Many of us perceive our bodies as the enemy. The one thing that prevents us from looking and feeling the way we want to: confident, comfortable and beautiful. But let’s be honest: Loving every single part of your body is pretty tough, especially with Photoshopped media images of so-called “perfect” bodies constantly barraging us on a daily basis.
Not to mention we have to deal with the nail-biting swimsuit season that’s just around the corner.
However, viewing your body as an adversary isn’t the answer. In fact, befriending your body, and celebrating it, is essential for your self-care and self-worth. Follow the tips below to finally befriend and love your body, and find the confidence to wear that swimsuit you’ve been eyeing.
Acknowledge that your body is a part of you
We know that we have a body, but when we have a habit of viewing our bodies as a foreign entity – something separate from ourselves – we disconnect from a vital aspect of who we are.
“When we ignore the fact that our bodies are not an important part of who we are, that becomes a problem,” says Toronto-based image consultant, Cherene Francis, of AuraImageConsulting.com. “Especially as women, from adolescence to motherhood to menopause, our bodies are very much a part of our identity. I think the first step to loving and celebrating your body is accepting that, yes, our bodies and our body image is an important part of who we are.”
Comparing yourself to someone else’s body – especially to the one on a fashion magazine cover -- is always a losing game: you seldom feel good about yourself, and you will only end up creating more distance between you and your body.
“Once we start comparing, we limit healthy perspectives of ourselves, and that’s when we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves,” says Francis. “We really put ourselves in a box by saying things like, ‘I should look this way,’ etc.”
What makes your body uniquely beautiful is, well, you. The truth is, the world would be pretty bland if we all looked the same.
Francis adds, “It all comes down to perspective. We need to step back and see that our preferred body shape is often determined by our culture. You need to step back and assess whether you are limiting your idea of your body based on cultural ideals. When we change our perception, we will change the idea of our bodies.”
Embrace the good and ‘the bad’
When you make a new friend, you relish in their positive qualities, and you accept – and embrace – their flaws. The same can be said about befriending your body.
“Really start to embrace yourself, the parts that you like and the parts that you don’t like,” says Francis. “It could be that you love the curve of your hips, or your lips. So play it up more, accentuate it. Wear a dress or put on a new lip gloss that enhances and embraces that.”
She adds, “Also embrace the parts that you don’t necessarily like about yourself. Ignoring those parts is not going to improve them. That’s because what is happening on a deeper level is, you still have negative energy there, so you’re still going to focus on it more even when you don’t want to. When we work with a forgiving attitude, over time, you embrace [your flaws] more and it doesn’t end up being a problem for you.”
Treating your body as a special commodity that deserves to be spoiled, rather than something strictly functional, will help you to celebrate how amazing it really is.
“Doing things for yourself will make you feel better. There’s not a lot of opportunities for people to pamper themselves,” says Red Herring of the Toronto School of Burlesque. “Burlesque is all about the ideal of femininity. So when we do things, we are exaggerating our hair, our makeup, everything. People in their everyday life don’t really do that. When you’re working everyday in an office it’s hard to see yourself as the beautiful goddess that you are.”
Herring suggests taking the time to think about something special that you want. “I want this gorgeous lipstick or outfit that I might not wear anywhere, but I want it for myself.”
The more you treat your body as something to cherish, the more you will believe it.
Give yourself a show
Standing in front of a mirror in the buff can cause major anxiety for some of us, so Herring recommends doing a strip tease – even if it’s just for yourself. While this might seem uncomfortable at first, it can be a way for you to learn how to appreciate every part of your body.
“I tell all my students to practice taking off every piece of clothing and taking off each piece slowly. One minute per piece of clothing.,” she says. “A lot of what I teach in burlesque is attributing importance to each part of the body. Taking a minute to take off a single glove is telling people that the glove is very important. And that means what’s underneath the glove is ten times more important than the glove itself. So by assigning importance to every piece of clothing, they’re making everything underneath – their skin, their body – incredibly important.”
When you begin to value your body, your confidence instantly increases. You’ll love being in your own skin, and that self-assurance will radiate from the inside, out.
Choose comfort over style
You’ve finally worked up the courage to go bathing suit shopping. Now what?
First, “Be real with yourself in terms of your comfort zone when it comes to exposing your body,” says Francis. “Follow that inner radar on what’s your comfort level. I don’t think anyone should ever feel they need to adopt a certain trend during bathing suit season. The first thing people are going to read is just how comfortable or uncomfortable you are at the beach or the pool. The whole point of relaxing and going on vacation is enjoying yourself and loving yourself, and you want to do that in a comfortable way.”
Herring agrees. “It doesn’t matter what size it is, as long as it fits you,” she says. “A lot of people get wrapped up in what size they are. You should only be concerned with the fit and how amazing you feel. So I encourage people to look at clothes at how they fit and not at the tags.”