How much time do you spend thinking about what’s wrong with your body, how it could look “better” or how it doesn’t look like that other person’s body? How often do you compare your body to the bodies of friends, celebrities or strangers?
The more time you spend looking for what is imperfect or “wrong” with your body, the more likely you will be to find answers that justify the question. It’s kind of like someone searching for Bigfoot. If you invest a lot of time reading about Bigfoot and watching Bigfoot documentaries, when you head into the forest looking for Bigfoot then every rustle of leaves, flash of furry wildlife or unidentifiable footprint becomes a possible Bigfoot sighting in your mind. Likewise, if you head into each day comparing your body to an established “ideal” than the list of things you are unsatisfied with will grow and all the evidence will point to your body not being good enough.
Stop comparing. Start contrasting.
Alternatively, set the intention to spend more time thinking about the unique qualities, characteristics and skills that you possess. In doing so, you will be more likely to take note of the things that set you apart in a positive way. Part of doing this requires you start with #bodypositivesummer Step 1 to identify and remove external influences that promote harmful body comparisons.
Then, remind yourself and others that what makes you beautiful is your individuality. Maybe you’re a science whiz or have striking green eyes. Perhaps you’re great with kids or have an artistic flare? Whatever it is, take time each day to honor what you like about your body as well as your overall strengths and personal interests or passions. If you are someone who has struggled with an eating disorder or negative body image for a long time, it might feel like food/diets and weight obsession are your passion. If that’s the case, this summer would be a great time to challenge your norm by exploring new interests and shifting focus.
Have great balance? Sign up for a surfing lesson.
Feel connected to nature? Join a hiking group.
Skilled writer? Start a science blog.
Have extra time and love? Adopt or foster a new pet.
Got a green thumb? Start a neighborhood herb garden.
Math superstar? Volunteer to tutor kids over the summer.
Re-read all of your favorite books. Organize a beach volleyball game. Learn to knit. The possibilities and topics are endless really.
If you feel like you don’t know what your interests are, the key is trying lots of different activities until you find one that sparks your enthusiasm. Good topics and activities are ones that help distance you from eating disorder thoughts, distract you from body comparisons and create a space in which you can be grateful for the body you have right now.
If someone asked you what you WANT to spend your summer thinking about, you probably wouldn’t say “all the things I dislike about my body”, right? So ask yourself this very question. Imagine your brain is a container and you can choose to fill it with whatever you want over the coming months. Tell us your answers on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #bodypositivesummer.
Not on social media? Email your responses directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll be compiled to help inspire others.
Find more about the #bodypositivesummer series in the following posts:
- WELCOME to a #bodypositivesummer
- Glossary of body image terms
- Erin Mandras, athlete and Mom, talks summer body image pressures
- Body Positive Summer STEP 1: Stop Critiquing Your Body. Start Critiquing the Thin Ideal.