We love summer, but we don’t love the negative messaging surrounding body image and the harm to self esteem that it typically breeds. Summer means pool parties and beach days, people wearing their swimsuits, and being a little bit more scantily clad in general. You’ll also likely see an influx of articles about the best workouts and diets for a beach body, but let me tell you a secret: if you have a body and you’re on the beach…you’ve already got a beach body.
Developing better self confidence and self esteem is something that doesn’t come easily to a lot of us. It’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to others in the summertime, and to kick yourself for not looking exactly how you wish you looked. We have to work hard at building a better body image — and while we’re doing that, we also have to remember to be kind to ourselves.
As we kick off the season, here are 6 ways to be more compassionate about your body image.
Having weight loss goals can be dangerous to your mental health. Of course, for swimsuit season many people take dieting and new workout regimens to an extreme. These plans aim for major weight loss, however, you can reframe your goals to make them more positive and healthy.
For example, instead of setting a goal of losing 5 pounds, set a goal of being able to run a mile without taking a break, or being able to comfortably lift a heavier set of weights. Exercising is very beneficial to our mental health and can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as boost self esteem. Just remember to set healthy goals like these. You’ll feel super proud when you accomplish these little victories. Remember to give yourself credit and a pat on the back for working hard on your goals.
Social media usage can really hurt our body image. If you use social media, I’m sure you’ve experienced a time where you’ve felt “less than” or compared your body to somebody else’s after seeing a photo. Studies have proven that there is a link between social media usage and low self esteem — and even disordered eating. Social media doesn’t have to make us feel like crap, and we can create boundaries with our apps that can make us feel better. Limit the time you spend on social media with the screen time feature on your iPhone or another app like SPACE. You can also try deleting Instagram for a few days for a “cleanse” to see how it makes you feel.
Additionally, it can be helpful to unfollow people who give you unrealistic beauty and body standards. For example, if every time Kim Kardashian pops up on your feed you find yourself comparing your body to hers and feeling lousy about your own appearance — it’s time to unfollow.
When people around you are super negative, it can rub off. Think of the scene in Mean Girls where The Plastics (the most popular girls in school) are standing around the mirror and saying things they hate about their bodies, and then they turn around to Cady, waiting for her to say something she doesn’t like about herself, too.
During the summer (and well, all year round) your friends should lift you up, not bring you down! Avoiding negativity might mean creating boundaries with certain people, whether that means limiting the time you spend with them or taking a “break” if you really feel like their behavior is toxic.
Sometimes you’ve gotta be your own hype man. Sit down and think about the things you genuinely love about yourself, both inside and out. It may sound silly, but consider making a list of these things — this can really help you reframe your thinking. Everyone has insecurities surrounding so-called-flaws, but those flaws can certainly be outweighed by the things that you do love about yourself.
For example, maybe you aren’t so crazy about the cellulite on your bum, but you absolutely love the muscle definition you have on the front of your legs from the exercise you’ve been doing lately. Focus on that instead. However, what’s most important is the list of things you love about yourself on the inside — whether it’s your sense of humor, resilience, or your dedication.
When you’re facing situations that are triggering this summer (or anytime!), it’s important to practice self care and really take care of yourself. If you already have a self care regimen, be sure to stick with it, and maybe even spend some extra time doing the things that make you feel your best. If you don’t really know where to start, some acts of self care great for situations like this can be:
Eating healthily and regularly can even be seen as self care. Again, just like with exercising, instead of focusing on a goal of losing weight, set goals in a different way. Some ideas can be adding more fruits into your daily meals or limiting mindless junk food eating while you watch TV.
The crazy thing about beauty standards is that they’re always changing. What’s considered the perfect bikini body or the perfect summer hair can change every summer. These beauty standards set by magazines and celebrities are not realistic. Take a step back and think about how unreal these images you see on the glossy magazine pages are — instead of internalizing them and thinking you need to look that way.
Not only do models and celebrities have full teams of hair and makeup artists for photoshoots, but they’re also photoshopped. Even many Instagram posts are heavily edited in Photoshop or on Facetune to create a bigger butt, a smaller waist, a softer jawline, smoother skin. Again, if social media is where you consume most of your media and therefore your major purveyor of beauty standard comparisons, it might be a good idea to take a break.
Don’t let summer be a bummer! Follow these tips to be more compassionate about your body image this summer. Kick negativity’s butt and make this season about having fun, not worrying about your body.
This post originally appeared on Talkspace.com
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