Whenever I hear the phrase “bikini body”, whether on TV chat shows or in magazines and social media, I roll my eyes. It makes me so mad. Summer is meant for fun. It is not meant for tortuous preparation and negative self-talk.
More than 8.5 million people have cosmetic procedures in the US per year.
The added pressure to look good in the summer can be exhausting. Can’t wear sleeveless because of saggy or fat arms. Can’t go out because you’re too pale or too hairy or have too much cellulite.
A whopping 97% of women “Say thirteen negative body thoughts to themselves daily like ‘I hate my stomach’ or ‘I’m ugly’”.
I get angry because, for years, I was that person freaking out about myself. Always making sure to cover my arms, legs, back. I have been hiding my body due to my burn scars. I didn’t want to deal with the judgment or looks that I imagined people would give me when they saw the scars. The key words there being, “I imagined.”
Here’s the thing, when I am at home I don’t even think about the scars or care what I look like. I want to have that same kind of nonchalance at the beach or pool. Enough indifference about what I look like to actually be able to give attention to doing what I love.
97% believe society is less accepting of appearance considerations for women over 50 compared to their younger counterparts, especially when focused on the body.
I don’t want to feel bad about my appearance ever again. Not even once. Others have their own reasons for hiding or being ashamed of parts of their body, but for me, it has never felt good when I thought along those lines. Our bodies want to be free to move and play. Dance and make love, run and jump. If that is not enough of a reason to change the way we think, then I ask you this – Would Odysseus or Boudicca hide their battle wounds? Did Churchill stop leading because of his weight?
8 to 12-year-olds spend more than $40 million a month on beauty products.***
Does an overnight change of self-image and confidence seem a bit unrealistic? Absolutely. Fortunately, it does not have to be all or nothing. We can take small steps in re-establishing our relationship with our bodies. We can do that by noticing what happens when we judge ourselves or as we are going through the cosmetic procedures of becoming bikini body ready.
We can learn to see our self-hate. It begins the moment we start to plan exactly how we will navigate the beaches and poolside parties of the season and how we’re going to cover our cellulite riddled, scar bearing, fat loving bodies.
In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.****
Once we see the problem, we can develop a better relationship with our bodies. For example- notice what happens when you say, “I hate my body because it is scarred or fat or short or whatever.” Do you squeeze? What happens with your breath. Are you comfortable?
Now that you see the effect of your thoughts on your body, try to express what you are really feeling, such as, I am afraid of being judged as fat or ugly. People will think I’m less than them because of the shape of my body. I get anxious when I am around people and pools.
Again notice what happens when you voice what you are feeling to yourself. You may feel some relief or sadness or freedom. Perceive it in your body. Unentangle yourself from the thoughts by focusing only on your breath for a good few minutes. And then move on to the next step.
Think about how you want to feel. Do you enjoy the feel of cool water on your skin? Do you love to float or splash around or walk on a beach with a warm breeze caressing you? Think of a time when you felt free in your body. What were you doing? What were you focusing on? How did you move?
Allow these wonderful feelings to set the tone as you contemplate a visit to the beach or the pool. Think about the silky feeling of the water on your skin. Remember how great it feels to be in your body, the strength and the freedom to be uncovered as you want to be. Imagine yourself as the hero in your story and slay those illusory bikini body stories that keep you away from your joy.
*** NPD Group and Experian marketing