Picking the right swimsuit used to be like taking an impossible test
There are few things in life that match the dread of bikini season. That heavy pit in your stomach walking into the mall, knowing it’s time to pick a new bathing suit. The litany of advice from fashion magazines--dark colors are slimming, ruffles will make your butt look bigger, a halter neckline will show off your shoulders--conflicting with the desperate need to find the suit that would cover the most area. No skimpy bottoms, no tops without adjustable straps in the back, absolutely no cutouts. Nothing that might squeeze or cause a bulge or create any imperfect shapes.
The dressing room is a challenge in and of itself. Those fluorescent lights, wall to wall mirrors, and cold air don’t exactly make for the most flattering picture of what your body looks like in that bathing suit. No “flaw” escapes that harsh environment, from stretch marks to that patch of hair you missed with your razor.
After such a terrible experience, one that should have been a fun outing to pick out some cute new clothes but was mired in stress, you should be rewarded by walking away with the cutest new suit ever, right? Nope. More often than not these experiences find us leaving without buying anything new and spending the summer in that same years-old suit that you never even liked.
But picking a suit is just the beginning of the stress of spending the summer at the beach or pool. The constant comparisons to every other woman around, whether they looked fitter or more confident only created more anxiety, more shame, and the fear that they were all making the same judgements about who looked the best. Instagram has only heightened this issue, and made comparing yourself to “perfect” women all but unavoidable.
Sound familiar? Listen, we get it. Bad body image days are inevitable, especially in the season of the summer bod. But just because the months from June to August haven’t brought the best memories in the past, doesn’t mean this year has to be the same. After a year of uncertainty and Friends reruns, you deserve to step into summer 2021 with confidence and joy.
With some small changes in mindset, summer can become less about swimsuits and more about the beautiful weather, spending time with family and friends, or going on new adventures. Swimsuits can stop being a cage and become just a small aspect of a much larger picture. Being in a suit can become an afterthought and allow you to focus on the wind in your hair and the sun on your face.
Eliminating that stress from three whole months of the year is incredibly freeing. But it takes time and work to get to that place mentally. Here are a few mantras to practice staying sane in the time of the summer body.
You probably already use this tactic with just about every person you meet. You don’t have to be friends with them (or even like them) but you do respect their existence in this world. The same applies to your body. Practicing body respect also means understanding that you will have days when your body image isn’t great, just like bad hair days. Respecting your body allows you to work through those days without allowing them to sabotage all the work you’ve done to get to this mindset.
Your body is your home, whether you like it or not. You cannot separate yourself from it. But much like the building you call home, you’re not required to fall in love or feel over-the-moon happy about your body. Body neutrality is another tactic that can help you maintain your sanity in the summers. Making an effort to transform negative thoughts about your body into more objective or neutral statements can have a great impact on your mental health.
Turning off the comparisons completely can be hard to do. Instead, try turning your envy into empathy. You know the feeling of comparing yourself to every other woman you see. Chances are, the women you’re comparing yourself to know that feeling as well. She may even be jealous of the way you look. Remembering that can bring you some much-needed relief when you can’t stop stressing about how you match up.
The people closest to you in your life care about your well-being and your happiness. They’re not there for you because they think you’re the most beautiful person around. They’re there for you because of who you are as a person and the things you enjoy doing together. Not to mention, most of the time, people are thinking about themselves. So they aren’t spending the time they are thinking about you worrying about how you look in a bathing suit.
You deserve to feel comfortable and confident, or at least neutral, about your body in the summer months--as well as every other season and every other outfit you put on. And those feelings of negativity and shame come less from how you look and more from how you think and feel on the inside.