Okay, be honest. Take a second to reflect. What was the very first thought or image that came to your mind when you saw that dreaded phrase swimsuit shopping? If you’re like me, you likely didn’t think happy thoughts about the beautiful body you have been given. The body that held the precious children who are currently making a fuss. Your mind probably didn’t drift off into a daydream about how much fun you are going to have at the destination that prompted the swimsuit mission. No, if you’re like me, your thoughts jumped ahead to the event you will attend in your swimsuit, dreading being around women that you have defined as better looking and thinner. This is such a struggle, and it should not be so.
Our bodies, though magnificent, were not designed to be eternally beautiful, according to the world’s definition of beauty. To compare ourselves to other body types that we deem more beautiful is a torturous endeavor. So, what can we do with the intense feelings of disgust, shame, inferiority, and inadequacy we so often feel? Here are seven steps you can take to reshape your thinking.
- Name what you are feeling.
Our behavior is motivated, our relationships impacted, and pursuits are determined by our emotions. The gift of emotions are intended to protect us emotionally and physically, but unidentified emotions are often a breeding ground for destructive thought patterns and actions. When we take the time to explore and name what we are feeling, our emotions are restored and made to serve the end for which they were designed.
Ex: “I feel disgusting and inadequate when I stand on the beach.”
- Notice the sensations in your body.
Many times we may not think we are feeling anxious or angry or sad. But our bodies have a tell. It may be a dull ache in your stomach, tingles in your hands, or tension in your shoulders. One way or another, your body will reveal when there is something going on beneath the surface. Learn your body’s tells and leverage your physical reactions for the sake of your mental health.
- Identify what you are thinking.
Emotions are not born in a vacuum. They stem from an internal narrative, thoughts we may not even be aware exist. When negative feelings arise in seemingly inappropriate situations (i.e. shopping for a swimsuit), there’s a good chance some unhealthy thoughts are happening deep within us. For instance, swimsuit shopping may trigger the unhealthy thought, “I won’t look good in a swimsuit.” This line of thinking misses the mark in that it assumes that the purpose of your body is to appear outwardly attractive. This is simply not so.
Preach truth to yourself, replacing distorted thoughts with thoughts that ring with truth.
Once you’ve recognized the unhealthy thoughts that race through your mind, replace that thought with truth. For example, instead of allowing your mind to dwell on the thought, “I won’t look good in a swimsuit,” remind yourself, “My body is amazing. It has gone through so much and has sustained life for my children,” or “My body has fulfilled its purposes well,” or “My body, no matter the flaws, can still enjoy the beach, make memories, and love my children the same.” Personally, the truth that sustains me during swimsuit season and in this season of postpartum is a result of my faith in Christ. Because I believe that my body is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that my body serves a purpose outside of just being sexually attractive to the public eye, I am able to see my body as a beautiful gift that was created as a vessel to care for others.
- Be vulnerable with others.
Don’t keep your angst tucked inside. Share your thoughts and feelings with others. Break the shame cycle by confiding in a trusted friend about your intense feelings and encouraging one another in the journey
- Contribute to your health.
If your weight or unhealthy habits are contributing to your unhealthy thinking, make the necessary changes that will tune your mind to thinking in terms of health rather than outward beauty.
- Limit your exposure to unrealistic ideas of body image.
If you are feeling shame about your body, it may be wise to decrease the time that you take in media that idolizes beauty, size, and unhealthy thinking about women’s bodies.
Okay, so I need to change my thinking and beliefs about my body. What does this have to do with motherhood? Tell me this, are you able to respond gently, lovingly, and in the best interest of your child when you feel insecure, inadequate, and undesirable? Are you able to reflect a beautiful marriage when you are more concerned about the other women on the beach than you are about pursuing intimacy with your spouse? Are you able to be present and enjoy your kids when you are trying to make sure your flaws are covered up? Are you able to reflect to your daughter the beliefs and body image you hope to instill in her? Would you be okay if she thought about herself the same way you think about yourself?
This is tough. But you can be comfortable in your body. You are beautiful and you are designed to enjoy this life and intimacy with others. Don’t allow unrealistic standards keep you and your family from enjoying life.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.