When you compare yourself to others, it is never going to be an even comparison. There is no one like you, so no one is ever going to be a good comparison to you.
Summer is for long mornings and cool nights lit by campfire flames. Summer is purposed for the sun to bake you during the day and for the mosquitos to feast on you during the night. This sweet stretch of time from June till September is for catching up with old friends and making new ones while adventuring to uncharted places.
Unfortunately, summer isn't like this for everyone. For you, summer might mean "stinking thinking," a term my father-in-law coined describing the state of having a poor thought-life or focusing on the negative. Summer can be a time when your body is the last thing you want to show off at the beach. So instead, you sit at home on a couch, snacking your sunny days away. Or, you make excuses to not meet up with friends because you unfriended your swimsuit years ago when your body began to experience life after being a teen.
Even if your internal critique hasn't been successful in keeping you away from the sun, maybe you find it hard to enjoy the summer months because your mind is robbed by vicious thoughts of comparison and shame. The truth is, most women in our society have dreaded summer at one point in their lives because of body image issues, even if it's just a small sigh of disappointment after trying on last year's swimsuit.
The good news? You don't have to continue to miss out on making memories during summer, and you don't have to be subject to dreary thoughts along the way.
Come on ladies, there's more to life!
Here are a few things to keep in mind while enjoying this year's warmth.
1. Don’t compare. There are going to be hundreds of thousands of bodies on the beaches this year, but not one of them will be exactly like your body. How could there be? Nobody has the exact same genetics as you, which is the beauty of why no one can look exactly like you. Some bodies will never be a size 0 and that's okay. Quite frankly, most weren't meant to be.
Take note of the thoughts in your head and squash those that seek to compare you to others. Why? Because when you compare yourself to others, it is never going to be an even comparison. There is no one like you, so no one is ever going to be a good comparison to you.
You were meant to be your own person; veering from that plan doesn't usually result in health. When your mind is in the wrong place and you are comparing yourself to others you are often doing one of two things:
1. You are elevating yourself above someone else based off of vain reasoning.
2. You are demeaning yourself and allowing jealousy to flourish in your own heart.
Both are dangerous mindsets.
There are circumstances when perhaps you are simply acknowledging differences in body types objectively and you could argue that there's nothing wrong with doing so. To that I would agree, however I would say that there is often a slippery slope from objective comparison to unhealthy comparison.
2. You don’t know their story. How many times have you walked in to a party and have thought, "Wow I wish I had her body." Or maybe even, "Glad I don't look like her." In all of 10 seconds you have judged whether or not you approve/disapprove of someone's body without taking into consideration what life events have brought them to their current figure.
Perhaps they've recently birthed a child and have a little extra weight, maybe they've gone through a miscarriage and their hormones are raging. Or, have you considered that they look great, but they might also be completely tormented in their mind when it comes to making food choices, have anxiety when they miss a workout and still don't feel thin enough? The truth is, we never know what someone has gone through, so wanting what they have after just one glimpse is never a good idea. You may want their body, but not their story. Judging body figures can be detrimental to you, and to others.
3. Focus on the fun. Weight loss and dieting is too often the topic of choice for women and their friends. Choose to focus on something else this year when hanging out with others. Change the conversation. Summer is a time to take advantage of the chance you have to be more active than you might have been in the winter. Focus on the activities at hand like swimming in the lake, going for a hike, or boating instead of degrading your thighs or whining about your waist. You're going to be far better off if you spend your energy on making unforgettable memories rather than lamenting over whether or not to have a cookie.
4. Find a comf suit. Remember how I said there are thousands of different body types out there? Well there are also thousands of different bathing suits out there. When preparing for summer, don't feel like you have to wear what you've always worn. If you're not comfortable in a string bikini with your breasts being covered by only two padded patches of slippery material, then don't wear the string bikini!
If you don't want your cheeks to be making a surprise showing out the bottom of your suit, then maybe a traditional bottom isn't for you and boxer style bottoms are more your style. Now more than ever, I see adorable one pieces that don't make you look Amish (no offense to anyone who is Amish). If a more modest suit makes you feel more comfortable and will take your mind off having to push your boobs back in your top or cover up your stomach while tanning, then go for it! The important thing is to find something that you feel good in, not necessarily to keep up with what's trending.
5. Forge for the freedom. "Think about what you're thinking about." This is some of the best advice I've ever heard. Forging for body positivity and food freedom IS WORK. The way our society is designed does not make it easy to stay confident in our own skin. That means you have a very important part to play in shifting cultural norms and cherishing the body you've been given. Start recognizing the subtle, yet powerful messages that you come across on commercials, in magazines and all over social media. Consciously decide whether you want to submit to their agenda, and then, take action. Unfollow accounts that feed into negative thinking and police your own thoughts when they themselves become negative. Like anything, living in freedom takes work. But the more you do it, the better you become.
Cheers, my friends. May you be blessed this summer.
If you want to have someone walk on the journey of body positivity with you, Reach out! I'm here to help. I'm ready to reach out.
Mikyah Owens, RDN, LD