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Putting on a bathing suit each summer can feel intimidating to say the least. TODAY Style asked nine women of all shapes, sizes and walks of life to look in the mirror while wearing a swimsuit and talk candidly about what they see in their reflections — both physically and emotionally.
The realization? That their biggest “flaws” or insecurities aren't so different after all and, in fact, they're all beautiful.
It was an emotional experience for all involved — from Katie Sturino, an outspoken body-positivity blogger, to Rachelle Chapman, who was paralyzed right before her wedding, and even "The Bachelor's" Lesley Murphy, who recently underwent a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene. While each of their stories are unique, they shared a day of honesty, inspiration and self-love.
"I walked into this big space and was asked to stand in front of a mirror; that can be difficult for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons," Sturino told TODAY. "And the things that you start to see when you're staring into a mirror are really interesting."
The day was particularly moving for Chapman, the 31-year-old who was left paralyzed from the chest down after being playfully pushed into a pool during her bachelorette party in 2010.
“After the accident, my confidence plummeted. I thought that I wasn’t going to be beautiful anymore, that no one was going to find me attractive so it’s really affected my body image. I felt like I wasn’t going to be good enough to be seen in a bathing suit or the clothes that I like."
Though it may have been tough at first, Chapman's slowly regained confidence.
"I still like to dress up. I still like to feel beautiful and do my hair and wear cute clothes. That makes me feel really good. Not for other people, but for me.”
For Murphy, it's been a different kind of acceptance — just five weeks ago, the 29-year-old went under the knife after testing positive for the same gene that gave her mom breast cancer.
So she took matters into her own hands and had a double mastectomy.
"Somebody on social media actually said, 'Why are we celebrating a woman who got an elective surgery out of fear and who mutilated her body?' And I've never read something that could be more wrong. First of all, nobody mutilated by body ... I actually think my scars are sexy and they will fade with time."
In 2013, a survey conducted by Lands’ End revealed that 89 percent of women feel they’re most exposed while wearing a bathing suit. For 20 percent of those women, it's worrisome and anxiety-inducing.
This was especially true for new mom Michelle Lindsay who experienced several changes to her body after giving birth.
"It's amazing that you're creating this life and afterward, you know, you have this beautiful child. But your body definitely changes, inside and out," Lindsay told TODAY Style.
That realization has helped the 42-year-old spread positivity to others who may be struggling like she once did.
"For new moms whose bodies are changing, you can't control everything. You are creating a human life. You can't control what your body is going to do or how it's going to react or how you're even going to give birth, you know? Don't be so hard on yourself."
These are just some of the inspiring stories they shared — to hear them all, check out the video above.
This story was originally published on March 30.