for that appearance. But just because some of us don’t possess what some consider desirable, or as I like to think: don’t fall prey to the conforming majority, doesn’t mean we aren’t worthy of feeling beautiful or enjoying summer in a bathing suit.