Why is it that some people feel insecure wearing shorts, tank-tops or bathing suits?

We live in a culture with a hierarchy of bodies that places a greater value on how our bodies look instead of on how our bodies feel or what they can do. This cultural objectification of bodies (i.e. viewing and treating our bodies as objects to be manipulated, controlled or molded) leads many people to experience self-objectification – a fixation on how we appear to others.

This constant state of self-monitoring often leads to body image disruptions – a term Lindsay and Lexie Kite coined in their fantastic book More Than a Body. For example, have you ever been going about your day feeling just fine – when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or a store front window and you experience a wave of shock, disgust and/or shame about how your body looks. These experiences (or body image disruptions) can negatively impact our body image – our feelings about our bodies. And having poor body image can impact how we interact and show up in the world – which for many people results in hiding themselves away.

How does hiding show up for people?

For some people hiding away looks like refusing to go out in public, or declining social events, refusing to be in pictures, avoiding mirrors, or can look like wearing full coverage clothing to hide one’s body as best as possible. 

And though full-coverage clothing may be cozy and comfortable during the winter, dressing this way during 100 degree days is not sensible or healthy for most people.

How can people get more comfortable wearing shorts, tank-tops, or bathing suits?

If you are someone who wants to wear shorts, tank tops, or even a bathing suit this summer but you don’t feel comfortable yet, one of the most effective ways to get more comfortable wearing more revealing clothing is to practice exposure therapy.

What is exposure therapy?

Exposure therapy is a form of behavioral therapy designed to help you face our fears and break through cycles of avoidance. It involves exposing yourself to the source of your fears slowly and gently in a safe environment.  Exposure therapy aims to help you overcome your fear so that the object, activity, or situation doesn’t overwhelm you with anxiety. Exposure therapy can also increase your ability and willingness to sit in discomfort and to do hard things.  

For example, let’s say you want to go swimming but the idea of wearing a swimsuit is terrifying to you. 

First, do you have a swimsuit that fits your current body? If not, you need to acquire one (wishful buying is not the way to motivate yourself to change your body – it only deepens body shame and encourages disordered behavior). Before buying a new suit, I highly recommend that you take your measurements so you can shop at places that carry your size. I have a great list of retailers that offer inclusive clothing and people can feel free to reach out to me through my website or social media if they’d like that list.

Once you have the bathing suit you’d like to wear, you can start by wearing it in the comfort of your own home. Wear it when you have some down time, or when you’re doing some chores. I want to name the importance of doing this and all of these steps with the intention of love, grace, and compassion for yourself. 

Once you feel more comfortable with how the swimsuit feels on your body, you can move to looking at yourself in the bathing suit in the mirror, and taking pictures and videos of yourself wearing the bathing suit. Start with a few minutes and slowly increase the time. Spend time looking at your body with compassion and neutrality. 

Finally, explore wearing the suit out in public. You can start small – book a day at a spa where there will be less people. Or go to a public pool during off-hours. By starting small and meeting yourself where you’re at, you can engage in things like exposure therapy to help you normalize your own body with yourself. It’s a wonderful way to practice both self-compassion and self-acceptance. 

Body Acceptance Workshop and Social Media info:

Contact Info:
Kelsie Jepsen
EmBODY Love Workshop
Visit embodyloveworkshop.com to book a free discovery session on Zoom
Email: kelsie@embodyloveworkshop.com

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