Aug. 10, 2022, noon
Summer is here, which is fantastic but can also be frightening for individuals who struggle with maintaining a positive body image. Clothing can be tighter or more revealing during these seasons, typically consisting of swimsuits, dresses, shorts, and tank tops. I have a love-hate relationship with the summer. It’s a time when my insecurities come to life and my body image is worse than ever. I tend to hide in baggy clothes as a coping mechanism in the winter. No one can see my perceived flaws under my giant parka and loose-fitting sweatpants. So predictably, I tend to panic when the shorts and dresses come out!
If you struggle maintaining a positive body image, you may be able to relate to at least one of the experiences and emotions below during the summer months.
Wanting To Cancel Plans Due To Feeling “Unattractive”
I’ve cancelled plans or avoided events due to feeling horrible about my appearance. Nothing seemed to fit right and in my mind, it seemed as though staying in would be better than being seen. You may be familiar with this scene: piles of clothes everywhere (not one thing looking the way you want it to), a huge mess, many tears, and perhaps a wasted full face of makeup. I find it helpful to find at least three staple items that I feel good in. This can be boring if you want to switch your style up, but it does help with that getting ready panic.
Swimming Bringing On Stress
I remember having a variety of excuses to avoid being seen in a swimsuit. It’s not that you want to impress others, but rather have anxiety about friends or even strangers seeing your insecurities. I'm now learning how to feel confident in a swimsuit by looking into styles that will make me feel most comfortable.
Shopping Turning Into An Emotional Rollercoaster
Shopping can be a recipe for disaster. I’ve considered only sticking to online stores to avoid the mental anguish. You know the feeling: finding an outfit you absolutely love, and being the picky person with clothing, already had high expectations for this combo. You change in the mirror, the lights are bright with your reflection on every corner and inch of the stall. You notice the perceived flaw you’ve avoided for months, and now you’re back to square one, feeling horrible about yourself and wishing you stayed home. If you plan to go shopping, it’s best to go with someone you’re comfortable with, like a parent, a best friend or loved one. It can take the pressure off, especially if they are aware of your challenges. Take your time, and try to be easy on yourself.
Scared People Will Judge Your “Summer Body”
There’s pressure to have that “summer body.” Social media makes us feel like we must look a certain way this season. It gives you this toxic idea that to wear what you want, to swim and have a fun summer, you must obtain an unrealistic beauty standard. If winter was a time when you hid under sweatpants, jackets, scarves or hats, the thought of just trying on shorts can be a difficult experience. I try to go online and look at people with similar body types to my own so I can better understand how I can dress confidently, and find styles that are flattering.
Comparing Yourself To Others
It can be hard not to compare ourselves to others, especially with all our favourite celebrities looking perfect in their summer attire on social media. Remember, social media is not realistic, and the majority of photos are highly edited or painstakingly posed. I recommend deleting or using the mute function on your social accounts if that’s a factor contributing to poor body image and constant comparison.
Masks & Zoom Gone = More Fear?
Summer months mean more outdoor events, perhaps lower COVID-19 cases and a decrease in mask wearing due to the hot weather. I’ve heard from many individuals that they have grown fond of their masks since they hide those perceived insecurities. Many of us have also been able to hide behind a screen. Showing our bodies (and faces) during these warmer months can be a huge step after going so long without being seen. Ease into it!
Not Wanting To Wear Certain Outfits To Avoid Drawing Attention
You saw a garment, and it was stunning, but you fear the attention it could bring. Having people stare or look can be extremely uncomfortable. In these scenarios, I try to remember that no one actually cares! We're all in our own worlds – not busy analyzing others. Most people have enough on their plate that a person wearing a dress or shorts will not be enough to make them stop and analyze. If they are, well, that’s their own problem!
You Got This!
It’s not easy to experience stress each time you get dressed and leave the house. You are not dramatic or attention-seeking. These thoughts can be daunting, overwhelming, and seriously upsetting. But you deserve to enjoy your summer and feel great. If these thoughts become too much, do reach out and seek support, and know that you are not alone.
Taryn Herlich is a Toronto-based writer whose work focuses on themes of mental health, dating, body image, and pop culture. She is also a creative writer, always working on exciting new pieces of fiction!