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/ Source: TODAY
By Julie Pennell

The weather is getting warmer and bikini season is right around the corner. But for many women, donning a swimsuit can be an emotionally hard task.

Rachel Spencer, a life coach in New York City, recently posted a photo on Instagram that really hit home with a lot of viewers. Underneath a picture of her 13-year-old self hiding her tummy while wearing a swimsuit, the text reads, “I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a good caption but this photo just makes me sad when I look at it.”

The caption continues: "Who taught this young girl on the left to hide her tummy before taking pictures in a swimsuit? Who taught her that at only 13 years old, her chubby little body was unworthy of a photographic memory?"

Spencer told TODAY Style that she decided to share the picture — alongside one of her now at age 26 — to help others see that “we are all different and that's what makes us beautiful.”

“My struggle with low self-esteem started when I was only in the second grade,” she said. “I already had acne, glasses, braces, and to top it all off I was gaining weight faster than all of my friends. I didn't even realize my weight was an issue until I saw a teen magazine cover mentioning cellulite cream and a seven-day ‘skinny cleanse.’”

Spencer said that, and the fact that that she was bullied for her weight by some mean boys, made her never want to go to the pool when she was younger.

“Now as a confidence coach, I speak to women and young girls all over the country about how to remain confident in our bodies and overall self. It's my mission to make sure that we no longer live in a society that wants to mold us into one type of body.”

She says it took her a while to find self-love, and even now, she’s still working on it.

One of the tricks she uses is an exercise where she looks in the mirror, and for every negative thing she says about herself, she has to combat that with two positive things — for example: "My skin looks really bad right now" but "my hair is long and amazing, and my smile lights up the room."

Another message she has for women feeling ashamed about showing their tummy at the pool? “Don't be. Put on that bikini and smile. Don't feel the need to let other people's opinions ruin precious memories with your friends and family.”

Spencer adds that mothers should show daughters what it's like to flaunt their so-called flaws at the pool.

“I just hope that people start to realize body image issues start at a very young age,” she said. "We need to set a good example and teach our children from day one that all bodies are good bodies. Don't teach your children to be pretty. Teach them to be kind, smart and accepting of everyone.”

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