When you get that first taste of 70-degree days at the end of spring, the excitement of summer begins to build. But it’s also the time of year when I start to become more aware of my body. Through fall and winter, I live blissfully free of the anxious feelings surrounding what my body looks like. But like clockwork, as soon as the warm weather hits, bathing suit anxiety sinks in. Quite frankly, I am over it.
Bathing suit anxiety is bigger than just not feeling confident in a bikini. The truth is that the way we view our bodies can have a serious impact on how we live our lives, and developing a positive relationship with our bodies is important for our well-being. According to the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, women and girls are more likely to opt out of important life activities when they don’t feel good about the way they look, and 17% of women claim they won’t even go to a job interview when they’re not feeling good about their appearance.
We’ve grown up in an era where talk of having a “summer body” is common jargon, but every body is a summer body. Despite what we may have been told, doing workouts you don’t enjoy or trying trendy diet plans isn’t the path to loving your body more. To have an anxiety-free summer, we have to learn to love our bodies by going inward, and these are the steps to take that will help you get there.
1. Connect to your body
Like most things in life, it’s hard to connect with something we don’t fully understand, and your body is one of them. Our bodies do amazing things for us every single day: They allow us to move, breathe, nourish, and pleasure ourselves, yet we often don’t notice it. There are a lot of different ways to connect to our bodies and appreciate them more. One way is through the breath: Breathing is something we do subconsciously (thank you, body!), but taking time every day to scan the body and notice how breath moves through the body can be so powerful. This practice allows you to further understand your emotions, lets you notice where you feel things in the body, and helps you develop a stronger connection to it.
Another fun way is through self-pleasure. Masturbating means you value yourself enough to give yourself pleasure and reminds you that you deserve pleasure. It can be one of the most powerful ways to show your mind that your body is beautiful and worthy of love. If you don’t already, start incorporating masturbation into your routine. The best way to develop self-love is by practicing it.
2. Find a workout you love
If you dread waking up every morning to go to your workout class, why are you going? Exercise does not have to be (and should not be) something you dread doing. There are so many forms of workouts available to us today, from online classes in the comfort of your home, running groups, spin, pilates, yoga, boxing—the list goes on and on. Similar to food or taste in clothes, not everyone will like the same things and it takes time to find what you enjoy. Moving your body and breaking a sweat should be fun; after all, exercise releases endorphins. Our bodies feel good after we exercise (while maybe a little sore), and changing our mindset around working out to be viewed as something we look forward to will help us love and appreciate our bodies even more.
3. Change the narrative
For a long time now, women have been told that they have to look a certain way to be happy, find love, and be successful. So it’s no wonder we have anxiety around what our body looks like. We have to unlearn everything we were taught early on and relearn what body positivity is; we have to change the narrative. Sometimes, this can involve real inner work with a therapist to look at why we don’t love our body or internally replacing critiques with compliments, but no matter where you are on your self-love journey, there are some simple steps you can take to create a healthier narrative around your body.
The moment you have those negative thoughts about what your body looks like, push them out. Give yourself a list of affirmations to resort to whenever you are not feeling great about the way your body looks. Some examples are, “I am worthy of love in this body,” “I am beautiful,” or “I deserve to be happy in this body.” Tell yourself over and over again how much you love this body until you start to believe it.
4. Wear clothes that make you feel good
Fashion is a great way to boost your confidence, but there are also times when clothes can make us feel less than great about ourselves. Get rid of any item in your closet that doesn’t make you feel good when you wear it, whether it’s because it is uncomfortable, no longer fits right, or doesn’t make you confident. Every time you get dressed this summer, choose clothes that make you look in the mirror and say, “I love my body.” It’s the same when shopping for swimsuits or dresses: Choose items that make you feel good and will not have you worrying about the way you look. Fun fact: I only buy high-cut swimsuits now, after years of being miserable in low-cut ones. Fashion should only ever make you feel better about your body, and if it’s doing the opposite, it’s not doing its job.
5. Cleanse your social feed
Your social feed is yours and no one else’s. It should be a place you go to feel inspired, laugh, and be entertained. If you feel worse every time you close an app, it’s time to cleanse your feed. It’s time to say goodbye to those workout videos that make you feel like you’re not “toned” enough or the supermodels and celebrities who have you thinking twice about how you look. If these posts are making you feel worse, it’s not worth it.
Instead, build your feed with accounts that inspire you, motivate you, and make you laugh. Find one account you love and build from there. You can even make it a habit to cleanse your feed once a month, so if anything negative makes its way in, you can quickly remove it. If the apps altogether are too much, try taking a break for a little while. Social media has a strong impact on our mental health and the way we view our bodies—make sure it is a positive tool for self-love and not the opposite.