Step 1. Get a bikini
Step 2. Put bikini on your body
Summer is almost here which means it’s time for magazines, weight loss programs, and commercials to ramp up their bikini weight loss propaganda. As I was at the checkout counter this past weekend I saw no less than 8 titles of articles in magazines promoting different diet and weight loss plans “just in time for summer!”.
When did it become mandatory that one has a “perfect” body in order to step outside wearing a bikini? And while we’re on the subject, what exactly is a “perfect” body anyway? The media will tell you it is a woman that has no hips, large breasts, and a perfectly golden tan. It is estimated that less than 1% of the population is able to naturally and healthily achieve this “perfect” body.
How do we let go of the media’s view of what a perfect body should be and enjoy a day at the pool in our bikini’s? We need to realize that are cognitive distortions are just that- distortions and recognize that we don’t need to believe and have them limit our outside bikini time.
One of the most common distortions I hear in my office is ‘everyone else has a perfect body and I don’t’. First of all, this just isn’t true. If you actually went to a pool or beach and looked around, you would see all kinds of different bodies. Short, tall, fat, thin, hairy, bald. People come in all shapes and sizes; we just have to actually open our eyes to see it.
When you compare yourself to the models in magazines and TV commercials then all you will see are perfectly chiseled, hairless bodies. But this comparison is not fair to make. These people spend their lives trying to achieve that body, and then the images are airbrushed. Essentially, you are comparing yourself to a fake image! That person in the magazine doesn’t even look like that image.
The other way people compare themselves is by picking out the people in real life that you encounter that you judge yourself against. If you do encounter someone with that ‘perfect’ body at the pool, your mind will automatically compare yourself to this person and how you don’t measure up. It’s like your mind is looking to lose in the comparison game! Why did you pick that person to compare yourself to rather than someone else whose body you don’t admire as much? We always lose in the comparison game!
Focusing On One Body Part
Another way we bring ourselves down is by focusing on the one body part that we dislike the most and then overemphasizing it to make it mean more than it really does. For example, if we hate our butt and think it’s too big we may say something like “my butt is too big to even fit into a bikini, there’s no way I can go outside my butt won’t even fit into the pool!”
Perhaps, if we were to stop and look at other characteristics of our body such as our slender arms, or pretty eyes, we would see that our butt is not the only thing that makes up our body. But we unfairly put a magnifying glass to one body part and exaggerate it to make it be bigger literally and figuratively than it really is in our life.
Projecting Our Beliefs
Often our minds lead us to believe that “if I think I look bad then everyone else does too”. This is called projecting our own beliefs into the minds of others. If you were to actually walk out onto the pool deck in a bikini, what do think would happen? Would people come running and scream at you about how terrible you look? No! The fact is, probably no one would even notice you. And if they did actually notice you, trust me, you are thinking much worse things about your body then they ever would. The fact is, most people are so obsessed with their own thoughts that they don’t have time or care to think about how others look. Just because we evaluate ourselves a certain way, does not mean that others do as well.
I encourage you to recognize your cognitive distortions and how they limit your life. Is it possible for you to live the life you want, which includes wearing a bikini at the pool, while still having your cognitive distortion thoughts?
Simply recognizing your cognitive distortions will not be enough to make them go away. But if you engage in the very behavior that those thoughts are telling you to avoid, ie wearing a bikini to the pool, you are choosing to live your life alongside your painful thoughts, instead of allowing your thoughts to dictate your behavior.