I strongly advocate for physical health, and yet sometimes acceptance can be more important than placing rigid rules upon oneself, which serve to limit or even hurt self-esteem. One of my friends has recently gained weight and reports that she feels the impediment, particularly in her movements – struggling to access bodily parts that were previously accessed with ease, and, at times, finding herself a little more out of breath after exercise. She claims that she criticises herself while dressing or bathing, seeing her naked flesh in its abundance. This led me to query her and ask: “Would you ever talk to any other person in your life in this way?” Her resounding answer was: “NO!! Of course not – that would be unkind, mean and cruel – even if I didn’t like the other person I would NEVER talk to them in that way.” Why then is it okay for her to talk to herself in this way? While we live in a society that can be obsessed with perfection regarding image, body and appearance, it is interesting to ponder how much our investment into this type of thinking affects our self-perception in relation to sexual activity?
Often women are impacted by their body image when it comes to opening up sexually, or getting naked with a lover. Some women report that they feel less inclined to release inhibitions and allow themselves to be fully seen. They prefer to have sex with the lights off – potentially affecting the eroticism required for a fulfilling sexual encounter. It may feel safer to hide those parts that make us feel uncomfortable with our appearance or less attractive, however, this may limit sexual expression. I remember many years ago hearing a man say, in relation to what men may think of an imperfect body; “By the time she is naked, he is so happy and excited that it doesn’t matter what she looks like.” If women could believe this, and trust in their innate sexiness, perhaps the impact of body image on sexuality could be reduced?
It is easier said than done, changing an attitude – especially in relation to how we see ourselves, or how we think others see us – though becoming accepting of the body we are given may be an important part of this process. We are all so different, in so many ways, and there is space for everyone to be unique – yet there is still such emphasis in society upon appearance. Sometimes, even when others tell us that we are beautiful, the mind can automatically reject such sentiment. One way to start to accept and embrace the body we have is to develop gratitude for our body. The body that somehow gets us from A to B; the body that is able to see and hear for our safety; and the body that works hard to support our health and wellbeing. Not everyone has all these functions, so for those of us who do, perhaps today we might simply thank our body for being – rather than judging it so harshly. And it starts here: Dear Body, thank you for so gracefully accepting the ways in which I treat you and doing your best to remain open to my love, regardless. Now, it’s your turn.