For me, swimsuit season is like a Katy Perry song or a strong yin class: I can either love it or hate it, depending on the day. While many of us can't wait to hit the beach, my residual eating-disordered self still has trouble donning a bikini in public. In the last few weeks, I've been fortunate to have been on several sunny excursions — Vegas, Tucson, Croatia and Barcelona — and hitting the pool or beach has been daily practice.
Now, I've heard mantras like, "I'm beautiful" and "My body is a temple" and all that sort of stuff, but it just doesn't do it for me. Really, it's no different from saying my body is fat or ugly or gross or scrawny, because it still attaches judgment, and thus we continue to connect our self-worth to our body. If you've read any of my other stuff, you'll know that those types of mantras are similar to "I am perfect," and this is not the self-compassionate way!
So, here are 10 mantras I've been using to pump myself up for beach time, especially when I'm surrounded by what must be models, because I've never seen so many Gisele and Beckham clones (seriously, what's in the water in Croatia?).
1. My body is able.
Sometimes, when I'm having a particularly insecure day or moment, the universe will send me a nice reminder to be appreciative for my able-bodiedness. I'll see or think of something that makes me have this, "Oh, yeah ..." moment where I recognize how fortunate I am to have been born into an able body, and to have the strength to climb stairs and squat over public toilets.
2. Every day, month, and year, my body is changing.
My body is not the same as it was five years ago, five months ago, or five weeks ago, and it won't be the same in the future as it is today. Some might even argue it's not the same as five minutes or five seconds ago. Our cells are constantly regenerating, and today is a snapshot in time. Recognize the impermanence of your current body, and be kind and thankful to what today's body has done for you.
3. No one cares about my body more than I do (and if they do, that's their own stuff coming up).
When I was in Vegas, a guy came up to me and began talking about how he normally has a 6-pack but was bloated because he had recently drunk one of those good-for-the-first-3-sips drinks that's shaped like the Eiffel Tower. My first thought (after Hmm, that's an interesting pickup line) was interesting: here I am focused on feeling insecure in my body and slamming mojitos for confidence, and everyone else is focused on themselves.
I certainly wasn't looking around picking out people with cellulite or skinny arms, and my guess is that most people weren't overly concerned with picking me apart. And, if they were, it's probably a great vetting process for avoiding people whose energy might not mesh with mine. So, remember most people really don't care; they're way more focused on themselves!
4. My body isn't just fat/skinny/good/bad/pretty/ugly/anything else.; my body just is. Period.
So often, we feel compelled to finish the statement "My body is ____." Instead of qualifying your body with an adjective, why not just finish that sentence at "is?" My body just. Freaking. Is. As soon as we start describing our body with a word, we place judgment on it and feel shame or pride as a result. If you must describe your body in some way, try to describe it in a way that is not as loaded or emotionally evocative as good/bad/ugly/pretty/skinny/fat. Use words like "helpful," "functional," or "impermanent."
5. Will I care about this in 10 years, weeks, or days?
I live in Vancouver, and for many years I was a stone's throw away from one of the most beautiful beaches in North America. Rated as the third "sexiest beach" by Forbes magazine, I kick myself when I look back to how many beach days I avoided because the thought of wearing a bikini made my anxiety soar.
So now, when I'm feeling insecure, I remind myself of how I regret not embracing my body and partaking in activities that involved wearing a bathing suit back then. I know I won't regret tomorrow rocking a bikini with a less-than-perfect body today.
6. Do I chose my friends based on their bodies or body types?
It never hurts to remind yourself what matters most in a person. Realistically, do you choose your friends and lovers based on their body types? If the answer is yes, that could be a very shaky foundation for those relationships. People might be attracted to others initially based solely on their physically appearance, but it won't take you much further than one night.
Cliché as it is, confidence and positivity are sexy. I've gained a considerable amount of weight after my own battles with depression and eating disorders, and alongside that weight I gained happiness, confidence, and the ability to be kind to myself. Today, the people who come into my life tell me they're drawn to my person, not my body.
7. This is the body I have today, and I can choose to be kind to it or hate on it.
Ultimately, you can't take a magic wand and change your body right now (or at least, the majority of us can't. I suppose with enough money and time off you could get a series of surgeries and whatnot, but this one is for those of us who either can't or don't want to exercise that option. So, you have a choice: You can beat up on your body and feel like crap, let those demons keep you inside and keep you from having fun (not unlike the demons of anxiety or depression), or you can practice compassion toward your body, acknowledge that it's not perfect (nor is anyone's) tell yourself the other mantras, and go on with your day and your life.
8. If I were to get hit by a car tomorrow, would I hate on my body today?
Imagine tomorrow you got hit by a car and became quadriplegic. It's an unnerving thought, I know, but like thinking about death can help us appreciate life, thinking about our disabled body can help us appreciate our current one. Imagine today's the last day in the body that you have. Give it some love and appreciation for all it can do for you.
9. If there were no mirrors or media, how would I judge my body?
This one might not be surprising to you, but it can be helpful to be curious about the impact the media and society have on how frequently we feel like crap about our bodies. Remember how much the diet and fashion industries make off you believing you're not good enough. Remember how unrealistic and unrepresentative of the population the size 0 (or often "roided up") airbrushed models are. Remember that there are hundreds of different body types out there and they are all unique and miraculous. Imagine how you'd relate to your body if there were no media, no mirrors, and no mode of comparison.
10. My body is imperfect, and that's OK.
We are all perfectly imperfect. Marked and dimpled, asymmetrical and saggy, imperfection is part of the human condition. Instead of focusing on having a "perfect" body, remind yourself that your body is imperfect, as it should be. That's what makes you a human, and it's what all the rest of us humans share. Your body is imperfect and that's OK, and you are imperfect, and that's OK.
So the next time insecurity and self-judgment are preventing you from experiencing situations involving swimsuits, find encouragement in these mantras and get making vitamin D!