“Don’t forget to get some sunlight, and make sure you get enough water: you’re basically a houseplant with complicated emotions.” – A Wise Internet Meme
Bikini bodies and beach bodies
Summer is coming up and it’s that time of year we start shedding some clothing layers and think about taking ourselves to the ocean or the pool. It’s also the time of year many of us start thinking about how our bodies look when we’re not covering them up with Winter woolies.
(Let’s be clear from the start: I think the idea that some people have a ‘bikini body’ (or a ‘beach body’ – ugh) and some don’t is a toxic idea. A ‘bikini body’ is a body in a bikini. Same goes for the ‘beach body’: got a body? Is your body on the beach? You’ve got yourself a beach body. Even so….)
With more skin on display we might be more inclined to start to compare ourselves to others. Comparing one’s body to someone else’s is pointless, we all know this and yet we do it anyway. By and large nobody else really cares what we look like; more likely someone’s thinking more about what they look like, and some people aren’t giving any of this a moment’s thought at all. It would be so much nicer for all of us if we all just felt good about ourselves, and got on with living our lives free of these sorts of hangups. That’s the dream!
Surrendering to the feeling
Did you see the fantastic ABC documentary series, ‘The Pool’? It is worth a look. One of the truly beautiful things about the documentary was hearing from all the different people who have one thing in common: they like to be in the water. Another great thing was seeing the images of people of all shapes and sizes having fun in the water. There were stories of women’s-only pools, but mostly there was evidence that being in the water was a great social leveller.
I’m not talking about the posing and posturing that happens in advertising, in films and television. I’m talking about what really goes on when we just surrender to the experience of having fun doing something we love. That surrender doesn’t require that we have the perfect-looking body, it requires that we have a body we feel comfortable in. Some people only get this feeling very briefly before they start to remember all the things they think they should be worrying about. But here’s the thing we need to remember: some people feel comfortable in their bodies all the time.
When I was a kid living in New Farm in the early 80s we used to all head down to the Valley Pool on the hot Summer days – parents, grandparents, siblings. We’d sneak HavaHarts into the pool and hide behind the diving blocks trying not to drip ice cream into the water. I can’t remember for a moment thinking about what I looked like, it was all about cooling down and having fun. That’s the sort of surrender I am talking about.
Feelings and motivation
Feeling comfortable in our body sometimes means that we might want to lose a little weight, or tone up our muscles a little more, or build stronger bones. But generally speaking, and this is borne out in our work in the hypnosis clinic, if that is the case then the feeling has to come first.
It’s not always a positive feeling that prompts the motivation to make some changes, but it’s usually the anticipation of a positive feeling that moves things from thought into action. Any approach to becoming physically more healthy needs to take into account our feelings otherwise its just not going to “work” long-term. Just ask someone who has had weight loss surgery without also attending to their mental wellness. Things must be in balance.
How to get started
At the hypnosis clinic, we like to think of motivation not just as the energy that gets you started but also as an emotion. Motivation is an important emotional expression, but it is transient. Often people mistakenly wait for a feeling of motivation to propel them into action, not realising that it usually works the other way – the feeling of motivation arises from taking some action.
Feeling more comfortable with your body might feel like a difficult thing, but it can be accomplished quite simply in practice. Here’s a great place to start. Ask yourself:
- How do I feel?
- How do I want to feel?
- What action can I take to join those two dots?
Even just identifying those three things is a great start.
Sometimes we need help taking the action, and that’s ok too. Actually, it’s usually good. Most of us feel more motivated when we’ve got someone with us on our journey. The help could be telling a friend of your intention, telling a helping practitioner, or joining up with someone else who wants similar things to you. There might be some emotional issues that require untangling that you’re best to get assistance with. If you look inside and ask yourself honestly, you’ll usually find that you know what needs to happen.
Mostly, we all want the same thing. Mostly, we all want to feel good, to love and be loved. And though it’s trite to say it, self-love is an important part of that equation. We’ve got to be kind to ourselves.