I have a complicated relationship with summer. On the one hand, it’s in my bones (born a desert girl, always a desert girl). It feels normal and natural to stand outside at noon, the sun at its zenith, and feel the heat spread through my arms and down my legs. At the same time, this season brings an uncomfortable reminder of my battles with body image, of a lifelong desire to look delicate and thin and noteworthy, now manifest in summer body image struggles.
Why do these feelings only make an appearance in the summer? The answer is a practical one. Depending on where you live, the fall and winter excuse and encourage hiding; that is, throwing on baggy layers, scarves, and hats until you’re barely recognizable, even to yourself. There are fewer opportunities to nitpick and analyze, and as a result, it feels more comfortable to exist in one’s body.
In the summer, there’s no escaping yourself. The heat and humidity almost require us to strip down and bare skin if we want to feel comfortable. Much has been said about swim suits and the type of body for which they’re made (i.e., an unrealistically thin one), but there’s less discussion about the day-to-day summer body image struggle that comes with this weather. For one, if it’s sticky outside, you can be certain that you’ll be keenly aware of your imperfections as certain parts of your body become sweaty and rub together when walking. I can tell you from personal experience that boob sweat is probably the most uncomfortable feeling, ever.
And of course, I compare myself to others more frequently in the summer months. For example, if I see a flat-chested woman in a tank top, I’ll mourn the fact that I can’t wear a barely-there top without feeling completely exposed. It’s these struggles that tend to stick around every year, no matter how much I want to shake them. I imagine other people feel this way, too.
While there may not be a quick and easy solution for this internal dialogue, there are plenty of ways to cope with these negative thought patterns. The most important step you can take is to open up to friends and family about your feelings and struggles with summer body image. Talk to someone you can trust about why warm weather can be triggering, and ask for their support when in situations that make you feel vulnerable. For example, weddings or other formal events are often stressful for me; everyone is supposed to look their best, and photographers are ubiquitous. I always let my support system know when I have anxiety in these situations, and they help me temper it by avoiding pictures, taking a walk, or simply looking for a distraction.
You should also define your summer style. Remember, just because some people wear bodysuits and cutoffs doesn’t mean you have to. If you’re interested in a particular item of clothing, ask yourself honestly, Will I be comfortable wearing this, or do I simply like how it looks on the model? Oftentimes, we’ll simply buy something online presuming that it will fit as pictured, only to discover that it doesn’t flatter our body type the way we had hoped. Note: I’m not saying that different body types shouldn’t be able to wear whatever clothing they want. You can and should wear whatever makes you feel your best! But for those of us who have a poor or distorted body image, this guidance can be helpful.
Summer shouldn’t be a time of stress and scrutiny, but it’s the case for many women who are dissatisfied with some aspect of their bodies (i.e. most of us!). In the end, though, it’s better to work with our bodies rather than against them. This looks different for everyone, but a few small tweaks in attitude and style can make a world of difference.
Also by Molly: Perfect “Yoga Body” Doesn’t Exist. How to Avoid Comparing Yourself
Related: How Getting Naked Changed My Body Image for the Better
Hilaria Baldwin Reveals Her Total Mind-Body Makeover After Eating Disorder Struggles
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