If you’ve ever gone to the beach on a day where you weren’t really all that jazzed about your body, you’ll know the unique brand of self-consciousness that comes with wearing next to nothing in public.
Even worse? When someone takes your photo in one of those self-conscious beach moments. Not only do you get the joy of feeling insecure in the moment, but you also have the fun of reliving that insecurity and worrying about how everyone is judging you every time you see the picture.Yay!
But, never fear – you’re not alone in feeling that nasty little inner critic chiming up when you look at photos of yourself at the beach — most of us, no matter how body positive we are, have situations that are more likely to trigger those negative thoughts than others and swimsuit pics are a common trigger for that.
There are a couple of reasons for this:
Because we’re exposed – much less clothing than usual, outdoors, in public, totally vulnerable. It evokes a similar emotion if an underwear photo that you weren’t happy with got leaked online, only there’s an extra of element of “surprise shame” that comes into it – because we know that unlike an underwear selfie that was taken in the privacy of our bedroom, a beach photo was taken in public. With people. People who were looking at us. Being vulnerable is a scary thing, and we’re conditioned to put up a wall from society to protect ourselves.And we convince ourselves that if, when we see the photo of ourselves, the first thing we zero in on is one of our “flaws” – then that must be ALL that other people saw about us at the beach, too.
2. The mere-exposure effect
The mere-exposure effect is a psychological theory first uncovered in the 60’s and in a nutshell, it means that many individuals will prefer a photograph that corresponds to their mirror image rather than to their true image (for instance, a mirror selfie may be more aesthetically pleasing to us because it aligns with the flipped version that WE see, rather than the version that others see. And its purely based on repeated exposure to a stimuli – and has even been demonstrated with an array of other stimuli (words, paintings, sounds) and across cultures, and in other species.BUT – the same researchers also uncovered that the opposite is true of friends – meaning that your friends will generally find you more visually pleasing in your actual image rather than your flipped image.It’s interesting stuff and we can’t apply it generally to EVERYONE as results will vary, but we can find comfort in knowing that it’s all just perception!
Luckily, we’re not doomed to loathe beach photographs of ourselves and feel instant pangs of self-loathing the minute we see them.
Here are a few steps you can take that will help you get comfortable with seeing swimsuit photos of yourself:
1. Try and focus on the experience
When the negative thoughts pop in as you look at the photos, remind yourself that those thoughts are just a perception, not reality – then focus on what you were doing. Was it hot? Were the waves crashing? Did you laugh as you ran around and enjoyed your family’s company? Bring it back to those positive emotions and your body’s capability to help you enjoy them all.
2. Gain some perspective
Ask yourself when the last time was that you spend minutes carefully scrutinising a beach photo of someone else, picking apart their flaws – probably not any time recently! We spend far more time picking apart our own flaws and forget that we merely glance at photos of others (and they merely glance at photos of us!). It can be helpful to remind yourself of this sometimes to take away the “but they’re looking at me!” shame.
3. Get comfortable with taking more photos of yourself
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it can really help to feel comfortable looking at photos of yourself in general. You can have someone take photos of you but I find a better way to start is to take photos of yourself (the good ol’ selfie has its place!) and practice looking at them without picking out your flaws. They don’t have to be particularly posed photos, just private bathroom selfies even! Look at yourself, and try and note as many positive things as you can. If a negative, flaw-picking thought pops in, go back to Step 1.
4. Keep up regular self-love practices
All the self-love practice in the world can’t go back in time and erase the loathing that you felt towards your body the last time you viewed yourself in a swimsuit photo… but, keeping up a regular self-love practice can change the way that you react to the same stimuli the next time that the event occurs.Self-love can be difficult, and it’s a non-linear journey and what works for someone else may not work for you. It’s all about putting in the hard work, unearthing your own baggage and identifying the strategies that you find most effective in moving past mental blocks. For many people, affirmations are a great accompaniment to digging into the emotional issues at play.The biggest thing to remember about any self-love strategy: self-love is largely meaningless unless you find your why.What makes you tick? Why do you respond the way that you do? Why would you like to change this, and what’s currently stopping you?If you feel that there is some significant emotional baggage holding you down, I thoroughly recommend chatting to a therapist who can unpack these issues and help you find clarity amongst the fog.
Is your self-esteem in need of some first aid? Give me 14 days, complete the exercises, and I’ll equip you with the tools you need to make it happen. Sound good? Find out more here.