Having poor body image means that you view your body in a negative light. This often occurs when people with low self-esteem only see their physical flaws 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. Body Image Stress—Fearful Of Aging?
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.
How can you improve your body image so that you can have more sexual enjoyment? Here are six suggestions to help improve your self-esteem and love the skin you are in. What Is Your Body Image Perception?
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.
More sex advice from YourTango: