Having a poor body image means that you view your body in a negative light. You look at yourself and see only the negative.
This often occurs when people with low self-esteem only see their physical flaws, most often when they look in the mirror.
In my sex therapy practice, body image is often one of several issues that interfere with a person’s ability to enjoy sex. There are multiple causes for poor body image. They include the following:
- Perfectionism, or feeling down and frustrated about your physical flaws.
- Conforming to certain ideals, which are usually found in advertising and other media.
- Being overly focused on looks.
- Believing that you must be a certain weight or size to be happy.
- Judging parts instead of paying attention to the whole. When you look in the mirror, often people with low self-esteem only see the body parts that they deem unattractive.
Sometimes, poor body image has some basis in reality. For example, cancer treatment can include disfiguring surgery. Another example is people who are born with defects, including those to the sex organs. When someone has been abused — sexually, emotionally or physically — they may also suffer low self-esteem and problems with appearance due to feeling belittled or devalued. Eating disorders can also result in major difficulties with body image.
How does body image interfere with sexual pleasure? If you do not feel good about your body, you probably are not going to want to be seen naked or even partially undressed in front of a partner. You are unlikely to initiate sex. You may also be out of touch with your body’s desires and pleasures, since you see your body as a source of distress. You may not want certain parts of your body touched because you feel embarrassed about how look. It may surprise you to learn that in my office, about half the people who have body image issues are male. It is also why I made a point of discussing this topic and many others in my ebook, Sex & Passion: The Essential Guide.
5 Ideas to Help Improve Your Body Image
How can you improve your body image so that you can have more sexual enjoyment? Here are five suggestions to help improve your self-esteem and love the skin you are in.
1. Focus on what you do like about your body or face. Do you have a nice smile? Neat ears? Pretty hands? Strong calves? Broad shoulders? Everyone has something about themselves to like.
2. Notice that there are all types of bodies in all shapes, sizes and skin tones. What you see in the media is not a representation of the human race. Appreciate the differences you see around you and appreciate your own individual looks.
3. Exercise. If you move, you can be grateful for what your body is able to do, rather than how it appears. You do not have to do an extreme sport. You can just take a walk and appreciate how your legs can take you from one place to another.
4. When using a mirror, look at your body in its entirety. Try not to look at your body as individual parts. Don’t use a magnifying mirror when you look at your face. Look in the mirror and observe your whole body. When you do this, you might like what you see. Be at peace with your self-image by giving the mirror a rest.
5. Heal your body image by taking note of how you talk to yourself about your body and change it if necessary. Instead of, “I’m so fat and ugly, I hate myself,” tell yourself, “I have beautiful eyes and I am a good friend. The package may not be perfect, but it does need to be loved.”
It is a good idea to take stock of how you feel about your body, which is a big part of your sexuality. Make now the time in which you learn how to love the body you have and experience the pleasure you deserve.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Aug 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2012). 5 Tips To Improve Your Body Image — And Sex Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/08/13/5-tips-to-improve-your-body-image-and-sex-life/