It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost every single person I know struggles with body image issues and insecurities. Some of them may only struggle occasionally, some struggle daily, some have had disorders and mental health issues stemming from their struggle — but almost everyone has them. They can affect your confidence, your perspective, and, of course, body image issues affecting your sex life can be a real problem. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to get help.
Before we get into how to cope, it’s crucial that you don’t feel guilty about having these issues. While there is a lot of rhetoric around that is encouraging you to love your body and accept yourself, it’s not always that simple. Of course, the body positivity and fat acceptance movements are doing laudable, incredible work at raising awareness and acceptance — but that doesn’t mean that, in your own mind, you can just flip a switch. While you should always endeavour to love yourself, you also shouldn’t get angry or frustrated with yourself if it feels like a struggle sometimes.
You’re going to have bad days and tough moments — people (women especially) have spent their entire lives being told by culture, media, and society that their body isn’t good enough. You’ve internalized a lot of bullshit, even if you haven’t realized it — and that’s not going to disappear overnight. You don’t need to pile guilt onto yourself on top of everything else, so let yourself off the hook.
So, with that in mind, here’s how you can start to deal with these issues and how they impact your sex life.
1) Be gentle with yourself
As I said, it’s not your fault you have body insecurities — it’s truly amazing that some women don’t, considering the way bodies are policed and portrayed. So if it’s affecting your sex life, you may want to be gentle with yourself for a while. In an ideal world, we’d all be comfortable ripping off our clothes and having sex surrounded by spotlights and mirrors — but that’s not really realistic for everyone.
If you need to do things to make yourself feel more comfortable, that’s totally your call. Maybe you need to take a step back from sex, maybe you need to spend more time masturbating. There may be certain positions or settings you feel more comfortable in — whatever you need, you’re entitled to it. Don’t be afraid to ask.
2) Talk to your partner
If you feel comfortable doing so, it can really help to be open with your partner about how you’re feeling. If you’re having sex with people you don’t know very well, it might not feel great to open up about your insecurities — that’s OK. But if you think you can, try talking it through with your partner, especially if you’re in a relationship with this person.
It’s important that they know how to make you feel more comfortable and can make sure that they don’t accidentally say something to trigger you or make you feel self-conscious. Your partner will want to be as supportive as possible — and they’ll probably be mortified if they didn’t already know how you’re feeling and had inadvertently made you feel worse in any way. They can also provide reassurance and maybe even a confidence boost.
Real talk? Sometimes, we self-sabotage — and we like to trick people into helping us do it. I’ve totally tried to catch a partner out and act as though they’ve said I’ve gained weight or I’m not attractive, in a weird, twisted, self-destructive bent. They’ve done nothing wrong — it’s all been me. I’m not proud of it. It’s not fair on them.
The truth is, often these insecurities come from a deeper place and people trying to make you feel better won’t magically change that — but letting them know how you feel so they can try to help doesn’t hurt, either.
3) Work on your acceptance outside of the bedroom
Because body insecurities and image issues can run so deep, it’s important that you try to tackle them — not just for your sex life, but for your whole life. There are lots of different ways to try to deal with body image issues, from positive affirmations to mindfulness to exercise (to show yourself what your body is capable of, rather than to lose weight). It may be that you just need to experiment with your look, your dress sense, follow body positivity and acceptance activists on Instagram, and fill your life with people who love their bodies. There are so many different sources of strength out there.
If you feel like your insecurities are holding you back, try finding out what nourishes you and makes you feel more confident. It may take some experimenting, but it’s worth putting aside the time and energy to find what makes you love yourself and feel happy in your own skin.
4) Consider getting some help
For a lot of us, body image issues will be something that we’re struggling with off and on in a personal way — that’s totally fine. But if you find that the issues are having such a large effect that they’re stopping you from living your life, if they feel like they’re too much for you to process or tackle on your own, you may want to consider getting professional help. Even just talking things through with a therapist or counsellor might give you perspective or tools that you need to feel better. Sometimes body image issues are rooted in trauma or difficult experiences, so there’s no shame in looking for help unpacking and tackling these issues. It’s an incredibly brave thing to do.
So many of us struggle with body insecurities and self-confidence issues — and for some, that will trickle into their sex life. Although it helps to get support from your partner and do what you need to address the issue, remember that it goes far beyond sex. If you’re gentle with yourself and seek out the tools to heal, every part of your life will feel the benefits — in the bedroom and out of it.
Originally posted on Bellesa Collective