By Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD
Every day can feel like a battle when you have body image issues. Everywhere you turn, the media is putting pressure on you to look a certain way or telling you that you’re not gorgeous enough. Add to that the impact of aging, and many have their hands full buying into damaging socialization about what it means to be beautiful, sexy and have the perfect body.
It’s perfectly natural for people to find themselves occasionally critical of their looks or figure. While some days, you can look and feel fab, other days you may feel anything but, with women, in particular, reporting much greater body dissatisfaction than men. Such is the ebb and flow of body image, with an “off” day being just that. And, hopefully, you’ll be able to leave it at that.
But there are times or situations where body image issues become chronic. Lovers may find themselves plagued with self-image insecurities that impact their ability to relax and be sexually intimate with their partner. If a poor body image is affecting your sex life, then the following is for you…
Ask yourself where your insecurities are coming from.
Do you tend to feel unattractive, in general, all of the time, or are there certain situations that invite such feelings, like when you’re flipping through a fashion magazine? Make sure that you avoid anything that triggers negative feelings.
In cases where it’s your partner making you feel unattractive, realize that you may not be the problem. Your partner may have unrealistic, unfair expectations about people’s bodies. Your partner may also need a crash course in compassion and good manners. So be sure to talk to your partner about any messaging that you’re getting from him or her and how that makes you feel. If necessary, seek counseling in navigating the situation.
No matter where your insecurities are coming from, it’s important to get to the heart of the matter, since this will influence how you’ll take on issues. Blasting your body image may be just that – beating yourself up. Or it could be the sign of other problems that you need to deal with, whether they be an unhealthy relationship, your ability to age gracefully, self-confidence issues, sexual assault trauma, life dissatisfaction… Regardless, you need to identify your “Achilles heel” and take it on head on.
Practice positive self-talk.
The next time you look in the mirror, give yourself a pep talk – out loud. List all of the things you love or appreciate about yourself. You may have great teeth, a kind looking face, a healthy body… There are things about you that make you beautiful, unique – you. Don’t ever forget that you are your own work of art, and that there are things to adore about each and every one of us. Think of how boring everyone would look in being so similar otherwise!
Talk to your partner about the body parts you fancy.
Your lover may love the nape of your neck, your curves, your hair… You may love your partner’s shoulders, long fingers, or soft skin. With so much unsaid attraction in relationships, such sharing will have you both focusing on the parts of you that are attractive, and wanting to show those off!
Play with lighting.
Having the lights on during sex can be intimidating for even a top supermodel. Many people feel that they can let go in less light, focusing on things much more important than their flaws. Plus, dimmed lighting can feel sensual and have you looking sexier. So next time you make love, turn the lights down low, or light a candle, or get cozy in front of your fireplace, and experience a boost in your self-confidence as you get carnal.
Remind yourself that you are the real deal – and that that’s natural and good.
Most of the images we see in the media are of airbrushed bodies and faces. Some models are so digitally enhanced that they’re not even actual human beings – they’re carefully sculpted puzzles of other people’s pieces!
Add to that the fact that these apparently “perfect” faces and physiques are images of unrealistic, often unhealthy, societal standards, and what we’re comparing ourselves to is simply ridiculous. Instead of combating the media, set your own standards in what it means to be attractive and celebrate those.
Shut down negative self-talk the second it happens.
Challenge the ideas you’re putting in your head when they try to own you. Tell others that you will not participate in self-denigration when it’s put out there as a form of group bonding. Shut out the negative self-talk as it doesn’t do anybody any good!
Keep your flaws to yourself.
Your partner probably would not have gotten involved with you if s/he didn’t find you attractive. So why destroy such adoration and doting by highlighting your “imperfections”? Keep them to yourself! You partner may not have even noticed this “unsightly” bit about you. Your partner doesn’t need to know about your insecurities, as these are unattractive and can be hurtful to a lover who sees you as nothing but beautiful.
Be as kind to yourself as you would your friends.
Admit it, you would never say most of the things to the people that you love that you silently say to yourself when you look in the mirror. That’s because they’re hurtful, mean attacks. So why do you think you need to be subjected to such personal insults? Treat yourself as well as you would treat other people.
Dress to flatter your form.
Whether in or out of the bedroom, wear clothes that feel good on your body. You’ll feel more comfortable in clothing that fits comfortably and that flatters your figure. Not only will you look better, but you’ll feel better, too, and this can have a domino effect, fueling a positive, sexual energy your partner will find enticing.
Take time to bask in the nude.
Feeling good about your physique starts with being in the buff. In being out of tune with our bodies, it’s easy to forget that our birthday suit can feel amazing if we dare don it. So take time in your original state to stretch, breathe deeply, spread yourself out on your bed, rub up against fabrics… basically, becoming totally free and unrestricted in your most natural state! The more you practice, the more you’ll tune into your core and an eroticism that often gets buried.
Treat yourself like royalty.
Worship your body regularly, focusing on relaxation and better self-care. A bubble bath, massage, pedicure, rub down with moisturizer, yoga session, leisurely swim… can all have you feeling more luscious, refreshed, and, overall, better about yourself.
Pursuing such pampering as a couple can invite a whole new dimension as you celebrate your bodies together. Opportunities to touch and take care of each other sensually will expand your definitions of what it means to be attractive and how. It’s also an opportunity to voice uplifting appreciations for one another.
Fake it ‘til you believe it.
Confidence is sexy. And even if you don’t feel that way right now, the more you pretend to be confident in the name of sexiness, the likelier you are to sell yourself on this feeling. If you see yourself as sexy, then you are – you will be. No matter what you look like, that is sexy.
Quit your quest for a better body.
You may or may not ever have one for your age. What you can have, though, is a better body image, no matter what you look like. This largely comes down to your self-esteem. If it’s lacking, so is the rest of you. If it’s healthy, then you can embrace yourself regardless of size and shape.
Remember, the only person who can make or break the way you see yourself – your body – is you. You place the value on your sense of identity and worth. Learning to love yourself, and your body, is where better sex begins. Embracing your body enables you to fully tune into your sexuality, which can have you less inhibited in bed. Greater intimacy is just the beginning of the rewards you and your lover will reap in rediscovering your sexual potential via better self-appraisal.
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