Even the thought of a beach vacation can put many people in a zen mode—but for some people, the very idea can make them uncomfortable. You can easily spot these people, who flock together. Side A: The confident group with a positive body image. Side B: people with body image issues and BBD (body dysmorphic disorder).
Since I was a kid, summer hasn’t been a season I have looked forward to. Despite the alluring promise of school holidays and the adventures that come along with them. Mainly because the temperatures would soar and the children around me would dress in minimal clothing. Meanwhile, I would still be covered head-to-toe, to avoid tanning my already tanned skin and concealing my baby flab. I dreaded pool parties and beach Sundays. It all began with seemingly ‘harmless’ jokes about my body from friends and families. An offhanded remark for them was, unbeknownst to them, would be imprinted in my brain for a long time.
Fast forward to my college days—I was the thinnest I have ever been, and yet, in my head, I was ‘too big’. I remember always sitting at the edge of the pool, strategically using my menstrual cycle as an excuse. Even at water parks, I’d always be the designated friend taking care of everyone’s belongings—because even in a modest thigh-length swimsuit I would be worried that people cared more about my cellulite underwater than about making it out alive of a water coaster. I wasn’t oblivious to the fun I was missing out on, but the bully in me would always win. For those expecting this to be a physical transformation story, I’m afraid you’d be disappointed. Although, it does encapsulate the journey of how I have learned to let go of myself and finally enjoy a vacation to the fullest. It isn’t easy or rosy and requires conscious and mindful work, but here’s what worked for me:
Manage Your Expectations
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There’s a difference between setting a goal for your body instead of fixating on an idea of how your body should look. You’ve probably heard this 100 times—you don’t need to work on a bikini body, as long as you have a body, it is a bikini body. Do not put your body under strenuous diets before a vacation—do exercise and eat healthy if that’s always been your lifestyle, but don’t shock your body into a military routine for a short-term goal. If change is what you’re looking for, make a lifestyle shift and not a cheat sheet to a summer body. There is no template for a perfect body, except for the one you’re in.
Stop Negative Self-Talk
I know, I know it’s the nagging little voice in your head that makes you take digs at yourself, but you’ve got to actively fight that. Even if you’re trying to slip in as a derogatory joke, check yourself and stop right there. Not even in the disguise of humour, should you be negative about your body that’s keeping you alive.
Find Yourself A Supportive Community
Surround yourself with friends and family that support and uplift you. Do not plan holidays with people who don’t align with this ideology—whether it’s your family or friends, make them aware of your boundaries and triggers. People who are often making comments about what you eat and how much you eat could be well-intentioned, but it doesn’t help people with body image issues, since they are alarmingly aware and critical already. Also, for those who feel they can dictate what you can and cannot wear, axe them out too.
Before heading to any location, you’re obviously aware of the kind of vacation it will be. Whether it’s a tropical paradise or a snowy wonderland, you tend to pack accordingly. For a summer beach vacation, dive a little more into detail when it comes to packing. Put together your bathing suits, bikinis and flirty/sexy dresses, but also keep options that you’re more comfortable in. For instance, team a pair of flared pants with your body suit or throw over a white shirt on a skimpy suit. This isn’t to hide your body, but to give you that choice, in case you wake up feeling differently that day. Cover all your bases and you will be good to go.
Drop The Main Character Syndrome
In my head, I always assumed that if I step out in a bathing suit or a bikini, every person on the beach or the pool will stop whatever they are doing and to stare at me. But when I actually mustered the courage to actually step out in my swimsuit recently, nobody cared. Everyone there was busy enjoying their own holiday, relaxing in their spots and couldn’t care less about what a random stranger was wearing. Within 5 minutes of ‘letting go’ of the initial inhibition, I allowed myself to have the best time underwater—it was my first, but will definitely not be the last.
Don’t Objectify Your Body But Look At It Objectively
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If I were to stop and ask you about a body part you hated, most people would reply within seconds, but if only I reversed the question to what you love the most, will there be instant answers? I didn’t think so. My hips are too broad, my thighs too jiggly, my boobs are too saggy and my arms are too wiggly—can we for once look at this beautiful body for what it does for us and not for how it looks? Those jiggly thighs help you run free on the beach and swim in the clear blue waters—that belly you constantly diss, helps you eat and digest all the yummy food you’re lucky to eat on your vacation—there’s more to your body than living up to the impossible societal standards you set for it.
For more on body positivity, tap here.