Summer has (unofficially) arrived. Woohoo! I really do love not having to throw on a coat, gloves and big boots to walk my dog. I also love getting outside for runs and walks and enjoying all the warm weather activities. What I don’t love, however, is the inaugural showing of the pasty winter white legs that require sun glasses just to look at. What’s even worse when the summer season comes is putting on a swimsuit for the first time.

If you are like me, every year this causes a great deal of anxiety. I can never wait for the pool to open for summer but then, ridiculously, I tend to avoid going (if even subconsciously) for as long as I can. Finally, I will get over myself and go digging through the bathing suit drawer.

First, I pull out the top that I remember I liked the best last year. Then I go in search of the dreaded bottoms. (This is the tough one for me). I put them on and study my reflection. I turn to the side to see how far my belly sticks out. The blood rushes to my face and the panic sets in. It doesn’t help that my untanned skin only seems to make me feel even less attractive. I feel the all too familiar swelling of insecurity coming from deep inside of my soul. GAHHHHHH!

Long story short, I do this to myself every year and I know that I am not alone. Self-acceptance is what I always strive for and what I passionately try to instill in my clients. At times, and in many areas of my life, I do feel that confidence. Other times like this, however, I feel like that person from long ago that used to do her best to hide her body. That is not who I want to be or how any of us should live. So what can we do about it? How do we power through swimsuit season stress?

Step 1. Breathe

Step 2. Don’t hide. Find a swimsuit that makes you feel confident and throw away the rest. (This actually goes for all of your clothes. If you don’t feel good in it, why are you keeping it?!)

Step 3. Remember that what you see in the mirror is probably not what everyone else sees. For whatever reason, we have specific insecurities about our own body and those insecurities tend to be our primary focus…not everyone else’s. We are our own worst critic.

Step 4. Practice positive self-talk. When we constantly criticize our bodies, even if it’s not out loud, we firm up those thoughts to ourselves. Replace negative comments with positive ones. Go so far as to firmly say to yourself “that’s not true!”. Even if you don’t believe the positive talk at first, you will start to create new pathways in your brain that will help you find a better place.

Step 5. Focus on your positive attributes. Shift your focus away from those insecurities.

Step 6. Remember that you look 100 times more beautiful when you walk tall and stand confident. Think about the most attractive people that you see. A large part of what you likely find attractive is how they carry themselves…with confidence and ease.

The reality is that most of us don’t have the model perfect bikini body with no cellulite, perfectly proportioned torso and trunk, and nothing that jiggles when we walk. Yet somehow, this is who we put ourselves up against when we put on that bathing suit. Honestly, it would be great if looks really didn’t matter. I could tell you that all day long, but it wouldn’t be true. As a culture, we tend to judge people based on their looks, so it’s no wonder why we end up in a place of insecurity when swim suit season rolls around.

Shutting down the voices of criticism, both from within ourselves and those surrounding us, is the key. We are truly the only ones that can determine how we feel about ourselves. It’s not on anyone else, so it’s our job to decide what we want that feeling to be. This summer I encourage you to choose acceptance. Choose confidence. Choose self-love. Choose to rid yourself of stress and enjoy all the fun that summer should be!