Summer’s here, and with it, opportunities to strip off to swim, sunbathe and relax. Raring to go or hardly daring to bare? Body confidence is all about your inner feel-good factor, says Wellbeing Editor Lee Pycroft.
Slipping on summertime swimwear that exposes long-hidden body parts can be an action of angst for many people. In fact, last year The Mental Health Foundation found that 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
We are forever being told to be more ‘body confident’ – but what is body confidence? And how do we embrace it?
I define it by three principles:
1 Acceptance of Your Body as It Is Today
This is not to say you give up on any fitness goals – it just means you start to focus and appreciate your body for more than just its physical appearance and give yourself and your body some care and credit for getting this far in life. Acceptance isn’t passive: it means taking some new action that leads you to feel more calm and aligned with reality as it is today.
Try writing down five things that your body can do that you appreciate – or five aspects of your character that you like.
Maybe your hands helped carry your tea to your lips this morning or your legs helped transport you on holiday? Maybe you are loyal and kind and a good friend? Spend some time appreciating every small detail from a place of compassion for yourself. Put what you wrote in a jar, call it your Jar of Joy, and dip into it whenever you need a boost.
2 Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparison really is the thief of joy. The truth is, it takes no courage to devalue and diminish yourself while amplifying somebody else’s assets and appearance. It is a habit that can be easy to get sucked into, especially if you have had a tough day and feel tired or depleted already.
Start to notice what your emotional triggers are, what you are doing and who you are with when you find yourself on a downward emotional spiral. When you start to notice those times then you can create some awareness around what you may need to stop doing. For example, you might be looking at pictures or certain social media accounts or seeing an attractive person and immediately comparing yourself to them.
Knowing your triggers and the resulting behaviour will help you to start to break the pattern with more nourishing actions – like going to your Jar of Joy and reading the notes you left to help shift your focus.
3 Invest in Yourself
Take some time to invest in your body and mind. None of us are getting another body during this lifetime – so learning to enjoy and use the one you have will help develop a kinder relationship with it.
Motion creates emotion – movement will generate feel good chemicals and connect you with what your body can do.
Spend some time learning new coping skills that help you manage any negative ruminations – 7/11 breathing, for example, is highly effective and easy to do. Simply breathe in using your diaphragm for the count of seven, and breathe out for the count of 11. This will command your parasympathetic nervous system to relax, and help you think more clearly. Then you can work on taking a broader perspective regarding what may be bothering you.
Try out some nourishing and fun beauty treatments that help you feel more relaxed and confident, like a spray tan, massage or pedicure.
The small decisions you make today grow into bigger outcomes overtime, so choose wisely.
Have a happy, body-confident summer and enjoy feeling great.