Sexuality Happens

Learning to love YOU

I got a question from a reader…more like an issue, that she’d like answer/discussed on here. And who am I to say no to such a sweet, polite, and loyal reader?!?!

I’ve been reading your blog for ages, and I absolutely adore it…it’s one of my favorite things I read online. I’ve noticed you talk about your body type, and that you seem very secure in your body. I had a really excessively emotionally abusive boyfriend before the absolutely amazing one I have now (this is a for-life type of relationship, quite apparently). But, at any rate, the last boyfriend made my jealously practically unbearable (you would not believe the stuff I get jealous over!) and my ability to see myself as attractive is practically non-existent. Add to that the fact that I’ve put on some weight since I started my current relationship, and you have a recipe for disaster, or at least major self-loathing. I’m curious about how you got secure in your looks in a society that seems to think only blond tits-on-a-stick is attractive. My boyfriend prefers curves and brunettes, so at least *he’s* accepting of different looks, but alas, my programming is all-too-functional. Any advice you can impart would be much appreciated. And you can feel free to post this letter on your blog if you’d so wish.

Thanks very much,

Ok M. Realizing that you HAVE low self esteem about your body is the first step in fixing it. Do I sound like a 12 step instructor yet? If so, sorry.

It’s not an easy process. Everything in society tells us to hate our bodies. Ads on the radio, tv, in magazines, on billboards; they all tell us we’re too fat, too short, too tall, too lanky, too awkward, too busty, not busty enough, curvy in the wrong places, not curvy. Add on all the things you can buy; diet pills, gym memberships with personal training, creams to take away wrinkles, creams to make things perky, to make things soft, to get rid of acne, to cover grey hairs, to make hair brighter, to make your skin glow, to make you skin less shiny. Everything tells us to hate our bodies.

And then, with all this self-hatred, all it takes is a partner NOT TELLING US we’re hot/beautiful/pretty/lovely/sexy/______. We don’t need someone to tell us we’re not; society has already done that for us. We just need a lack of validation. And if we’re unlucky enough to end up with someone that DOES judge us on the way we look, and worse yet, is emotionally abusive about it, well, then who can blame us for having a really skewed body image of ourselves?

I used to HATE my body. HATE it. My mother was always telling me I was too heavy; my house was filled with snackwells, skim milk, diet soda, frozen yogurt, etc. I was too big for “normal” food. Then there was the clothing issue. Torrid (see my wish list on the right to see what genius clothing they have!) didn’t exist until I was in HS, and by then it was too late. I’d spent years having to shop in different clothing sections, and once I hit HS, I hated having to go to “special stores” to find clothes that fit, and then of course, nothing was as “cool” and “hip” as I wanted to be.

Then I got to college. My first college boyfriend was anorexic (and possibly full other other eating disorders), making me feel even more insecure about my weight. He never told me I was pretty, he told me what to wear to look skinnier, he told me I was “different.” Then my next boyfriend told me my breasts were too big. As someone with DDs, and hearing from everyone everywhere that breasts were “the bigger, the better,” to hear from the guy I was dating that mine were too big was ridiculously hard.

Ok, enough of my sob story. How do you fix it?

I can give you the ways that have helped me. Please note: I have days where I feel fat and ugly, days where I think about doing anything I can to lose weight, days where I curl up with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and cry. So please don’t think that I love 100% of my body 100% of the time.

Here are some ideas:

*Find friends that are good friends. They will love you regardless of your appearance, and if they’re good friends, they will help make you feel good about your body. When you look good, they will tell you. When you look silly, they will tell you, and then you’ll be more likely to believe them when they DO tell you that you look beautiful.

*Figure out your style, what you like, what makes you feel good, what looks good on you. For me, it’s low cut shirts. I like my cleavage. I wear blacks, reds and blues, because they look good on me. I love lots of halter tops, because they provide support, and I feel comfortable in them. I do pin-up and 50′s inspired outfits, because that’s a look that celebrates curves, instead of trying to hide them. Find YOUR look, and then go on a thrift store shopping spree, and build up a wardrobe that you feel comfortable and hot wearing.

*Get someone you trust to take black and white nude photos. I know, it sounds crazy. Take off everything, and get down to exactly what it is that bothers you, that you don’t like, that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now, figure out your favorite body parts, the parts you DO like. Accentuate them. And ps, the back of your knees and you pinky fingers don’t count (been there, done that). I want legit body parts; feet, legs, hands, arms, breasts, ass, back, whatever it is. Take the pictures. Put them on your computer. Look at them. Print your favorites out if you can. Put them where you’ll see them. Look at your beautiful body, and love it.

*Learn to take a compliment. I’m still working on this one. When your partner tells you something nice, say thank you, and then stop talking. This is bloody hard, I KNOW. Say whatever you have to inside your head (he’s just saying that, etc), but don’t say it out loud. Say thank you. And then once you can do that, then work on quieting the voice in your head. Eventually (I think), you’ll be able to better accept that he’s being genuine.

*Put away your scale — give it away if you have to. Numbers don’t mean everything, or really, anything. Cover up your mirror for a day or two. Realize that there is so much more to likes than looking like a socially constructed beauty. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.

*Write a list of everything you DO like about yourself…actually, make two. One mental, one physical. And if he’s into it, ask your partner to do the same about you. Put them in your purse. Look at them at least once a day, more often if you can. Realize your true beauty; both the beauty you see, and that others do (get your friends to do it too! Make it a true beauty night, and do it like yearbooks — everyone makes a little list for everyone).

*It sounds like you might want to go talk to a therapist too, and process this abusive relationship, so you can move on to your new and awesome relationship. Just a thought.

Hope these have helped. Readers, if you have any other suggestions, or feel I really put my foot in my mouth, please feel free to comment!

-Essin’ Em

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11 Comments so far

  1. Z August 13th, 2008 12:59 am

    I’m going to suggest an alternate angle that worked for me, and has worked for two of my partners. As important as it is to be comfortable in your own skin, the only kind of self-respect that seems to stick is earned, and there is no better way to gain an appreciation for your body than to push it in measurable ways. Chanting that one has no reason to be dissatisfied with one’s condition, in any realm of life, has never struck me as a terrible reliable or constructive avenue. Neither is, as you pointed out, spinning one’s wheels with gym memberships you never use or pills that don’t work. The fear over the appearance of your body needs to be replaced by confidence in what your body can do, and it needs to be done with benchmarks that are hard to reach.

    Pick a sport, or something that can be approached like a sport-something hard as hell, with definite indicators of success and failure and progress. Make it a little off the beaten path-Olympic weightlifting or rock climbing or the like, so you aren’t up to your eyeballs in everyone’s tales of high school football glory. Get good. Suffer lots. Notice the tremendous sense of accomplishment and appreciation for your body’s function has replaced your angst over how you look. Notice calmly that you also look better than you ever expected you would-but only care a tenth as much. Rinse. Repeat.

  2. The Butterfly Temptress August 13th, 2008 5:45 am

    A very well written response! I have an incredibly terrible self-image and it is hell. The cancer diagnosis thrown in with hair loss (my hair was absolutely fabulous!)just made it that much worse.

    The Knight loves me and tells me every single day how sexy he thinks I am. I don’t see it. I have never seen it. I came close once, but it was over as soon as the morning came.

    Also, if the person who emailed has ever been a victim of any kind of abuse, but especially sexual abuse, acknowledging that is a crucial first step. Then counseling to go from there is only going to make things easier.

    Just my two cents. Thank you for responding to this!

  3. greg August 13th, 2008 6:09 am

    I love the picture, you look so pretty.

  4. Lilly August 13th, 2008 7:18 am

    Thank you for this post.
    It made me a little teary, to be honest, cause I deal with the same. I hate my body most days. Sometimes I look in the mirror and want to do drastic things.

    this isn’t an easy thing to get over. methinks it needs to be a 24-step program =/

  5. Molly Ren August 13th, 2008 8:53 am

    I have a feeling this answer won’t work for everyone, but… I really started to feel like I was sexy when I went dating using a “fat fetish” or “BBW” website. There’s people who are into… um… interesting things like vore and weight gain on there, which can be overwhelming… but then there are these awesome boys (FAs) who are just out looking for a curvy girl to love or lust after. The sites aren’t as monitored as, say, OKCupid, so it’s more work… but seeing the photos people put up on there and the comments people leave did a lot to change my perceptions of beauty.

  6. Anonymous August 13th, 2008 12:38 pm

    You look really hot with your hair pulled back like that!

  7. Chris August 13th, 2008 6:13 pm

    Brilliant. Brilliant.

    I have hated my body; I have loved my body. I found my confidence when I was at my “fattest” and carried it on to when I was “healthier.” But your advice here is great.

    Good luck to M!

  8. Beautiful Dreamer August 13th, 2008 8:45 pm

    1. I love that photo of you.
    2. I'm a size 14/16 and very sensitive of the fact I'm an overweight girl trying to deal with a society that wants me to be underweight. I also work in healthcare which makes it about ten thousand times worse. Enough sob story. My boyfriend, right after we first met, told me something that forever changed the way I thought about my self image. I still have down days. He said something along the lines of this.
    In fifty years when gravity, kids, and too much celebration cake has taken it's full effect; I'll still be able to talk to the kind hearted, wonderful woman I fell in love with. A plastic barbie will be a geriatric, boring, plastic barbie.
    It was cute & it helps. :)

  9. Leo MacCool August 14th, 2008 2:23 pm

    some of the fat acceptance/health at every size web sites might be worth reading, too. they have some good sensible points on this stuff. is the one i know off the top of my head.

  10. immortalsairah August 15th, 2008 3:11 am

    Thanks for that post. I’m trying to accept myself as I am, and learning to love all the curves, and even wobbly bits that I can’t stand.
    I have to say that I take pictures of myself too in order to accept what I look like – but I’ve never heard of anyone else actually using it and advocating it as a good way of acceptance.
    You’re an inspiration to so many people.. and I do love that pic.

  11. Elle August 16th, 2008 7:14 am

    I don’t like myself either. And it’s funny, the older I get, the less self-confident I feel. I would have thought it should be the opposite, but anyway… The worse part is, I’m quite thin. Skinny, really. Just thought it might help, in the sense that it would show being smaller ISN’T the answer. Stop wanting to be something else, and accept you’re beautiful now. It’s working with what you have now, accepting what you are now, that’s important. Just my two cents ;)

    Oh and pictures do help, I find, but if you’re anything like me, I normally don’t like them right away. But do look at them later, and gradually, you’ll find yourself liking them, or at least something about them.

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