For as long as I’ve been conscious that I’m a woman in a body that is open to desire, scrutiny, and judgment, I’ve known that I have a belly.

My tummy has always been my biggest insecurity. I remember being at my lowest weight—94 pounds—and being reluctant to remove my T-shirt in front of my classmates in the changing rooms before P.E. class. It’s the one part of my body that wouldn’t go away, even as my weight fluctuated from fighting-shape to near-obese.

But even as pop culture has evolved to embrace fuller, curvier figures, be it Beyonce’s strong legs, Kim Kardashian’s peachy butt, or the Rihanna-inspired body-positivity movement #thickanna, there isn’t very much love for stomach rolls. Many have argued that the popular notion of body positivity stops short of visible belly outlines, love handles, or double chins; you know, the “less flattering” features which are just as worthy of love and acceptance.

During bikini season, it’s no surprise that curvier women are inclined towards high-waisted wrap bottoms, plunging one-piece maillots, and darker color choices for swimwear. That’s just The Rules, I remind myself, because Lord knows I would look disastrous in low-rise bikini bottoms.

This summer, however, I wanted to take more than just a few steps out of my comfort zone. I wanted to step out in bikinis of different shapes and styles, many of which I’d never dared pick up before. Scroll below to see the six swimsuits I wore on my summer challenge!

CesaPH Hula Bikini Set in White, P1,824 (available for a limited time only)

This is a blousy look that’s chic enough to go from day to night. The asymmetrical sleeve is a unique style that’s sure to draw people’s attention away from your lower body. I love wearing white as it enhances my natural skin tone, so stepping out in this suit was a breeze. I can’t get enough of the ruffle craze sweeping swimwear these days—it just makes stepping out onto the beach a classy experience.

Shop it here.

Salt Swim Ava Two Piece Suit in Wine, P1,999 Whether on or off the beach, I’ve always adored a good off-the-shoulder style. This bikini combines the best of both worlds by mixing a halter-tie with ruffled off-shoulder sleeves for a chic look when paired with loose linen pants for post-swim dinner and drinks. I don’t usually wear red, so wearing this wine-colored suit was like a dare to get the whole beach to look! In the end, nobody’s really judging you if you feel good about yourself. You draw more unwanted attention to yourself when you go out of your way to be self-conscious.

Shop it here.

Amihan Swimwear Vanessa Bikini in Pine Green, P1,250
Let me tell you something: I was feelin’ myself in this swimsuit. It’s a surprising choice, given my self-imposed ban on bandeau tops, which tend to squeeze the small pinches of fat I have near my underarms.

But the cut and fit of this suit just flattered me so well. I couldn’t help but feel like the sexiest version of myself. The high-waisted bottoms helped my confidence a ton, and the fact that this suit comes in my favorite color was a major plus. See what happens when you try something new? The next time you think a certain swimsuit style isn’t for you, go ahead and try it on—you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Shop it here.

CesaPH Sunshine Bikini Set, P1,824 (available for a limited time only) Ah, the black bikini. It’s an easy and flattering color choice, but I didn’t want to make things too easy—my black suit had to be one with more intricate detail than usual. I like the ruffled sleeves, but I also love that you have to tie the strings in the front and then in the back, which almost gave it the illusion of a one-piece. I could easily pair this with a flowy skirt and feel dressed up.

Shop it here.

Suns of Beaches Scarlet Ruffle Strap Bikini in Yellow, P1,250 From the moment I laid eyes on this bikini, I knew I just had to have it. The lace tie front? Yes. Ruffles on the cups and the straps? Yes. That cute canary yellow color? YES!

My wardrobe normally consists of sensible neutrals (with the occasional rose or terracotta), so color-wise, this was a bold choice for me. I loved the way this bikini showed off my chest, but to be honest, what I loved, even more, was its thick waist strap that acted as a body-shaper for my stomach, just for that added boost of confidence.

Shop it here.

SKINNI Swim Violet Bloom, P1,899

For this challenge, I knew I had to pick one bikini that the prospect of wearing would leave me absolutely terrified. This, my friends, was the one, because of its triangle Baywatch-style cups and barely-there back straps.

I thought I’d feel too naked and insecure in this bikini, but surprise, surprise, this set turned out to be the most comfortable one of all! It almost felt like a second skin: there was no annoying underwire or thick padding getting in the way, and the polyester-spandex blend is super-soft. The lilac color made me feel soft and gentle, like I could glide around in the water without a care in the world.

What did I learn at the end of this challenge? That it only feels like everyone’s looking, but in reality, most people are at the beach to have fun, not sit in the shade and body-shame others.

Instead of thinking about how much attention you may be drawing, focus on enjoying your vacation and making the most of your time under the sun. I may not love my tummy 100 percent, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance to see the sun this summer. Your body is made for so much more than just to look slim—so don’t let rules about “what flatters you” decide. Let you decide.

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