Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By Quinn Nystrom, MS

I know so many people that can’t wait to ditch their winter duds and climb into shorts, tank tops, and swimsuits. I get it, but I’d prefer to live in my baggy hoodies for 365 days.

For those who look at the heat, sun, and activities of summer as a blessing and a curse, I feel you. I would love it if I could go about my life without worrying about what my arms look like, if my tummy isn’t flat, or even how white my legs are.

But that is just not how I am.

Those who struggle with body image concerns understand that summer is a time to soak up the sun and climb into the nearest lake or pool, but we face these thoughts with debilitating dread. Many of these body image concerns can be traced back to many things, one of which is vulnerability.

No one willing starts their day saying, “I feel like being super vulnerable today; where’s my bikini?”

The Oxford dictionary defines vulnerability as the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

The “emotionally” part messes with our minds and makes us overly paranoid about what we do, or don’t, look like when it comes to body image.

Thought leader Brené Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. We get that unstable feeling when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.”

She also states, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.”

That’s all well and good, but I don’t feel any of those things when I am faced with the prospect of wearing anything that exposes my body from the shoulders or thighs down.

Instead, I’ve made the mindful choice to do what is best for me without worrying about outside influences or opinions.

If what I look like doesn’t conform to other people’s “norm” (what does that even mean?!), oh well. Despite the stories we make up in our heads, there are no crowds of fashion critics looking to scoff at what we are wearing or point it out if we forgot to shave something last night.

These voices of judgment in our heads are often mainly our own.

So, this summer, be safe, be comfortable, and do what feels right for you. If the thought of wearing shorts makes your heart race and your palms sweat… don’t.

I find myself repeating the mantra of “you do you” more and more these days, and there is great comfort in honoring what is best for me and simply not caring what others think.

If anyone is unfamiliar with this saying, it means to do whatever you think is best for yourself, march to your own beat, and focus on what you have to get done and your own needs. Whatever that may be.

Take care of yourself this summer. Wear what feels right and what makes you feel confident. Don’t get caught up in the downward spiral of worry that you may not *look* a certain way.

You are beautiful, just as you are right now.