I Am Beautiful – Creating a Body Positive Context
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz
How does the way you feel about your body impact your sex life? Do you want to be touched by your partner when you feel unattractive? Human body is a mean of expressing and experiencing sexual pleasure but can also be a source of distraction or burden. The way you think and perceive own body can interfere with being able to focus on pleasurable sensations and can reduce confidence in sexual abilities. This can in turn lead to encountering difficulties in your sex life and feeling incomplete. Where is the source of this body self-criticism?
What does it mean to be physically and sexually attractive? Different cultures and different centuries have their own definitions but nevertheless, the impact of society is undoubtful. Women are put under constant pressure to confront the natural instinct for maintaining a biologically healthy body with the existing trend of slenderness and thinness. These societal expectations impel women to meet unhealthy and unrealistic standards, which are furthermore intensified by body self-criticism when not obtained.
Body image dissatisfaction doesn’t have BMI and can occur regardless of actual body size. Many women, despite having normal BMI status, still would like to lose weight. There is pressure that women put on themselves to meet the social requirements of ideal body standards. It is not the actual size but the subjective evaluation of own body size that is affecting body satisfaction. If you don’t learn how to accept yourself the way you are, body weight change might not resolve your struggles.
Recently, the Women and Equalities Committee in UK has conducted a survey on body image. The study included over 7,900 participants and highlighted the constantly high level of body image dissatisfaction among men (53%) and especially women (62%). During the time of lockdown, the pressure of being afraid of putting on weight and to improve one’s appearance, have impelled a relevant number of individuals (53%) to feel even worse about own body. These negative attitudes towards own body were shown to impact overall well-being by evoking feelings of shame, anxiety and depression by putting people under constant pressure to match the ideals presented in social media and to compare unfavourably to others.
Body image and sexuality
Studies show that negative body image can impact many aspects of sex life, like sexual desire, arousal and orgasm. Women who have a tendency to focus on how their bodies look during sexual contact may shift their attention from pleasurable body sensations to non-sexual thoughts. Being self-consciousness and attentive to elements that are not directly connected with sexual activity can disturb one’s sexual responsiveness and can lead to a decrease in the quality of sex life.
One of the recent reviews of research linking body image and sexual well-being emphasize the beneficial effects of a positive body image on sexuality, particularly for women. Females who perceive their body in a more positive way tend to express greater sexual confidence and drive for sexual contact and feel more satisfied with their sexual life. Having a positive body image can help focus on own sexual needs and body sensations, thus can facilitate the experience of sexual pleasure. It seems important that every woman learn how to grant herself this space and autonomy to be confident about own body and sexual abilities.
Embrace your body
How to achieve the body positive context?
- Be grateful for the way your body adapts to any changes in your life (e.g., puberty, pregnancy, putting on weight, losing weight, ageing, health issues etc.). These are all memories of what your body went through.
- Give yourself and your body a treat (e.g., home spa).
- Look at your body and list all the body parts that you like. If it doesn’t work the first time, it’s fine. Give yourself space.
- Give yourself a day off from Social Media. Be mindful of how you feel about your own body and appearance’s when you look at other people profiles. If you find that it causes some distress in relation to your body image and self-confidence, consider unfollowing them. Look for inspiration in yourself.
- Praise yourself for qualities unrelated to physical appearance and try to avoid criticising your own or other people’s appearance.
- Don’t wait until your goals are achieved and try to avoid placing unrealistic expectations on how you should look. Appreciate yourself for who you are now.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… There is no single beauty and body ideal and every person should be able to express own body in a diverse way by creating and nurturing own beauty. Be kind to yourself by taking care of your body and its needs. If you treat your body with respect and appreciation, you will show others how you want to be perceived and treated. Let yourself be beautiful.