As the temperature is warming, people are gradually shedding clothes and revealing skin, wearing skimpy shorts, vest tops and sandals. For many of us though, the thought of baring flesh and exposing limbs can automatically induce a bout of anxiety. The pressure to have achieved ‘the bikini body’ seems to be pressing from all angles. Instagram is full of pictures of beach-honed bodies and eating plans promising quick results. Conversations at the water cooler from well-meaning friends increasingly focus on holidays and summer parties. You might feel that the only way you can cope with this impending pressure is to opt for a dietary overhaul or liquid shakes for several weeks. However, before, you venture down this potentially damaging journey towards your poor body and eating habits, stop and take a pause. Here are five survival tips for feeling body confident now: -
Confidence is key
Showing confidence, standing tall and smiling all count hugely in how you come across to others. Body image research shows that when we evaluate someone else’s attractiveness, these factors are infinitely more important than looks alone. If you think about people in your own life, I am sure you will find this to be true. So seize the moment today, stand tall, smile and radiate self-assurance. Notice how others respond to you when you do this. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Comparison – the joy thief
When you compare yourself with others, you are looking for evidence to feel superior or inferior to them. Superiority may bring fleeting self-esteem boosts, however, this is not a sustainable way to feel good and you will require a constant supply of reassurance to maintain it. Conversely, when you feel inferior, you have placed others on pedestals, often projecting assumed perfection onto them, judging people purely by their outer presentation. Naturally, you will then find the evidence to berate yourself. If we look for it, we will always find someone younger, prettier, more toned or beautiful to judge ourselves against. Instead, focus on your own strengths and positive qualities, whilst putting the blinkers on to comparisons.
Banish negative body bashing behaviours
If I wanted to write a prescription to inflict poor body image on someone it would involve all the following: - scrutinising body parts you dislike in the mirror daily; obsessive weighing; scouring Instagram for people you consider to be better looking than you; comparing your body size to other people on the street and talking unkindly to yourself using unfavourable names. If you recognise that you are doing these things, work to stop these behaviours. They may have become engrained habits that will need some work to change. Even reducing the frequency with which you do all of these can have a marked impact you your body image, so it is well worth the effort.
Take some exercise
Moderate exercise improves physical and mental health and is a definite mood enhancer. Choose exercise that you enjoy and view it as valuable self-care. Exercising also helps you focus on what you body can do, with its strength, movement and energy, rather than focusing purely on aesthetics.
Focus on what you can change now
Identify how you can feel good about your appearance today; in the way that personally suits you. Wear clothes in styles and colours that flatter you; do your hair or nails if that’s your thing; shoes, accessories or make-up can all be used to express personality and improve mood. These are for everyone, whatever your shape or size. This can be something you have fun experimenting with.
Although it might not feel like this now, summer is only a season (at least in the UK!), so try to keep a broader perspective. Find the things that personally work best for you to enhance body image. If you are really struggling with negative body image and feeling overwhelmed and anxious, it might be worth exploring some of these issues further in a safe and supportive counselling setting.