Summer should mean lounging by the pool, hitting up the beach with friends, or finally taking that luxurious vacation you’ve been dreaming about. Yet, for many of us, the season brings with it deep body insecurity. That inner voice sneaks in and begins to critique what we see in the mirror when wearing swimsuits or shorts and tank tops. And while we may hype up our friends to be more confident, to truly believe that all bodies are beautiful, we have to start with our own.
If you experience body insecurity, know that you are not alone. In reality, about 80 percent of women and 34 percent of men are dissatisfied with their bodies, according to a U.S.-based study. Poor body image isn’t just insecurity, it can lead to very serious health problems like disordered eating and anxiety. So, if you’re struggling with body image issues, start by trying out these tips for overcoming insecurities. And remember to be patient with yourself — truly believing all bodies are beautiful (even your own) can take time and a lot of unlearning.
How to Overcome Body Image Insecurities
1. Recognize Negative Thought Patterns
If we want to change the way we see ourselves, we must first start to notice any negative self-talk. We may not even be aware of all the negative things we say to ourselves throughout the day, whether it be in our heads or out loud to a friend. Try to catch yourself and simply notice these thoughts and habits. Try to observe how you think about yourself. Meditation and other mindfulness exercises can help with this. Mindfulness will help you become aware of these damaging patterns, and simply recognizing negative thoughts is the first step to making changes.
2. Deliberately Use Affirmations of Positive Body Image
Start intentionally improving your self-talk. This may feel awkward or untrue at first, but it is important to challenge your own perspective. Once we become aware of the negative self-talk, we can interrupt those moments with a positive affirmation. Such affirmations can take many forms, the most popular being written and verbal.
Try writing down three positive affirmations first thing in the morning, and write them in the present tense, as if you already believe them. For example, “I am worthy and beautiful today” or “I am strong and healthy.” Then, try repeating them aloud in the mirror. Yes, it may feel a little silly or cheesy, but looking yourself in the eye and consciously saying something kind is worth it.
3. Take Control of the Factors Influencing Your Body Image
What factors influence how you define your personal body image? For many of us, it’s social media. From the glossy Instagram travel influencers to the beautiful TikTok dancers, it all adds up. The problem is that most of this content is edited, but professional lighting and imperceptible editing trick our brains into believing that these images are real. It’s inevitable that we feel bad about our realistic bodies after staring at false perfection all day long!
Social media doesn’t have to be toxic though. Start by cleansing your timeline. Unfollow anyone that makes you feel bad about yourself, even if you love their content. If you can’s unfollow, say if it’s a good friend, simply hide the posts so that you don’t trigger that feeling of body insecurity. Next, follow as many positive influencers as possible. Well-known figures in the body-positive movement include Lizzo and Ashley Graham. The goal is to make your social media as uplifting and inspiring as possible.
4. Adopt Body Neutrality
Let’s face it, some days we simply will not be able to feel the best about our bodies. Toxic positivity and forced confidence can also cause internalized shame, making you feel insecure about being insecure! Body neutrality is an alternative approach. It appreciates all that our body does for us and accepts all bodies just as they are. This acceptance can create room for you to beat body insecurity even on days when you can’t quite feel 100 confident.
You can start practicing body neutrality by redirecting your conversations and thoughts from your body. Work to halt conversations about body image, remove adjectives that have to do with looks when talking about bodies, wear clothes that are comfortable, and eat foods that make you feel good emotionally and physically. Focus on other pursuits and free up all mental space you’ve been using to worry about diet and exercise.