Reflections on body image and retail therapy

A sometimes underestimated area of self care is developing a positive body image. As a therapist, self care is intrinsic to my practice. I cannot support clients well if I am not looking after myself.

This is a shift from my previous career as a marketer, in which my outer image was polished but the inner work was simply not being done. I'd be running on empty but if my fitted Reiss dress was on and blow-dry in place then people were none the wiser. To some degree it worked. However, the material and emotional upkeep came at a cost, and I would find myself depleted at the end of a work day, as well as short of funds towards my 'off-duty' clothes, picking up cheap bits online for holidays. My wardrobe was divided into smart work wear, and ill-fitting tat.

Since moving into full private practice the internal work now comes before the external. I've gradually evolved my wardrobe to suit feeling congruent and comfortable in my home therapeutic office space. There is no place for discomfort. To sit stiffly with clients is not helpful to either of us. Likewise, tacky fast fashion which stops me feeling professional is not welcome. The clothes I wear now are generally loose and soft. More gender-fluid. What I like instead of what is business appropriate. I invest in quality items which are hard-wearing.

I have a summer holiday booked, my family's annual trip to Spain in August. Last year, as usual I made a last minute scramble to cobble together some swimwear, and struggled with my body image for much of the time away. At 38, following having kids, a sale rack bikini does not offer the support or style required for feeling chic on Ibizan beaches.

So this year, in keeping with the new wardrobe, new me self care vibes, I decided to treat myself to a try-on session.

On a quiet, client-free weekday morning I strolled along the canal to Westfield, avoiding the weekend crowds. With the help of several kind sales assistants I tried dozens of bikinis and costumes, going by what felt good and flattered my body as it is, and not getting too hung up on sizing and prices.

In just over an hour I left, £150 poorer and the proud owner of three new swimsuits, which enhance my curves and make me feel beautiful. There is no awkward digging in, or risk of freeing the nipple (unless of course I choose to...).

All bodies are beach bodies and the power of well-fitting swimwear can go a long way to boosting our confidence when we lose the layers in public. I feel able to relax and have fun on my upcoming trip, with none of the dread of holidays past. It's amazing the difference a little retail therapy can make.


If you want to explore body image through therapies I have availability for face to face and online sessions in east London or UK wide for remote. Get in touch for more details of how this can help you this summer and beyond.






© Ellie Rowland-Callanan

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