It’s the middle of May and almost all parts of the country should be warming up, if it isn’t nice and sunny already! Life is winding down for most of us: school is close to or already finished and Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner. This holiday marks the unofficial start to summer, as well as the kickoff to the most highly anticipated season of all: swimsuit season!
While everyone is excited to stay poolside, hang out with friends, and relax after a hectic school year, many of us are less excited about the more daunting messages that summer brings: how to get your body “beach ready” or “slimmed down” for that new two-piece suit.
I don’t think I need to tell any of you that these messages are harmful, as they foster poor body image and insecurity over one’s appearance. However, in addition to hurting women everywhere, they also make it far more difficult to enjoy yourself once you finally get to the beach! Instead of worrying about whether your suit “flatters your assets,” it’s time to remember the original purpose of going to the pool or the beach: to have fun!
If you've ever spent more time worrying about being “toned enough” than building sandcastles with your girlfriends, take a moment to try and keep these four things in mind:
1. Who’s paying attention anyway?
One of the most nerve-wracking things about wearing a bathing suit in public is the fear of people judging your appearance negatively, which is an example of a phenomenon called the spotlight effect.
But think about it: do you know most of these other beach-goers? Will you see them again after you step off the beach? Most importantly, why do these people matter anyway? Just remember that at the end of the day, most of these people are strangers who are probably just trying to have fun, too. The likelihood that they’ve even noticed you, let alone started appraising you, is probably much smaller than you think - thankfully!
2. It takes too much energy to worry about looking perfect!
It takes effort to look a certain way, as those of us who have attended school formals, for example, know all too well. Much of this expended energy is mental: worrying over whether every hair is in place, making sure that your photos look perfect, etc. Instead of enjoying where you are and what you’re doing, you end up preoccupying yourself with ensuring things look the way they’re “supposed” to and making sure nothing goes wrong.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to make sure your abs look “just so” in your suit, expending all that mental energy can be pretty taxing and is definitely not as much fun as just letting go and enjoying who you’re with and what you’re doing. Summer flies by fast enough as it is - don't waste these valuable days inside your own head.
3. Your body is not there for anyone’s viewing pleasure.
Your body is an instrument, not just something for other people to gawk at and objectify. Your body is for playing Marco Polo, watching a sunset, laughing with your friends, and making memories. Its purpose is not to look perfect.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a toned, athletic body - staying fit is important to ensure a long, healthy life. This goal only becomes problematic when you chase it primarily for other people, either to appear more attractive or to avoid possible ridicule. Bottom line? No one should feel as though they have to maintain a certain look or appearance for anyone but themselves.
4. You’re beautiful just the way you are.
Yes, this phrase is cheesy and sentimental, but I hope it still rings true. No matter what you look like or how much “better” you think that other girl’s body is, comparing yourself to someone else is like comparing apples to oranges to pears to pineapples. Everyone looks different - that’s part of what makes life so interesting!
Looking at yourself positively doesn’t happen overnight, but it all starts with just one step: The minute you decide to stop buying into the negative images plastered all over magazines and television is the moment you begin a journey towards a positive body image.
What do you think?
What do you like to do during the summer? How do you keep yourself from worrying about how you look and remember how to have fun? What’s your favorite part about going to the pool/beach? Leave me a comment and let me know!