Summer is just around the corner. If that makes you pause and feel a little anxiety, you are not alone!! Maybe you are starting to hear some familiar (yet uncomfortable!) musings from friends, family and social media influencers. Does any of this sound familiar?
“It was bulking season in the winter. Now it’s cutting season!”
“I worked hard all winter so I can show off in the summer.”
If you’re anything like me, these statements are a bit jarring and make you feel uneasy. You might be wondering:
“What am I going to do when I have to wear shorts or tank tops? ”
“Was I supposed to be doing something this past winter?”
“How in the world am I supposed to be okay at the beach this summer?”
To start our conversation, I want to begin with empathy and compassion and offer 5 ideas to help us ALL bust the “summer beach body” myths.
You are Not Alone
Body image dissatisfaction affects nearly everyone. Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies, and around 20 to 40% of men report wanting to change their appearance. The data on non-binary and trans individuals is more limited, but the added challenges of gender dysphoria and pressures of conformity exacerbate body image dissatisfaction.
Across the lifespan, body image dissatisfaction waxes and wanes. Teens are particularly vulnerable to messaging around the “perfect” body, but research shows that body image continues to be troublesome no matter your age.
While none of this data makes body image dissatisfaction less painful, I am sharing this to hopefully allow you to feel less alone. Struggling with your body is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, most of us do, and you don’t have to go into this fight alone.
Body image is a complex, psychological process with many layers. One undeniable part of this process is our culture and society’s focus on the ideal body type.
We see this body everywhere. It’s what we see on TV, movies, advertisements. It’s what we see on our For You Page, Explore Page, or timeline. The “perfect” body that everyone else seems to have except ourselves.
The “bikini body” is similarly a cultural conception. Did you know that the phrase “bikini body” was first coined in 1961 by a chain of weight-loss salons called Slenderella International? The company sold weight loss machines that you used by standing in the middle of several rollers
that moved up and down repeatedly. (Really, you can’t make this stuff up! Here’s a fascinating article on the history of this phrase.)
And the thing about the ideal body type is that it is always changing. Like fashion trends, certain bodies go “in and out of style” periodically. (This video does a great job of demonstrating this phenomenon for women!)
The constant shifts and unattainability of these bodies can make us feel like we can’t keep up. And, it can give us permission to drop the fight against our bodies, give up these cultural conceptions of perfection, and come home to ourselves.
So, What Can We Do?
#1 Consider body neutrality.
Body neutrality is the idea that you may not always love your body, but you can still appreciate the ways in which your body works for you. The idea of “loving” and “embracing” your body might feel out of reach right now. And that’s okay. When we’ve spent years or decades hating ourselves, it might not be realistic to jump headfirst into body positivity instantly.
#2 Practice body respect.
Respect is something we can give our bodies, regardless of how we might be feeling about it on any given day. Some examples of treating our bodies with respect can include wearing comfortable clothing, avoiding the scale, resting, or working to decrease the time you spend in front of the mirror.
#3 Rethink your social media feeds.
Try unfollowing creators that reinforce the body ideal or make you feel worse about yourself. Explore creators who present supportive messages around appearances, and follow people of all body sizes.
#4 Seek professional help.
You deserve to feel safe and comfortable within your body. Working with a therapist can be a supportive place for you to process your feelings and unfold a better relationship with your body.
#5 Remember your worth!!!
You are worthy of love, respect, dignity, and compassion, regardless of your body. Your feelings about your body may fluctuate day-to-day, but your inherent worth as a human being does not.