Far too many of us feel uncomfortable in our bodies. And, yet, as children, we were fully possessed of ourselves, spending summers chasing fireflies and jumping into lakes, not hiding under oversized t-shirts out of fear someone would judge our bodies.
This summer, I hope you’ll commit to enjoying each passing day as you are, rather than longing for the body you once had or long to have. Here are some summer-related tips for enjoying yourself, shoring up confidence, and getting reacquainted with the beautiful, brilliant you that you’ve been neglecting.
- Make plans. Sit down now and dream about what you want to do this summer. Create a wish list that includes items that relax you as well as challenge you like reading in a hammock or trying stand up paddling. Then, schedule your plans! It is hard to sit around obsessing over your body, when you are too busy enjoying what your body allows you to experience.
- Realize no one cares as much as you do. If you are paralyzed before hitting the beach or a summer soiree, it is likely because you are worried about what people will think about you. And, yet, people are far kinder to others than they are to themselves. The truth is that no one is judging you the way that you judge yourself. And the real thing people are most likely to remember after that party isn’t what you had on, but how you made them feel.
- Enjoy the bounty of the season. Frequent your local farmers markets and farms that allow you to pick your own produce and enjoy all the fresh flavor. An added bonus is that you treat your whole self incredibly well by eating whole foods while experimenting with new preparations!
- Revel in the beauty of treating your body well just to treat it well and not because it needs to be punished into looking different. Fully appreciate that your body is your vehicle to get you through life and give it more of what it needs this summer: ample rest, satisfying movement, good nutrition, stress reduction like massage or yoga are just a few body loving options.
- Learn something. Use a little bit of your downtime- maybe a vacation day or a holiday weekend- to take a lesson in something that’s always interested you. Try your hand at cooking from farm to fork or taking great outdoor photography or whatever else piques your interest. Relishing in what the season has to offer you takes your mind off your judgments about yourself and also boosts your self-appreciation as you rack up even more skills!
- Consider the time you’ve lost. Consider the thing that you most obsess over with regard to your appearance, then add up the time you have spent obsessing over it in your life. Now ask yourself these questions: Is it worth it? Is your hair, your makeup, your outfit deserving of that much of the time you have left in your life? Can you let a little of it go? Can you start today?
- Break your self-deprecation habit. Too often, we normalize our body hatred by letting unkind words pass our lips about ourselves without a thought. We should catch and correct ourselves when we do this because our whole lives are affected by how we think and speak about our bodies. Find a bowl, vase, or piggy bank and deposit some change each time you knock yourself, and watch your self-awareness soar and your habits change. Add another level to it by starting to add some change for positive thoughts. You’ll let go of a negative habit while building a positive one. With the money you have collected by changing this habit, treat yourself to a gift or donate it. We can all change our language—and our minds.
- Ditch the fat chat. Take breaking the self-deprecation habit a step further. When a woman criticizes herself in front of you, don’t join in. Instead, tell her just how wrong she is and celebrate what you love about her.
- Have a comeback. Think of the jabs you sometimes hear from friends and family members. Perhaps they are about your appearance, your relationship status, or whether or not you have kids. Now take some time to come up with the perfect comeback. What can you say, the next time it happens, to let that critical person know that you would like to be treated differently or that your body is off limits for discussion? Periodically practice the comeback, in your mind and out loud, so that you are ready when you need to use it.
- Embrace your passion. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is a passion, something that brings us so much joy and satisfaction that we can’t help but feel successful when we are doing it. When we are doing something we are passionate about, we can’t help but feel like we have something to offer. Put some time aside this summer to dedicate to what you are passionate about or to find a passion.
- Make eye contact. Much of our confidence is projected through our eyes. Avoiding eye contact is just one way of communicating to the world that you want to be invisible. It also communicates to the person whose eyes you are avoiding that he or she isn’t worthy of being seen, even if you don’t mean to send that message. Choose to see and be seen wherever you go.
- Reimagine the possibilities. Recognize that by being consumed by your appearance and the ways you do not measure up to someone else’s beauty standard, you are holding yourself back from being consumed by the calling of your life, from embracing your great gladness and giving it to the world. Imagine your life without the beauty obsession. Would you have time and energy for something else? If so, begin exploring that something else now.