It’s March and some of us are already beginning to stress about getting a perfect beach body before summer arrives. And no wonder. We’re constantly inundated with messages from billboards, television, and social media about what makes an attractive body.
Often the messages are conflicting, discriminatory, or just plain unrealistic. To compound it all, advertising preys on our insecurities by offering a host of products promising to deliver the perfect beach body.
Happily, many people are beginning to reject the narrative that only certain body types are beautiful. Human bodies are incredible, complex things that come in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. And as it turns out, we’re all equipped with a “beach body” right now, just as we are. But if you struggle with loving—or even accepting—your body as worthy, you’re not alone. As many as 84% of women in the US are dissatisfied with their bodies at some point during their lives. And yet, it is possible to nurture confidence in yourself and your body. This summer, show up to the beach—and everywhere else—with the confidence that comes with knowing your body is an amazing place to be. Here are four great places to start your journey:
Gain a Fresh Perspective
Social media can be harmful, but it can also be a helpful tool for shifting your perspective. Filling your feed with unrealistic body types and deceptive images has a very real effect on our self-talk, even if you’re just scrolling past. When you actively curate your social media feed with body-positive influencers, you can filter out harmful messages and create a healthier feed that reflects and celebrates body types similar to yours. Seeing and hearing other people with a range of body shapes, ages, and abilities can help you see your own body differently.
Adjust Your Focal Point
Rather than ignoring features or pretending they aren’t there, make it your goal to celebrate all the great things your body has done for you each day. Did you go on that walk to enjoy the sunset? Did you take an extra moment to exfoliate? Did your arms hug someone you love, and did your smile cheer up a friend? Taking a moment now and then to notice each breath, acknowledge the caring and healthy things you did, and thank yourself can help shift the internal voice to something kinder and more loving.
Repeat After Me
For many of us, the negative messaging comes from both outside and inside. Media is constantly showing us the ‘ideal’ body type while we simultaneously critique ourselves (and others!) in a thousand different ways, maybe even unconsciously.
Experts suggest acknowledging the negative self-talk and committing to a practice of reversing it. You can begin with daily spoken affirmations, journaling, or even working with a therapist.
Practice Kindness with Yourself
Many people genuinely compliment friends, family, and even strangers but struggle to speak kindly and lovingly to themselves. In fact, many of those who are great at compliments often follow their niceties up by drawing an unfavorable comparison to themselves. As in, “That sweater looks great on you, but when I wear yellow, I look like a corpse.”
Start fixing your self-talk by working on how you compliment others. Let the compliment stand on its own without comparison. When you’ve broken that habit, you can try adding a silent follow-up instead. As in, “That color looks great on you!” and then a silent, “and blue looks great on me!”
Keeping up with looks and trends can impact our self-confidence. So if fashion isn’t on your radar, you might consider giving it another shot.
How we feel about our clothing can affect our hormone levels, attentiveness, and even our willingness to socialize. While some people are comfortable in the latest swimwear styles, others are not, which directly impacts their feelings of confidence.
Instead of forcing yourself to buy the trendy bikini because it’s what you think is “correct” for the beach, build your own unique look around what makes you feel great. Maybe it’s a bright sports bra and board shorts. Maybe it’s pairing a bikini bottom with a rashguard top. Clothing comfort is linked to cognitive performance and lower levels of distraction and anxiety.
You only get so many beach days in one lifetime. Don’t let anything distract you from enjoying yourself and having fun.
Use it More
One of the best parts of being active is how it changes our mindset about our bodies. The more we use our bodies, the better we feel in them.
And yet, many of us shy away from certain activities because we don’t “look like a runner” or we aren’t the same size, color, or shape as the other people in the yoga class. As you begin to focus on self-love and your comfort level grows, make sure you revisit activities you formerly ruled out.
Using your body in new ways might be precisely what you need to take your self-love up to new heights.
Your Body Is Already Perfect for the Beach
We’re all works in progress, and building up our confidence and self-love is part of that progress. Finding the clothing that makes us feel good, surrounding ourselves with nurturing and healthy messaging, and taking a fresh look at how we discuss bodies—ours and those of others—can prepare us for the best beach season we’ve ever had.
When we begin to see our self-worth as something more than how our bodies appear, then we can take healthier steps to care for ourselves and build confidence in our right to be ourselves, as we are, at the beach.