Allow me to illustrate in an outline:
I. Winters are problematic.
1. It’s cold.
a) So you have to wear lots and lots of clothing.
i) You see everyone bundled up–nary a sliver of flesh to be seen–for 8 months of the year.
II. Spring arrives.
1. It’s warmer.
a) You wear less clothing.
b) You start reading about the ridiculous concept of “swimsuit season.”
i) Anxiety about your body commences.
See what I’m getting at? I posit that the only reason we get body anxiety come spring is because we don’t see actual skin until mid-April, and then only til September. If you’re lucky. Think about it: we’re all huddled around, in our adorable sweaters and leggings and layers getting cozy and drinking bourbon. Sure, you may fluctuate a few pounds–which is a natural, good thing—but it’s pretty imperceptible for the most part.
The only bodies you do see are airbrushed models on billboards, so that when it times come to break out the shorts and sundresses, we’ve completely forgotten what actual human bodies are supposed to look like.
One of the biggest body-perception shifts I’ve had was in Costa Rica, the Land of Wearing Nothing. It’s just too damn hot to wear anything but scraps of fabric. Saris turned into tops and dresses (and served as beach towels), and you popped your swimsuit under everything. We wore long skirts to keep the bugs away, but even then, they were quickly peeled off because the beach was across the road. Only the necessary was worn: I ended up ditching the majority of my makeup, jewelry and undergarments because they were simply impractical.
I was very self-conscious at first, having found myself amongst the lean and tanned in a country of perpetual summer. But then I started looking around: everyone is nearly-naked. Fat, skinny, fit, flabby, moms, babies, pale, tawny, old, young. I saw different bodies. I remember seeing a beautiful woman with a stomach like mine–a little chubby with a brushstroke of faded stretch marks–it was like looking into a mirror. I very nearly burst into tears at the relief and weight that lifted off my shoulders.
When you see different kinds of bodies–boobs, bellies, butts, genitalia, cellulite, stretch marks–the body becomes familiar instead of an uncharted, treacherous terrain. You stop thinking that the airbrushed models are the norm. You stop feeling like you need to fit into that box. Jamie McCartney did a brilliant piece called Great Wall of Vaginas (that link is NSFW, by the way) to illustrate just this by casting 400 women’s vulvas in plaster.
So spend more time naked. Get comfortable with yourself in your own skin as it is now. Spend a few extra post-shower minutes benuded as you get ready. Don’t cover up in front of your lover. Treat yourself to some abhyanga. Dance around in your underwear if you need a baby step.
You’re not experiencing anything outrageously unique. There is someone else out there who thinks her butt is weird or worries about her belly rolls and stripey thighs. So now that we all know what that feels like, let’s stop. You are divine, miraculous and utterly perfect, every stray hair of you. Own it.