All winter long, nestled deep beneath sweaters, jackets, and other cozy layers, all the insecurities about our thighs, stomachs, and upper arms feel like a thing of the past. We almost convince ourselves (in between bites of bread pudding and pumpkin pie) that gone are the days of petty concern and worry about what we look like. It seems we have finally moved past the juvenile preoccupation of trying to be thinner, and we’re ready to accept ourselves and our bodies just as they are. (What was all the fuss about last summer, anyway?)
And then the warm weather hits…and it turns out that those complexes were just hibernating. ‘Cause just like that you find yourself right back in the game, dreading the day your kids beg you to take them swimming and you have to face that swimsuit again.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. As the summer heats up, so do the body image issues… and you’d be surprised how many women feel the same anxiety as you do. Summer clothing exposes not just more of our bodies, but the vulnerability we can feel about them. And in a society where we are constantly exposed to an unrealistic ideal, it is easy to be less than kind to ourselves.
But what if this summer it could be different? It’s not likely that our bodies are going to change much, but what if we could change the way we feel about them? Wouldn’t it be nice to actually feel confident in your swimsuit this summer? I believe it’s possible, and it doesn’t have to hinge on reaching our goal weight or any of that nonsense. If you want a different experience at the pool this summer, the following five tips have helped me:
1. Stop judging others. I have realized that checking everyone else out is not an innocent preoccupation. On the heels of my judgments comes an automatic internal comparison about where I fall in. Sometimes I come out ahead, and sometimes I don’t. But either way I lose, because whether I am inflated by a false sense of self-worth or disheartened because someone else looks better in her swimsuit, I am not present with the people I came to be with. Which leads me to number two…
2. Be Present. This is the antidote to feeling insecure. When I find myself caught up in what other people might be thinking, I gently bring myself back to reality by concentrating on the warm sunshine, the fresh air, the cool water, and the squeals and laughter of my children. Those are the things that happiness is made of…not some fleeting sense of triumph (or despair) because I look better (or worse) than the other women at the pool.
3. Be Grateful. Can I have one brief moment on my soapbox? OUR WORTH IS NOT REFLECTED BY WHAT WE SEE IN THE MIRROR! Okay, thank you. (Deep breath.) Don’t be fooled into thinking that your body can validate you or give you the confidence that you lack. Bodies can’t do that. What bodies can do is give you the ability to live a rich and fulfilling life. Be grateful for all of the ways your body allows you to do that. When I sense myself becoming critical of how my body doesn’t measure up to the media’s ideals, I remind myself to be grateful for the way it serves me. This is what it sounds like: “I am grateful that I am healthy. I am grateful that I have plenty of energy. I am grateful that I live pain-free. I am grateful that I can do all of the activities that I want to do…” and so on. Talk about a turn-around!
4. Act As If. This is one of my favorites. Often we let our insecurities dictate what we will and won’t do. We might avoid the pool, summer clothing, or activities with our families that would bring joy and meaning to our life. What would you do if you felt confident and comfortable in your body? As you begin to be the kind of person you want to be, you might notice that the harsh pre-requisite of having a perfect body or losing a certain amount of weight really is less significant than you thought.
5. Get a New Swim Suit. It’s hard to feel confident when you are wearing your old maternity suit or the one that you spent a lot of money on five years ago. Be kind to yourself and splurge on a really great new swimsuit, and maybe even a cover-up and sandals. Get a pedicure while you’re at it! You’ll send a message to yourself that you are worth it. And once you are dressed in your new duds…let the criticism go. After all, you’re not on stage at a beauty pageant; you’re there to create memories with your family and friends.
Remember my motto? Life is short, and you get one shot at it. This summer is short, and you’ll never have it back again. So take it easy on yourself. Make this summer a happy one, and enjoy every moment at the pool.
Related posts: The Body Image Game