June is here! With warmer temperatures, schools ending, and the goddess Juno looking after women, weddings abound. Weddings are a time of celebration, connection, and contemplation of the past and future. They can also be a time of doubt and insecurity for those who are struggling with body image issues. Whether you're the maid of honor, mother of the bride, or simply a guest, you will probably be focusing on how you look more than usual. From dress shopping to the final post on social media, I'll give you some concrete tips to help you remain confident in your own skin.
Before the big day, you'll most likely be thinking about what to wear. Depending on your role in the wedding, you may have something specific chosen for you. Whatever the case may be, refrain from feeling the pressure to "fit into" a certain size. If your dress doesn't fit you very well, remember that it's not because your body is wrong. It's because the dress needs to be tailored. When it comes time for a fitting, fit the dress to your current size. Don't try to anticipate losing weight, and don't tailor it to an uncomfortable fit. The best fit will help you feel the most comfortable.
The Right Mindset
When the big day arrives, try to get into a helpful mindset. One way to think about having positive body image is to be an example of a woman who is ok with her body. What would she say? How would she act? Channel this woman.
I often encourage my clients to keep a list of positive affirmations handy so they can read them when bad body image strikes. Pull them out before the wedding. Maybe even keep them on your phone to read if needed during the festivities. Some affirmations to try:
"The number on the scale does not define my worth."
"My body is an instrument, not an ornament."
"Life is too short to spend it hating my body."
"Perfection isn't approachable."
"My body is a loyal companion."
When someone compliments your appearance, graciously say "Thank you." Don't equivocate, and don't feel pressure to come up with an appearance-based compliment in return. Remember, you're sticking to the mindset of being an example. Someone who has made peace with their body doesn't want others to get the message that the way they look is their most important quality. So bask in the silence or come up with something else to say. ***Exception*** I truly believe that it's acceptable and wonderful to tell the bride that she is beautiful. Not just because of her exquisite dress or elegantly coiffed hair, but because the happiness and love she exudes is beautiful.
Connect to Others
Wedding are an awesome time to reconnect with friends and family and meet new people. Your body is a vehicle that allows you to form and strengthen relationships. Weddings aren't a parade of beautiful people (contrary to what the tabloids lead you to believe). Rather, they are opportunities to connect and socialize--something really important for the well-being of humans. Rather than draw inward because of insecurities about your body, forget yourself and reach outward to others. Dust off your social skills with phrases like, "How do you know the bride/groom?" or "Isn't this place lovely?" or "What do you do for a living?" When you engage with others and become truly curious about their life, you forget your own worries about lumps, bumps, scars, and sagging.
If you're part of the wedding party, remember that your job is to support the bride and groom. This is their big day, and they probably don't want your poor body image to detract. Muster up your confidence and be there when you're needed, fully present in the moment.
You know what else is a fun way to connect? Dancing. I understand (sort of) that dancing isn't for everyone, but it's a great way to use your body to help you feel good. And usually there's dancing at weddings. Remember that oft-quoted line, "Dance like nobody's watching"? That's a perfect way to maintain a positive body image! So get out on that dance floor and use what yo' mama gave you!
Sometimes body image concerns lead folks to disordered eating. When it comes to food at a wedding, remember that honoring and respecting your body includes nourishing it. Normal eating includes eating during celebrations, eating for enjoyment, and sometimes overeating. Allow yourself to eat all three meals plus snacks. Allow yourself to enjoy the yummy food at the luncheon or dessert bar. Now is not the time to punish your body for perceived flaws.
Yes, there will be plenty of photo documentation at the wedding. Don't hide from the camera. Allow yourself to be part of history by being in the photos. You don't have to be perfectly polished in order to get your picture taken. Your job is not to be pretty. Your job is to support the happy couple. Rather than focusing on your body's angle, your hair, your makeup, etc., focus on expressing the joy you feel to be part of this wonderful day.
Oh, you knew this was coming! After all is said and done, this day will live on in the virtual world. Just to reiterate, you don't have to be perfectly polished to get your picture taken or be on social media. You don't have to photoshop yourself. Others may post only perfectly choreographed, filtered, and edited photos. But not you. You aren't afraid of being real, having flaws, and being genuine. Post your best memories (if that's your thing), and try not to freak out when someone posts what you consider an "unflattering" photo of yourself. Remind yourself of the good times you had, and pull out those affirmations again as needed.