Summer is here, and the heat is in full force. That typically means less layers of clothing, more
skin showing, and time spent in a swimsuit. Paired with that, there are often more social
gatherings in the summer months, and a lack of consistent routine. All of which can create
higher levels of anxiety among both women and men who struggle with their body image.
Body image can be thought of as one’s own perception of their physical self, and the feelings,
thoughts, and behaviors that result from that perception. Research has found profound links
between body image concerns and other mental health concerns, specifically low self-esteem,
anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. It is important to note that body image concerns are
often a result of a much more complex mixture of factors; including, but not limited to, trauma,
society (ie: fatphobia, the thin ideal), family attitudes and beliefs, and media portrayal.
My hope is for each person to be able to live a full and meaningful life, and live according to our
values, even in the summer months! So, how do we do that? Here are a few tangible first steps
to work on creating a healthy body image:
Reject Body Shaming
Be careful what you are saying to yourself because you are listening! Begin to recognize the thoughts you are telling yourself about your body, and work to shift away from critical shameful self-talk into more self-compassion.
At the core of self-compassion is care, love, and respect for ourselves. The next time you hear yourself body shaming yourself, gently ask yourself to try again, but this time respond as if you are talking to a loved one having the same thoughts. These responses often focus on appreciation and gratitude.
As you begin to work on self-compassion, a sense of acceptance will begin to form. This may enable you to recognize that beauty comes from within, and looks different on everyone.
Self-acceptance is extremely difficult to achieve if you are constantly comparing yourself to others, and using them as the measuring stick for “success”. It can be extremely beneficial for your journey to take inventory of who you are following on social media, and work to increase diversity of those you follow.
Okay, so… the ONE thing worth avoiding is avoidance!
Avoidance behaviors may start small, and they often relieve anxiety in the short-term. However, avoidance fuels anxiety. The more you avoid, the more fuel you are giving your anxiety to grow, and the harder it will be to face that fear, because the fear will feel bigger each time.
Take a deep breath, remind yourself avoidance fuels anxiety, and go do the thing.
Reach out for help
While these tangible steps may be helpful, it is important to note you may need additional help and support as you navigate body image distress. If you find yourself skipping meals, overexercising, constantly obsessing over food or your body, avoiding social situations, or having an intense fear of weight gain, please reach out to a professional.