A photo of the author, looking awesome in a swimsuit.

No matter where you are in your fitness, health, or body-positive journey, swimsuits can strike even the most confident women with fear. After all, you’re basically naked—save for a couple thin layers of fabric that can’t possibly hide your “imperfections.” But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get her swim on, right? At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Seeing myself in a bathing suit may never be completely relaxing—I’m my own worst critic—but I realize that it should be. No one is paying attention to the stretch marks on my hips or that scar on my leg from when I fell off my bike as a kid. So I try to take a few deep breaths and relax. The rational part of me knows I’m surrounded by people who are there to have a good time and unwind. The self-conscious part? Well, that’s a different story.

Besides, staring me down and judging my body isn’t on anyone’s agenda… and even if it is, that’s a reflection on them, not me. It took me years of uncomfortable beach days to learn this, but now I’m proud to put on my swimsuit and dive in. Spoiler alert: There’s a huge difference between how you see yourself and how others see you. If you’re anything like me, the act of putting on a swimsuit and wearing it—in public—goes a little something like this:

Act I: Preparations

1. Trying to find the perfect swimsuit like

Me: Do I really have to wear one in public? This sucks.

2. Preparing myself to rock my swimsuit publicly

3. Meanwhile, my friends/family/beach buds are waiting like

Act II: Ripping Off the Band-Aid

4. How I think people are looking at me

5. How people are actually looking at me

6. Me: Everyone is judging that mole on my thigh that I hate!

7. Them:

8. After all, they’re just trying to have some fun in the sun, so you should be too!

Act III: Realizing You Overreacted in the First Place

9. Finally letting loose in my swimsuit like

10. Moral of the story? Life’s too short not to enjoy summer.

Stop being so hard on yourself. After all, every body is a bikini body. Trust me.

Alexis Dent is a poet, essayist, entrepreneur, and author. Her first book, Everything I Left Behind, is coming out this fall. In addition to freelancing, Dent writes a weekly newsletter called White Collar Dropout for self-employed millennials and ambitious side hustlers. Dent also designs quirky leggings for her apparel company, Eraminta, because she really hates wearing pants. Keep up with her on her website and follow her on Twitter @alexisdent.