I’m really excited to have Sensi Graves here on the blog today. As a pro kiteboarder (aka badass athlete) and the designer behind Sensi Graves Bikinis (which are some the best active swimsuits outs there), she’s in an interesting position to address the topic of social media and body image. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this topic.
“Is this too much butt?”
“I look bad in this photo.”
“I should’ve smiled more.”
These are the types of snippets that can run through my head when I share a photo on social media. The image I put out to the world is judged, analyzed and deconstructed and I inherently want to put my best self forward. But is this self-judgment healthy?
Besides overanalyzing the types of photos I publish, I (like most millennials) ingest an absurd amount of content. And while I see a lot of inspiring, great content, I’m also bombarded with literally picture perfect bodies….and then the comparisons start happening. I start doubting myself, my body and how I should look.
I know these comparisons are not healthy or worthwhile, but they still happen. The question is how can we all avoid it? How can we navigate the crowded waters of social media to reflect our true selves and ingest content in a way that feels good rather than degrading?
As a professional kiteboarder and swimwear designer, I approach this question of social media and body image from two platforms. I try to delve even deeper into the types of images I’m putting forth as a brand and as an athlete. I’m very conscious of what type of image I’m perpetuating and how that influences my followers.
As a kiteboarder and athlete, I’m conscious of my body and image. I do kite in my bikini and I am proud of my body, but there’s a fine line between unabashed flaunting and playful interactions. A lot has been said about sexism within action sports and how brands give support to “pretty” athletes while talented ones go unnoticed. I want my skills to say more for my image than how I look that day. I want other aspiring kiteboarders and younger athletes to realize they don’t have to be sexy or post booty photos-they can just be themselves!
As a swimwear designer and owner of swim brand, Sensi Graves Bikinis, I often struggle with what photos to post on my business accounts. There’s absolutely no doubt that scantily clad, well-endowed women make for popular photos. But is that the type of image we want to perpetuate on our feed? Are those the type of photos we want to see?
By acknowledging the harmful comparative effects social media and body image can have, we give ourselves permission to display a different kind of woman in our feed. Yes, we still have sexy bikini photos. But the intention is to empower women and show our bikinis in a way that’s fresh, fun and inspiring. I hope that it makes a difference.
Until the rest of the world catches up with this idea, what can you do to reinforce your own positive body image? How can you interact with social in a way that feels like your true you?
Here are some ways to cultivate positive thoughts about your body and take control of your social feed.
1) Take a break from social media.
Quit cold turkey. Give yourself a break and room to breathe. This past June, I was a competitor in one of the biggest kiteboarding competitions of the year. I had trained hard and had high hopes for placing really well.
At the event’s conclusion, I didn’t do as well as I was expecting and was quite sour. I didn’t want to see posts about the event or anything that would serve as a reminder of my disappointment. So I stopped going on Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t check ‘em. Period.
The break let me focus on myself instead of being inundated with content from other people’s worlds. I could stop reliving the contest and instead focus on my other projects. You’d think it would be hard but in fact it was a relief.
2) Identify your values.
As you’re taking a break, identify what you believe in. What is the intention behind your social feed? Are you a chef that wants to inspire better eating habits? Are you a decorator that wants to show your design skills and encourage others to try something new in their home? Or perhaps you’re a model and you simply want to show off your hot bod. The most important thing is thinking through what you believe in and what you value and creating an intention with what you’re putting out to the world. Once you know those values you can start to post photos that are in line with what you believe in and it will feel good!
Do. Not. Judge. Yourself. We are taught not to judge a book by its cover and not to judge other people, but I think we’re missing the most important non-judgment we can make – of yourself.
You should be your number one fan, supporter and lover. It’s certainly not easy to do but you can begin my starting to notice the conversations going on in your head. As you do, listen for positive or negative leanings and if negative thoughts occur. Stop. Take a breath. And counteract with a positive one. As you start interacting with social again, remember this!
4) Tell yourself that you love yourself.
This is one of my favorite exercises and takes about 2 minutes per day. At the end of the day, look yourself in the eye and relive the positive events of the day. Congratulate yourself on any wins and acknowledge any success. Conclude with telling yourself any other mantras you have and end with “I love you.”
How does social media and body image affect you? How do you care for your self-image and body image in light of the images you see on social media?