A few weeks ago I experienced something that can make many women cringe. It’s the moment you have to remove the cover-up when you’re at the beach or the swimming pool and you’re not super thrilled with your body…
Let me describe what happened to me recently…
So my man and I had decided that we wanted to get away for a bit this summer. He lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast, and so our summer vacation was going to be a great way to unplug and spend some much needed time together.
We decided that we wanted to hit up a beach and spend the time laying in the sun (or under an umbrella) and drinking refreshing adult beverages (possibly garnished with a tiny umbrella). We also planned to do a lot of reading, and since we’re both bookworms, it is the perfect way for us to spend our vacation.
Our destination was Cancun, Mexico, and we ended up at this FABULOUS resort called Excellence Riviera Cancun. –BTW if you want to spend some time in Riviera Maya, then you HAVE to stay here. This place was absolutely amazing!– We went with the all-inclusive package for the week that we were there, which took all sorts of stress off since we didn’t have to worry about how much food/drink cost at every single meal. Decisions make me tired, and I basically didn’t have to make any that week (the most complex decision was do I stay in the pool or go in the ocean right now?). We could just relax and enjoy the whole resort.
There was one teeny tiny catch in this whole plan for me. In order to fully enjoy gorgeous/massive swimming pools and the warm waters of the ocean, I was probably gonna have to wear a swimsuit… As you may or may not know, I still have a ways to go on my physique goals.
After college I put on a good 50 pounds. Over the past year or so, I’ve been slowly working on changing how my body looks through smart nutrition (eating more of the right foods), efficient workouts (shorter, more intense workouts like these have been extremely important), managing stress and getting enough sleep.
By doing these things, I’ve been able to shed about 20 lbs in a little over a year I’m super excited with my progress, but at the same time still have a ways to go and am not super comfortable exposing a lot of skin for all the world to see.
And to be honest, I was scared to death of having my man see me in a swimsuit for almost a whole week straight. He has been incredibly supportive of my goals and efforts to get healthy again and encourages me however he can.
I so much appreciate his support, and I know that he never would judge me or say anything that would make me feel anything other than beautiful.
But I was still kinda freaking out cause I didn’t look as good as I thought I should look. [And I have abandonment issues so I'm constantly fighting the urge to do everything that I think makes the people around me happy (yeah, people pleasing is a struggle for me). But that's another post ]
Anyway, that was my biggest mistake right there. Telling myself “you should look different” does absolutely nothing in the moment. All that means is that when it was time to finally remove the cover-up, I was slightly panicked, nauseous, and drowning in insecurity.
Basically I was miserable.
That first day when I was pulling off the cover-up, I was feeling all those things all at once. Then I thought to myself — Um hello Lauren!! Miserable is the opposite of what you want to be on this trip!! Sure you aren’t as far along in your journey as you want to be, but you’re further than you were last year. On top of that, this is how you look RIGHT NOW.
So dear self, you have two options.
1. You can continue to panic, feel miserable, say horrible things to yourself about how your thighs are massive and the girl across from you has tiny thighs. Then you’ll miss out on all the things you could enjoy with your man because you’re too freaked out about how you look to have fun. Oh, not to mention you’ll be wrapped up in thoughts of yourself and what other people are probably thinking about you instead of engaged in the present moment and what all is going on…
2. You can choose to be HERE, in the NOW. Acknowledge that the body that is here in this moment is the only body you’ve got. In this moment, you can’t do anything at all to change it, so you are free to enjoy the moment instead. You can’t do anything about it so why stress and shame yourself over it? Plus, you think people are looking at you?? Well trust me, they are more concerned with how THEY look in THEIR suits to be paying any sort of attention to how you look. <– This is soooooo true!
So I thought about it for about, ummm, 2 sec?
I decided I wanted to enjoy my time and NOT be miserable.
So I went with option 2.
Each time I felt insecure, I told myself, “This is my body; I’m gonna own it. I can’t change it right now, so I am going to choose to focus on what’s happening with me and my man and what’s happening at this gorgeous resort. Instead of focusing on myself and worrying what others think, I’m gonna have a good time.”
I wish I could say that I only needed to tell myself this once, but I didn’t.
It came up several times over the first couple days, but every time the feelings of insecurity surfaced, I called them out (in my head of course… it might be a little weird to literally call them out ), and then I chose to think different thoughts about me and my body. By the middle of the week, those feelings were surfacing less and less and I was able to completely enjoy my time.
Looking back now, I know I would’ve missed out on soooo much if I’d spent my time in my bikini freaking out about how I looked. In short, letting go of my insecurity was FREEING. I was FREE from self-doubt and worrying about what other people are thinking. I could go into bikini situations totally relaxed and just be myself. That made the trip so relaxing and fun. I couldn’t have asked for more.
I wish I could say I know I’ll never have to worry about these feelings popping up again, but the journey to accepting your body in the moment, in every moment, is lifelong.
[Note: just because you accept how your body is in this moment doesn't mean that you can't have body change goals... but it's important not to try and guilt or shame yourself into changing... that doesn't work longterm... accepting your body in the moment allows you to approach your body change goals from a place of love and gratitude for all your body is capable of instead of "ugh I hate how I look and can't wait to look different"].
So in the future, when these things come up for me, here are a few condensed steps of what I’ll do to address the insecurity. I hope you’ll find them helpful, too.
1. Be aware that you’re feeling insecure.
This is a toughie. Calling out your emotions AND being able to connect them to underlying beliefs/feelings takes a while to start doing and is a process. One way that I know I’m feeling insecure is that I get a tightening in my stomach/I get nauseous, I can feel my pulse quicken, and I get thoughts of “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I don’t think I can do this” or “holy crap I just want to run away” or “omg EVERYONE is looking at me and they’re probably saying ______”. These are ways I know my emotions are probably coming from some feeling of insecurity. I like to acknowledge this around the time it’s happening, if I catch it… but I don’t always catch it. That’s why I like to journal – I can write out the situation and what I was feeling.
2. Connect those feelings to thoughts/beliefs.
This is the 2nd most difficult part – figuring out what thought the emotion is connected to. One more reason journaling is important to me because this step is really difficult in the moment. When I’m journaling and removed from the heat of the situation, it gives me a chance to say “ooooh, this is what was running through my head but I was so caught up in the emotions that I couldn’t see my thoughts. This is what those thoughts are.” This step helps you separate the panic/emotions/physical reactions of insecurity from the associated thoughts. Once you acknowledge the thoughts connected to the feelings/behaviors, you can choose to replace the crappy thoughts with better ones.
3. Give yourself an alternative.
Jill Coleman (my mentor) asks this all the time, “What’s the alternative?” In this situation, I could continue to dwell on how I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be in yet and how everyone was probably looking at me. OR I could choose the alternative. The alternative would be to focus my mental energy on being grateful for the progress I’d made and that I had a body that would allow me to lounge in the sun, swim, and walk along the beach. I could also focus my energy/thoughts on the man and how much fun we were having together. SO basically I could continue to be miserable by continuing to think the same thoughts, or I could choose the alternative – gratitude and focusing outside myself.
4. Expect that you’ll have to remind yourself of this again and again and again and again….
You probably know this already – old habits die hard. You’ve probably been mentally beating yourself up for yearssssss. I know I sure have! Suddenly changing what you say about yourself, and getting those positive thoughts to be the first things you think, will take a while. So don’t get discouraged when you remind yourself of all the wonderful things about your body, and then 20 min later you catch a glimpse of your reflection in a window as you walk by and go “ugh”. Take that as another chance to reinforce to yourself all the positive things you’ll choose to believe about your body.
This is what I want for you (and me) – that the next time you experience feelings of insecurity over anything, you’ll be able to call out those feelings, connect them to some negative thought or belief, and replace the garbage with some beautiful truths about yourself. So to get you thinking about this — Tell me in the comments below, what situations create feelings of insecurity for you?
If this resonates with you or you think someone else would glean a teensy bit of knowledge from this post, please share! Email it, like it, tweet it, whatevs… just get the message out there that us gorgeous former athletes can choose how we talk to ourselves and what we say about ourselves and that they CAN be positive thoughts.
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