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Learning to Love My Body in a Swimsuit as a Woman With Poland Syndrome

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As a woman who lives in a larger body, I already have a love-hate relationship with my appearance to say the least. However, when you add in the fact that I have Poland syndrome, it’s easy to see why swimsuit season is my least favorite time of year. It’s too much attention to all the parts of my body that I hate.

I can’t remember the last time I felt comfortable in a swimsuit. In fact, I spent a large part of my 20s and early 30s avoiding swimsuit shopping altogether. Finding a swimsuit that fits my curves and doesn’t draw attention to my lopsided chest often feels like an impossible task, and it’s not one I usually have the energy for.

But, last April, I started dating an incredible woman who, among other things, loves to spend time at the pool and the beach. Unlike many of my previous partners, she never once made me feel self-conscious or uncomfortable with my body, despite its deformities. She didn’t ask tons of questions or make jokes about my chest, she simply let me share in my own way and continued to show me time and time again that she loved me exactly the way I am.

Yet when she suggested a date day at a local hotel with a water park, I panicked. What if she sees me in a swimsuit and no longer finds me attractive? What if people make comments or stare at us because of how I look? The pressure felt so overwhelming that I almost backed out on the date. However, I decided to push through the discomfort, and I’m glad I did because we had a great time.

I spent the entire day in and out of the water, and I didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious. In fact, there were even moments when I felt good about myself (although that could have just been because my girlfriend kept complimenting me). It was a rare moment for me to feel completely comfortable in my body, and I was so grateful for it.

Shortly after that day, my girlfriend had a surprise for me: a new, two-piece swimsuit. Again, my inner monologue ran wild. What makes you think you can pull that off with your disgusting body? That will not look good on you! Yet again, with my partner’s encouragement, I pushed through my fears and tried it on.

Once again, I was surprised by how I felt in the swimsuit. It somehow fit in a way that was comfortable but didn’t make my chest look off. I also didn’t feel like the rest of my body looked bad in it. In fact, I actually felt attractive.

Before I knew it, I was wearing this new swimsuit any chance I got. I would wear it to the pool at our apartment complex. I took it with me on weekend trips. I even wore it to two different water parks we visited in the past year. When I wear it, I don’t feel like people are staring at me, nor do I feel like it makes my Poland syndrome obvious. Instead, I just feel like a normal woman in a swimsuit, enjoying my time in the water.

Who knew that an article of clothing that was once my nemesis would become something I loved to wear? I would have never guessed!

This summer is in full swing, and once again my partner and I are spending lots of time in the water. But unlike previous years, I am not dreading the pool the way I once did. In fact, I’m having lots of fun.

I do think I have a long way to go towards accepting my body. However, I feel like this simple swimsuit has done wonders for my self-esteem. It’s helped me really embrace my Poland syndrome and see it as a part of who I am instead of something that holds me back. I know that may sound small, but I think it’s something that many people with health conditions that impact their physical appearance struggle with. But, maybe if we all shared stories like this more often, we’d all see that beauty really does come in all shapes and sizes, and the journey towards that acceptance really does start within our own minds.

Getty image by Mykola Sosiukin.

Originally published: July 4, 2022
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