Body Image During a Hot, Humid Summer
We are about three quarters of the way through summer, which can be a good time to pause and check in with yourself about how you’ve been feeling this season. Summer can be a fun time of the year filled with beach vacations, concerts, rooftop dinners etc.
These activities ideally bring connection. However additional social commitments, hot weather, and summer clothing can bring up additional body image concerns for many.
Dr. Lindsay and Lexie Kite discuss the idea of self-objectification in their body image work.
They describe self-objectification as the experience when we treat our bodies as an object by splitting off from our own experience and taking on the perspective of someone else i.e. “what does x part of my body look like from another person’s perspective?”
Have you ever found yourself doing this and asking these questions? Most likely the answer is yes. We as human beings crave connection and acceptance, and we live in a society that values thinness (even though thinness doesn’t actually hold moral standing). We have been trained by both direct and indirect messages to be focused on how our bodies look from other peoples’ perspectives.
There are many problems with this, but since I can’t change our society in this moment, I want to focus on the fact that self-objectification causes us to miss out on our own experiences and our own life. The concern with how our body looks steals the ability to experience joy in the present moment.
The first step in fighting self-objectification is first becoming aware that it is happening; then bringing your attention back to your own individual experience through embodiment and your internal senses: how does your body feel, what do the bottoms of your feet feel when you walk, what do you see from your viewpoint, what do you smell or hear?
Respect yourself and your body:
This summer, many areas of the country are experiencing record heat waves and the Washington DC metro area is feeling especially humid this year. Wearing clothing that makes your body more comfortable in the heat (bathing suits, shorts, tank tops, etc.) is a way of showing yourself and your body respect. All bodies deserve to be comfortable.
- Buy new clothes if you need to. No matter what size you are, if your clothes don’t fit, you are going to feel uncomfortable in your body leading to hyperfocus on your body shape.
- Chafing is real and so common! Use anti chafing balms or try out bike shorts under dresses or other forms of clothing.
- You are not the only one sweating. I’m not sure when society started seeing sweating as a bad thing and something to be embarrassed of, but it is natural and necessary.
You can do hard things!
Keeping yourself from experiencing life by avoiding anxiety provoking situations likely isn’t going to make you feel better about your body. Engaging in hard and anxiety provoking situations builds emotional tolerance. The more you do hard things, the easier it becomes. Wear the bathing suit, take the picture, go to the BBQ… live your life!
Mary Blair Holden LPC is an eating disorders, trauma and grief therapist at Monarch Wellness & Psychotherapy. She works with people in person in Friendship Heights (Chevy Chase MD) and also offers telehealth for people in Washington DC and throughout the state of Maryland.