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So, it is that time of the year. Even if not everyone is out of school, the college kids are rushing home after an exciting year, ready to relax after the rigor of academics, high school seniors are getting antsy waiting for their diploma and the chance to move on to the next big chapter of their lives and everyone else is just ready for the last bell of the school year to rng. The weather is warm, the thunderstorms have started and the mosquitoes are out. So, yes, for me, it feels like summer and that’s great! It means less work, no school, seeing friends, relaxing and so many other good things. But it also means that for months now the mantra of “summer bod” has been ringing in my ears from all directions. As the weather gets warmer, the racks of bikinis, bathing suits, jean shorts and crop tops get rolled into nearly every store and the anxiety that has been settling at the bottom of my stomach from years past starts to churn except now, along with that teensy bit of anxiety, I also feel excitement.

I remember when I was younger I hated wearing swimsuits so when I did I would wear a one piece with some water shorts. I didn’t like feeling exposed. When my friends would see someone they didn’t think had “the body” for a bikini but was wearing one anyways, they would comment to themselves about it. I never wanted to be the one being commented about. So I stayed covered up and hidden. But now, I realize there is no “bikini body,” there isn't even a “summer body.” The trick to getting a beach body? Have a body and go to the beach. Every body is a bikini body, or a summer body or whatever else you’ve heard. The reason I now get excited about seeing all those bathing suits is because I’ve always seen clothes as an excellent form of self expression and I’ve worked hard to transfer that belief over to swimsuits as well.

Do I still feel uncomfortable in bathing suits sometimes? Do I still get self-conscious and yearn for the body that all of my friends seem to have? Yes. And it’s an awful feeling and one that I am all too familiar. My trick is wearing something that I feel good in and not caring about what the small percent of people who believe that only certain people can pull of a bikini think. Clearly this is not an easy task. Bathing suit shopping is a stressful process which may involve dozens of suits, tears and hurt but it’s also worth it if, at the end of the day, you leave with a bathing suit which makes you feel sexy and pretty and happy. The most important part of the whole process though is allowing yourself to feel good in your own skin. When I was younger I was too scared to even venture into the bikini section of the bathing suits. I was sure I would hate the look immediately and I would then hate myself. I never gave myself the chance but the truth is, I found that bathing suit which made me feel great and since then it’s been easier.

So my final advice: when shopping for a bathing suit, forget about everything that you’ve heard and seen on the media. Forget that people claim there exists a summer body which has to be reached in order to don a bathing suit. Forget about all the insecurities and look for something that you love; something colorful and graphic or patterned and frilly. Focus on finding something you feel like a supermodel in. Focus on being comfortable and happy. Focus on loving yourself.

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