It’s here again. Bikini season.
I’ve been thinking: I do not have any women friends who have not talked with me at some point about body image struggles (this issue also affects men, but for this article, we are going to focus on the female body image struggle). Every single one of my female friends, at some point, has shared with me that they feel bad about the way they look. They pull at their skin as they look in the mirror – the skinny-minnie ones, the bigger, not so conventional ones, and all the ones in between. Everyone is trying to look different than how they actually look.
Sometimes we use code words and say things like, “I want to look stronger.” I have recently come out of a “I want to be stronger” phase. The power and pressures of the health magazines, the comparisons to others, and the not-so-silent belief that skinnier is better had taken ahold of me. Not only is the message that skinnier is better, skinnier is also sexier.
Every so often I come across an article that discusses how most men prefer women who have a little bit of something to grab onto. I have read many of these articles over the years. Probably, most of us do read them hoping to find some relief. I have found some, relief that is. Over the years, I have grown to love my body on most days and feel sexy when I look into the mirror. Not because I am told this by someone, but because I can feel it on the inside. The more articles written about this topic, the better! And it is true about guys, most of the men that I know and work with say that they are attracted to women with curves.
I recently worked with a client who was struggling to access erotic desire. As we explored his fantasies, he described scene after scene of big, juicy, grab-worthy booties that he lusts to look at, and re-live in his fantasies.
Another client shared with me the other day about a woman he was hitting on in a bar. “She was so sexy. You know, not the type I would normally go after. She had curves and this ‘way’ about her. She was actually bigger, but she had something that drew me in.”
The number one thing men have reported to me about what they feel attracted to is: someone who is self-confident and shows that she feels sexy in her body.
This is only half of the struggle, convincing and accepting that we ARE actually what our lovers or potential lovers want is the other half. At this point, it’s wise to check in with yourself: what do you struggle most with about your body? How is it affecting your life? How is it affecting your sex life? We have to actually start with feeling good in our own bodies. We have to stop putting ourselves down, pulling at our fat, and staring at ourselves in the mirror wishing we looked different.
I recently took a friend up to the nude hot springs right outside the city. It was a beautiful reminder of how different bodies are, and how as we age, we begin to look even more unique. Most women have cellulite, saggy boobs, bellies, jiggly arms, scars. Even though most of the women did not look like typical social advertisements, they were advertisements of life, and a life worth living. They were real.
I was exercising with a friend the other day who grabbed her stomach and said, “got to keep working out.” A couple of years ago, I started calling that extra padding on my belly “protection for my ovaries and one day, my babies.” I confided in her my relationship with that part of my body knowing that at the same time, if it was easier, I would take a flatter stomach. And why? Because I think somehow it will make me more lovable to more people. Somehow, if my body looked perfect, I would attract the perfect lover, friends and people in my life, and everything would just fall into place. I would somehow live more fully.
I have had a flatter stomach. Nothing happened. No one amazing showed up because I had strong shoulders, fit into smaller jeans, had strong abs. Nope. Nothing.
For me, it is about security. When I feel insecure about life, I turn to wanting my body to change. It is an external control that I ‘make believe’ I have.
When we begin to discuss better sex, stronger orgasms, and desire, we have to have already created a healthy relationship with our bodies. Meaning, if we hate our bodies, not matter how big or small they are, we will jump right out of them, unable to explore more powerful orgasms or more connected sex.
One important way to feel your body is to be in it. Yes, exercising and feeling your muscles is an important contributing factor to this. Yet this is a different type of workout than the fat burning plan. Exercising because you love your body and want to give it what it needs is a different energy than hating it and wanting it to shrink. Eating for your body is also important. Eating the foods that your body can easily digest and use to give you energy is crucial to how you will feel in it.
And yes, for me, and probably you reading this, no matter how hard we try to get away from body image struggles, every so often we will find ourselves back in the mess of judging the way we look, wishing to be skinnier, having longer legs, smaller thighs, trimmer waists, different boobs, etc. Yet, hopefully we spend less time in this place and more time loving ourselves.
Comics via The Oatmeal
We also love this illustration by Emma Gray: