Going to the beach can be a real mountain to climb when you don’t feel right in your own skin. When looking around and noticing that every other body shape feels like an improvement from your own, it can be hard to try and tackle those overwhelming feelings of deflation and to scrap the idea of leaving the house at all. It can be even harder when you feel that those around you just don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to enjoy the gorgeous weather at the beach with all of your friends.
So how can you be that friend who understands; who your friend trusts in these situations; who makes a difference to someone who is fighting an internal battle within themselves? Here’s some quick tips to show your friend that their value is worth more than their external appearance, that they are beautiful and that they deserve to enjoy the hot weather too!
- Compliment your friend on something that isn’t related to their body. Let your friends know that their value as a person is not devoted to their body shape or how they believe their outside appearance to be. By reminding your friend that they are more than their appearance, you allow them to explore the elements of themselves that make them feel like they matter and that they can appreciate the things that they love about themselves.
- Help your friend to choose an outfit for the beach that makes them feel confident, normalise wearing an outfit that may show some belly rolls and make it easier for your friend to feel confident to get their arms and legs out! It’s hot outside and it can be so easy to feel like you want to cover every inch of your body when the mirror is telling you that you’re not good enough. Find an outfit that lets them feel cool, confident and ready to tackle the world.
- Matching outfits? This can be good fun if we make sure everyone feels comfortable and confident in what we choose. Don’t let anyone feel like they don’t belong because they’re too worried about how they’ll look in a certain outfit!
- Boosting their self-esteem about the choices they have made about their appearances. Try to avoid comments about body shape or physical features and think about what choices they have made about their appearance to make them feel more confident. Are they wearing a cute outfit? Have they outdone themselves with their makeup today? Have they styled their hair differently? Think about what makes them shine today and let them know!
- Avoid cancelling your plans to go out together! Although it can be difficult to enjoy places that can have so many triggers for someone who is struggling with body image, spending time with people who love and understand you can help to take the focus off our thoughts and feeling about our body and remind us that we can enjoy spending time out. Instead of cancelling your plans, recognise these triggers and come up with plans to overcome these as a team; this could be as simple as using a code word that means ‘I need some support’ or ‘I don’t feel comfortable with the activity’. From that, you can get help from those you trust in a way that doesn’t put you at the centre of attention. Such as; everyone is planning to sunbathe in their bikinis and your friend doesn’t feel comfortable to take their clothes off. We could find a compromise that could make them feel involved such as rolling pants and sleeves up, finding a spot on the beach that allows more privacy, using windbreakers so that they don’t feel as though everyone is ‘watching’ them, finding a swimsuit that your friend feels confident in or if your friend really doesn’t feel comfortable with this – please do not pressure them to do so, find something that everyone feels comfortable to get involved in!
- Picnic on the beach? Sounds perfect; however, if you’re struggling with your body image, you may feel uncomfortable eating in public. Work together to make a shopping list of foods that your friend enjoys too and would feel comfortable enjoying together on the beach.
- Hear your friend constantly putting themselves down? Stop those negative thoughts as soon as they come out. In privacy, ask your friend why they feel like that so that they can recognise when these negative thoughts are surfacing and as a team you can begin to challenge them and reframe these thoughts to show your friend’s true beauty! Also recognise that it’s okay to sometimes feel down and that no one is always 100% confident in their own body but by listening without judgement and showing you’re there to support them, your friend can start to feel more confident to move forwards with a strong support system.
- Planning to post a cute bikini pic? Press pause on your initial thoughts – finding a picture where you feel terrible about yourself plastered all over social media can be the most deflating feeling and actually make you wish you had never went out in the first place (regardless of how much you truly enjoyed it)! Be mindful that not everybody wants their image on social media and if you’re planning to post on social media, just spend five minutes talking to your friends to make sure they feel confident and comfortable for you to share that with the world – if not, then respect those wishes and post a scenic ocean pic instead!