Beach Body Ready

We see it every day: Women with curves are on the front cover of Sports Illustrated and members of the LGBTQ community preaching free love and good vibes over social media. We are finally living in a world open to acceptance, where we can be free to be who we are and love who we love. But, does this mean we love who we are? Does this mean that since society says it is okay to be thin or curvy that we think it’s okay? No, not really.

Just because we know we are loved and accepted does not mean we take the extra step to love and accept ourselves. It is not always easy to see someone preaching “big and beautiful” and feel like your curves are actually accepted.

But why is that?

What keeps those feelings of self-doubt floating around our minds when we are told we are perfect just the way we are?

It is because we do not allow ourselves to incorporate three basic traits into our daily lives: Love, forgiveness and humor.

We are taught self-love is the most important trait and that you must learn to love yourself before you love others. Although it is healthy and important to love yourself, sometimes, in the process of finding love for ourselves, we do not allow love of any kind in. We disregard the love from our family and we ignore the love given to us by our friends. It is acceptable to learn to love yourself and learn what it feels like to be loved by others as well. So, if we feel love, we can learn to accept love. If we learn to accept love, we can learn to give love.

Forgiveness is tough. We can forgive others and look past the mistakes they make but when it becomes personal, it gets a little tricky. The grudge we create for ourselves, subconsciously, make that body positivity we are striving for just a little farther out of reach. Maybe we start a diet and cheat a little two days into it. Maybe we begin a workout routine and it only lasts for a week. Things like this can definitely cause some frustration but that should be the extent of it; temporary frustration. Acknowledge that a mistake has happened forgive yourself because the point of life is not to diet and go to the gym. Continue going to the gym because you enjoy it. Change your eating habits for your health, your well-being, your happiness. To forgive is to move forward. Holding a grudge with yourself will only result in the lack of results. Keep pushing forward, we are only human.

Lastly, we forget to introduce humor. Laugh at the stigma that we still remain to see within the media, regardless of the self-love action going on. There are still girls that we see with the “perfect” bodies and men we see who are “perfectly” buff with symmetrical abs and 15 inch biceps. Those bodies are what Americans have portrayed to be ideal. This is a stigma that we, as a society, is slowly breaking down but we are not quite there yet. Instead of focusing on how you wish you could be them, chuckle at the absurd idea that every human should look that way.

In a study don’t by Psychology Today it was shown that women have a higher sense of self- worth after looking at an Instagram account created to challenge the societal norms. Celest Barber is a famous instagramer who creates “images of celebrities and models and recreates them herself in a humorous way. Both the original image and her parody image are posted side by side, accompanied by a witty comment. Together, her posts poke fun at our society’s absurd and unrealistic appearance ideals.” In this study they had a separate control group of women who only looked only at the model pictures.

The study proceed as follows:

Before and after viewing the images, all women completed questionnaires to assess their mood and how they feel about their body. The researchers found that the women who viewed Celeste Barber’s parody images experienced an increase in body satisfaction compared to the women in the control group. Further, the women in the control group, who only viewed the images of the celebrities and models, experienced a decrease in happiness. With this being said, it is easy to see how humor can be used to change the perspective we have on our bodies. It is relieving to see people who look like we do, normal, on a large platform similar to models and celebrities.

Saying something and actually doing something about the way we feel about ourselves are very different. It is important to surround yourself with positive people and good vibes. It’s summertime here and Florida and EVERYONE has a “Beach Body.” So enjoy the sun and the waves and love yourself just the way you are!

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Summer Loving

Hi all! I would like to introduce myself. My name is Bridgette, and I am a counseling student at the University of South Florida. I have been working with Mrs. Stephanie as her Administrative Assistant for the past year. Some of you may know me from our phone conversations, or by my assistance in the therapy room during my practicum experience. I am happy to share that I will be graduating next summer with my master’s degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, and will be a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and a registered counseling intern with the state of Florida. I enjoy writing in my spare time, as I find it to be a fun form of self-expression. Mrs. Stephanie has asked that I join her in contributing to our blog, and I am thrilled to share my first post!

Aaah, it’s sweet summertime!  Our kids are out of school, or if we don’t have children at home, perhaps we’ve decided to take some time for ourselves this summer. Whether vacationing, stay-cationing, or simply taking some time to relax when we have a moment of peace after work, summertime can be ideal for connecting with oneself again, and refocusing on what is most important to us.  

Summertime can serve as a great time to reconnect with our values, strengthen coping mechanisms, and re-center ourselves. For school aged children, teens, and young adults, summer may serve as the ideal time to begin therapy. Oftentimes when planning for summer we think of all of the most enriching possible activities out there. We register our kids for a great summer camp, and plan educational trips to museums. We plan picnics outside at the beach, and splurge on all access passes to Adventure Island, (anything to beat the scorching Florida heat). We take time to travel, and to be outdoors. What we often overlook during the summer is helping our young ones, and ourselves, to work on our mental health.

The benefits of therapy are innumerable. Research indicates that 75% of individuals who enter therapy show some benefit (APA, 2017). The following are some benefits of attending therapy over the summer as I have identified. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and as you are reading I encourage you to open yourself up to what benefits you could see for yourself of going to therapy.

  • Gain coping mechanisms In counseling we cultivate coping mechanisms that will be carried with us far beyond our time in the therapy room. Oftentimes when life throws us barriers, we develop coping mechanisms that don’t serve us. We may not even be aware of what these maladaptive mechanisms are. In therapy we learn to identify our not so helpful coping mechanisms, and to find what is healthy, and what works for us.

  • Manage our stress The summer can be an ideal time to take a break from our usual routine, and to work through out stressors with our therapist. The act of going to therapy itself may also serve to reduce stress. Therapy means having regularly scheduled appointments to look forward to for y-o-u.

  • Improve our concentration Whether we have a break from responsibilities this summer, or if we are still engaged in school and work, summer can be an excellent time to refocus, and to gain skills to help us concentrate throughout the year.

  • Cultivate self-esteem It’s the dreaded time of year again when we get to see the beautiful (beautifully photoshopped) models showing off their tans and their ‘beach bodies’. Rather than focusing on trying to look like the celebrities we see, this summer perhaps we can turn inward to work on cultivating our self-esteem.

  • Get a handle on our anxiety and depression Although we often think of wintertime as a time that individuals most often feel depressed and anxious, summertime can often bring those feelings to the forefront of our lives. The extra time off may be a relief, but it may also bring to light feelings we are coping with all year long. In therapy we can gain the skills we need to cope with feelings of anxiety and depression.

  • Gaining insight of ourselves Our modern society doesn’t often provide us with opportunity (or time) to take a step back and think about ourselves as individuals. Therapy, for some, may be the first opportunity for a higher level of introspection, and may be an opportunity to feel truly heard and understood by a compassionate listener.

If you or a loved one has been on the fence about when the right time for counseling is, I hope you consider taking time for yourself this summer to find a counselor who is a good fit for you or your loved ones needs. Whether you are reading this post this summer, or if it’s any time of the year, I encourage you to find a clinician who will work alongside you while you work on yourself.