One of the very few constants in life is change. Change is inevitable but it brings with it frustration, anger, fear and of course anxiety.
While many of us are glad that the Canadian winter is finally (fingers crossed) over, the warmer weather can bring up feelings and emotions we wish we could suppress. Noticing the changes our body has made over the course of the previous year and learning to embrace the more ‘revealing’ summer attire can be hard (Hard being a VAST understatement). There’s no longer the ability to hide away in sweats without going unnoticed… because if anything, your attempt will only bring attention to the fact that you aren’t dressed for the weather. The only exception being the “It’s okay not to be okay” crew neck because even I refuse to give it up on the hottest days of the season (I may be wearing it as I type this…)
I remember that when I was little, I loved the beginning of each new season because it meant I got to go shopping. Shopping with my sisters and mom was always so exciting and I loved leaving the bill for my parents to pay (those were the days). I was proud to have grown that 0.25 inch taller or to be able fit into my age’s size of clothing. I was excited to be maturing because it meant I was getting ‘older’ and I would soon be independent.
But around the age of 12, shopping became merely a fun social outing with friends. I went to ‘belong’, but the situation itself was all-too anxiety for me to truly partake in.
My body dissatisfaction inhibited me from trying on clothes most of the time.
I never even knew which ‘style’ to take on because I was unsure of how I wanted to portray myself. On occasion, when I did find an outfit I liked, I no longer modeled the garments to my friends or family to get their advice on sizing and fit. Instead, I stood inside the stall, staring at the 3-angled mirror, pointing out each and every flaw I saw in myself. I was hardly looking at the clothing because I was too busy picking apart my body. Those moments, where I felt so disgusting and gross, made me want to crawl out of my skin. I wanted to cry, but instead, I’d put on a brave face and leave the dressing room claiming the clothes simply ‘weren’t the right colour’. Even if I had liked the article, I wouldn’t have bought it. I felt way too guilty spending money in general, let alone on myself AND on clothes I would soon outgrow.
Just like shopping, swimming became an issue around that age. From a young age, summer had always been my favourite season because in it lied by birthday (July 18 for those wanting to send gifts… kidding) and also the ability to swim in my grandparent’s or own pool. I have fond memories of competing with my brother to be the first one in the pool, despite the temperature being so frigidly cold. Those memories are filled with happy moments and innocent thoughts. The only body checking I ever did was to ensure my mom had thoroughly rubbed in my sunscreen. There was no skin pinching, no criticizing my body in front of the mirror, and no towel wrapping to avoid others seeing my true figure.
I felt proud of my body for all its instrumental values.
It let me run, dive, jump, and swim. It let me beat my brother into the pool EVERY time (although he’d probably claim differently).
Summer used to be fun, but just like shopping, summer began to be my worst nightmare. I hated my birthday because of the attention it brought with it, sunshine made me the opposite of happiness and swimming was either avoided at all times, or used as an intense form of exercise. Bathing suits were no longer my friend.
See my guiltless mind had shifted from healthy, to having body dysmorphia, and finally to all-or-nothing thinking in regards to my shape, figure, weight and diet.
Sadly, in today’s culture, men and women are keenly aware of their own bodies and I was no exception. The costs of body dissatisfaction and hatred can be very high. They take severe tolls on our self-esteem.
I sometimes imagine what the world would have been like for me if I had felt secure and comfortable in my body…
What if not only I, but every man and female in this world, appreciated their individual talents and strengths more than the prioritized the number on the scale or the inaccurate ‘size’ on their clothing tag (hence why I love WYL’s attire)?
It’s nearly impossible to avoid comparisons especially when idealized images are so highly ‘prized’. Many of us hold idyllic images in our own minds as the standard against which we measure our own beauty and self-worth. This is why, in our world, it’s almost NORMAL to dislike your body. Younger and younger children are fixating over unrealistic images in magazines, on billboards, on television and everywhere else in the media. Little do they realize that these faces and bodies are maintained through unhealthy or unnatural measures. In fact some are even impossible to attain because they are computer-generated!
Body image and feelings about the self are not easy to change, but here are some measures that I find can help. After all, summer is fast approaching and as much as we’d like to hide in cozy fleece apparel from WYL, we’re going to have to start ordering their summer tees. It’d be nice to try and let down our guard down and start to practice or feel, true self-love.
1. Start to appreciate your body's various functions
Our bodies do incredible things such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, staying healthy and even reproduction (eww, babies, I know). See your body for it’s instrumental values as opposed to its ornamental shape, appearance and size.
2. Take good care of yourself
Learn to eat well (but still have treats in moderation because a life without ice cream shouldn’t be legal). Aim for 8 hours of sleep, get moderate exercise weekly if you can, and keep supportive people in your life. The better you feel physically, the more likely you’ll feel okay mentally
3. Try to accept the little insecurities that get under your skin
Almost everyone has insecurity or two about their body, but no matter how tough it might be, there’s no need to change the physical appearance of ourselves. We have to learn to accept some truths about our bodies whether we like them or not. We cannot nor should not, have to change our DNA or our body type. Everyone is unique but everyone is beautiful.
4. Do a cleanse from social media (for longer than an hour!)
Realistically, friends are only posting the best photo of 1000 takes, making them appear more glamorous, enhanced or ‘perfect’ than they truly are.
5. Spend time with real people
Newsflash: Coffee shops filled with actual laughter (not LOL) and real emotions (not emojiis) still exist.
6. Catch yourself
Whether it be criticizing your body for it’s imperfections, obsessing over what you’ve eaten, focusing on what you perceive to be negative about yourself, or contemplating diets, STOP yourself. It’s best to shift your attention elsewhere.
7. Set a time limit for body checking
It’s not fun to feel crappy, but sometimes you do need to give yourself time to be frustrated, mad, upset or depressed. Allow yourself to look in the mirror for a designated about of time and try to say three things that you are satisfied with, whether that be outer or inner beauty.
8. Remember that you are your own worst critic
Just like you are not continuously judging the body of others, they are not criticizing yours. Attention goes where energy flows, so it’s better to dwell in positivity and possibility because others will see the good in you rather than be drawn toward the ‘bad’.
9. Figure out what you love about your body
Find something you love and embrace it! Even if it’s a finger, or toe, celebrate a piece of you that you are comfortable with.
10. If you can’t be kind to yourself, be kind to someone else.
Flip your focus to help someone else rather than dwelling on your own negativity and self-talk. Maybe try volunteering somewhere? Then try to treat yourself the way you’ve been treating others.
11. Take time to do something that makes your soul happy
Self-care is NOT selfish. Spend time each day doing something you love, even if that means just taking a nap!
12. Rock A Bathing Suit That You Feel Comfortable In
Females; there's nothing wrong with wearing a one-piece if you aren’t into bikinis! Guys; just because you are a ‘man’, doesn’t mean you are obligated to go shirtless. There’s no shame in wearing a t-shirt over top!
13. Dress yourself up
Putting some extra effort into appearance boosts confidence and makes us feel better about ourselves
14. Confidence Is Everything
To be comfortable in your own skin, you need to have a good level of self love. This isn’t to say you have to feel perfect in your skin, but you can’t let the way you look in a particular clothing article ruin your time having fun. You deserve to feel carefree.
15. Reflect and acknowledge your accomplishments
It’s next to impossible to not be able to remember something you did really well, even if it was a small gesture. Look back on the day and acknowledge yourself for the things you did really well. By trying to be a little bit more positive, you’ll put larger matters into perspective and you might realize that life is happier than you’d been thinking it was.
Nobody feels super great about their bodies over night. This list isn’t a cure because sadly that's just not how it works. It'll take time, and exposure. Work your way up through a hierarchy to achieve the goal you set for yourself. For instance, if you’re scared of shorts, maybe try pants and then leggings, followed by capris and then finally shorts.
Always remember (and never forget), that the more you decide to make an effort to feel better about your body, the easier each day will become. THIS IS A PROCESS and it’s bound to feel uncomfortable at first! Some people pretend to be happy because they don’t want to bring attention to their struggles. Others can’t bear a brave face and are always looking for reassurance. Are either of those situations ideal to live in forever? Perhaps you’ve been telling lies to yourself and embracing self-hatred for years. These habits have become accustom to the way you live. While I am sure there are things you dislike, I’m hope that you’ll soon realize that you have equally as many (if not more) positive qualities you can learn to like about yourself.
- Molly, @mollyschoo