Unapologetically You: Overcoming Summer Body Anxiety With Self-Acceptance

When the summer hits, warmer temperatures mean fewer clothes.

This seasonal transition from heavy, concealing garments to lighter, more revealing attire can trigger feelings of self-consciousness and discomfort in our bodies. Whether the pressure to be “swimsuit ready” is influenced by social media body standards or felt inwardly, the demand for the “perfect” summer can lead to the all-familiar feeling of summer body anxiety.

Summer body anxiety refers to the feelings of distress, unease, or discomfort that individuals may experience regarding their physical appearance, shape, or size. It often involves a heightened self-consciousness about one's body, leading to negative thoughts and emotions. People experiencing body anxiety may feel pressure to meet societal or personal standards of beauty or fitness, which can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, shame, or insecurity.

Take a few scrolls down your social media feed or FYP, and it won’t be long before you stumble across an ad persuading you to join a 30-day shed challenge or to order a one-size-fits-all meal plan. While these can be helpful for those aiming to meet their weight goals for summer, for others, they can trigger feelings of anxiety and psychological distress, due in part to diet culture.

“When we hear the word ‘diet,’ we think about restriction, versus it meaning what your relationship around food is,” mental health consultant and CEO of Revita Therapy and Wellness, Ce Anderson, tells xoNecole. “The word ‘diet’ simply means what it is that you are consuming, but we live in a culture where diet means restricting yourself for a specific reason or result.”

Psychologically, when there is any kind of restriction, Anderson says that it can cause our behaviors and self-perception to worsen, if not approached healthily or consciously.

To manage triggers from diet culture and comparison, particularly during seasons of increased body exposure, Anderson emphasizes the importance of concentrating on self-acceptance and acknowledging the fleeting beauty standard perpetuated by the media. “Social media, print images, and TV often promote unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards. Recognizing the artificial nature of these images and focusing on self-acceptance can help mitigate the impact of these triggers,” she says.

During the warmer months, the shorts are shorter, our tops are cropped, and dresses cling to every curve of our frame. But if the hyperawareness of how our clothes fit causes us to avoid social situations or engage in excessive grooming, this could put limits on our summertime enjoyment. “Are we doing things like constantly checking or asking ‘How do I look?’ or ‘Do I look okay?’ Are we using clothes to camouflage or hide our body?” she asks. “This can be damaging to one's self-image and self-efficacy.”

How To Ditch Self-Consciousness & Practice Self-Acceptance

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Many individuals, particularly in the summer or on vacations, may steer clear of warm places or activities like swimming because they can't easily hide or cover up their bodies. But the shape or size of our bodies shouldn’t compel us to hide. To shift our mindset from striving for a "perfect shape" to appreciating our bodies for their current state and capabilities, Anderson offers the following tips to encourage self-acceptance.

Reflect On Your Standard: 

“What are your standards? Examine them and then examine where your standards came from,” she says. “Are they perpetrated by society? Do they come from your family system? Do they come from the people around you, or do they come from inward?”

Consider The Realism Of These Standards:

“Ask yourself: Is this standard realistic for my age? Meaning, where am I in my personal physiological development? Let's be realistic about where we are in life in development,” Anderson shares.

Consider Health and Psychological Impact:

“After you examine your standards, ask yourself if these standards are putting you at any health risks, psychological risks, or imposing a burden on you,” she notes. “If you're noticing these restrictions are causing you health problems or that they hold a big chunk of my life, that's a problem.”

Evaluate External Influence:

“Lastly, is this even your voice, or is it that of someone who held authority in your life?” she shares. “Were they healthy enough to comment on your body composition?”

Anderson emphasizes that practicing self-acceptance involves recognizing your worth independently of social media, internal pressures, or family and friends. It's about affirming one's worth and truly embodying the mindset of, "I am enough."

“Being able to accept yourself looks like 'regardless,'" she tells xoNecole. “That means, 'regardless' of what social media says, 'regardless' of what people say, I am accepting myself — 'regardless' of the expectations of other people.”

She continues, “Why do we compare? Because if we’re unique, there is no comparison. I'm focused on my journey, and my journey looks like my health is a lifestyle; is not just three months before summer hits.”

Ultimately, our bodies are the vessels that hold us and protect us in every season of life, not just when we’re wearing less clothes. Appreciating our bodies isn't just about being thankful for the way they look but for it’s abilities. “Am I grateful for the fact that my heart is pumping? That my legs are moving, and for the sight that I have? That’s appreciating and valuing your body,” Anderson says.

“Acceptance is not a one-time thing. Acceptance is a daily practice. And that doesn't look like scrolling social media for hours. That looks like limiting your exposure to the things that make you feel bad.”

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Featured image by Alberto Case/Getty Images



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