By Sam Cleveland, NCC, PLMHP
Summer, the one thing that students look forward to, to escape the classroom. For some summer is time to relax, have fun, continue to play sports, and take vacations. For others, summer can be a dreaded time of the year because of the “summer body” expectation that takes over. The months leading up to summer are filled with “working on that beach body,” buying new shorts, trying on swimsuits, and the temperature outside is rising. All these things can create a lot of anxiety for people.
Shame, sadness, feeling sick, just a few of the things someone that struggles with their body image might experience on a day-to-day basis. Our relationship with our bodies is something that can be heavily influenced by movies, TV shows, professional athletics, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and magazines. Not only do each of these forms of media influences what we think our bodies are supposed to look like, they can also distort how we see our body.
Three things that you can start doing to positively impact your body image are:
- Give your body gratitude!
- Spend time each day to stand in front of the mirror and express gratitude towards your body and your ability. This can sound something like:
My legs are strong and carry me where I need to go.
My legs give me the ability to participate in my sport.
My arms allow me to carry things from one place to another.
My arms allow me to throw a ball, tackle an opponent, or pin my opponent.
My hands help me text, cook, bake, pick things up, write, etc.
My hands help me catch a ball, hold a bat, wear a glove.
My mind allows me to be creative.
My mind allows me to remember plays and be an effective member of my team.
- Challenge the negative thinking.
- “I’m not skinny enough.” “I look weak.” “My muscles should be bigger.” “My stomach should be flatter.” “I feel disgusted with my appearance.” “I wish I was prettier.” Do any of those statements sound familiar to you? We have thoughts floating through our head all day long. When we find ourselves comparing our self to others, look in the mirror, eat food, or wear certain types of clothing those thoughts can start to become more and more about our appearance. These thoughts can be harmful to your view of yourself, it’s important to challenge these negative thoughts with more accurate thinking. Each time you have one of these negative thoughts, challenge it with something more accurate. I am enough, I am worthy, I deserve happiness, I am brave, I am kind. Talk to yourself how you would talk to a someone you care about! Beauty is much more than just our appearance and when you learn to love yourself from the inside out, you can radiate confidence.
- Be mindful of your social media use.
- Take a break! Social media is a place where we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people and looking for other people to validate what we are posting. It feels good to get those likes but it can also negatively condition our brain to think that those likes determine our worth as a human being. Schedule breaks from social media and allow yourself to be present in what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis. You might find that are enjoying what you’re doing and aren’t feeling as much pressure to have a picture perfect life. Remember, what you see on social media is just everyone’s highlight reels, so when you are on social media be aware of who you follow and what you’re looking at. If something makes you feel bad about yourself, then unfollow that account so you aren’t constantly taking that in.
If you notice that you’ve struggling with your relationship with your body, it could be time to reach out. Asking for help can be terrifying, but it can also be extremely beneficial to your physical and mental health.