Body Image in Warmer Weather
The spring and summer seasons bring about a refreshing change of routine and give us the opportunity to spend more time outdoors, enjoying warm weather activities. Warmer weather also means a change in wardrobe from pants and jackets to shorts and tank tops, exposing more skin that’s been hidden behind clothing for months. For many people, this could be a welcome change, but if you’re struggling with body image issues, the thought of wearing less clothing and exposing yourself could be something you dread and wish to avoid entirely.
The Origins of Body Image Issues
Many people believe that body image issues happen to those who look a certain way. The truth is that anyone can struggle with body image issues, regardless of your physical appearance. This occurs because these issues don’t have much to do with the way you look or any physical trait. Instead, your body image is directly related to how you feel about yourself, your level of confidence, and self-esteem. When you believe that your self-worth is connected to the way you look physically then body image issues are more likely to occur.
Another source of body image issues is when you engage in comparing your physical appearance to that of others. This can happen even more so during warmer weather months when people tend to expose their bodies more, giving you a chance to scrutinize your own body and compare the way you look to others. The Internet and social media also contribute to this social comparison and people with body image issues tend to feel badly about themselves if they see photos or videos of others with bodies they wish they had or that they consider “better-looking” than their own. In this case, the same concept applies where if you attach your self-worth to your physical appearance, you are more likely to feel badly about yourself when you make these social comparisons.
How to Cope (3 Ways)
The best place to start if you want to work on your body image is to begin to acknowledge your strengths and positive qualities. These can be physical qualities as well as positive traits related to your personality, things that you’re good at, and the characteristics about yourself that you love. It’s important to think about these things and learn to point out all of your strengths and positive traits. This isn’t being conceited or full of yourself. Instead, you are bringing to your awareness your personal strengths and the qualities that make you unique.
Once you’re able to see and appreciate all of your special, personal qualities, the process of accepting yourself begins. Self-acceptance means embracing your good qualities, as well as the not so good ones and understanding that all human beings have flaws and imperfections and that’s okay!
Practicing mindfulness can help significantly in the process of improving your body image. Mindfulness allows you to observe your thoughts without judging yourself, even if some of those thoughts have to do with criticizing yourself and your own physical appearance. In mindfulness, you observe your tendency to do this, but you do so without judging yourself, and then you let the thoughts pass, one by one. Practicing this acceptance and non-judgment of yourself allows you to be gentle with how you treat yourself, paving the way for greater self-love.
A third mode to challenge body image struggles is to use positive self-talk like you would speak to a friend. Sometimes the inner critic or bully might have a negative comment to say. When this arises, think of what you would say to a friend if they spoke to themselves that same way. More often than not we are more harsh on ourselves than we would be to others
By incorporating these ideas into your daily practice you may notice some changes in how you view yourself. The process might be lengthy but the outcome is usually very rewarding. Ultimately, body image is not simply about physical qualities, but rather about how you view yourself which depends on how you treat yourself. Try and add a little kindness to your process!