Cosmopolitan India|June 2020
What do you think about when you’re in a swimsuit?
Unfortunately, for a lot of us, the answer is: how my thighs/tummy/bum look. Sarah K* doesn’t think that way. Why? Because the advertising consultant lived in Spain between the ages of 12 and 34, and she thinks this has had a profound impact on her body confidence. “For over half the year (most years, that is), everyone is at the beach—aunts, uncles, neighbours, friends—which means you grow up used to seeing bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages,” she says. “Nobody is looking or judging. In the UK, though, there’s no sense of shame or embarrassment associated with bodies.” In India, the idea of reclining in nothing save a few patches of polyester is enough to send most of the population reeling, too. So what lessons can we learn from women just like us around the world?
Before Leila D* went to live in Portugal, she wasn’t completely at ease about her body. “My self-esteem wasn’t awful, but I’d worry about wearing a bikini, and would have sex with the lights out,” she recalls. “But in Portugal, I’d spend every weekend at the beach or pool, so being in a bikini felt normal. I’d see a little cellulite on a friend’s thigh and think, ‘It’s not just me’.” In research published in the Journal Of Happiness Studies, Keon West, professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, set out to explore the relationship between donning your birthday suit and body confidence. He found that more participation in naturist activities led to greater life satisfaction via a positive body image and higher self-esteem. Essentially, the fact that wearing next to nothing in front of everyone from your man to your dentist is the norm in some countries—not in ours—could contribute to this self-esteem disparity.
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