By Dr Yaman Tal, Consultant Urological Surgeon & Consultant in Sexual Medicine
Many of us, at some point in their lives, experience negative body image. It’s very difficult to feel beautiful and sexy when we are bombarded daily with altered and unrealistic images of women’s and men’s bodies. Lack of self-confidence and poor body image can get in the way of intimacy
Body image has nothing to do with how your body looks. You may be a successful person with many friends and in a relationship with someone who sees you attractive but still think you are not good enough because of a thwarted self-image. A negative body image can have a profound impact on your confidence and your marriage.
Effect of body image on sex
One strong component of sexual satisfaction is being comfortable in one’s skin. If you’ve convinced yourself that you’re unattractive, it will be difficult for you to enjoy sexual intimacy. When your negative body image kicks in during sex, you will focused on and anxious about sucking in your tummy, hiding your saggy breasts or turning the lights off to hide your body. These thoughts and actions lead to dissatisfaction – in and outside of the bedroom. People with negative body image tend to:
- Experiment less: Because you think your butt, thighs [you name it] are too big or too small, you experiment less in the bedroom and feel restrained and burdened instead of free and relaxed
- Insist that the lights be off: You feel terrible about yourself and figure that your partner would not want to see “these ugly parts” so you always insist on turning the lights off
- Complain a lot: “I am fat,” “I don’t look good in this” and “Don’t touch this part of me” all add up and slowly erode your self-esteem and kill your sex life
- Avoid sex: The less happy you are with your body, the less intimate you want to be with your partner. You try to avoid sexual relations, which inevitably has a negative impact on your relationship as a whole and can even lead to separation for some couples
How to deal with body image issues
- Glow with self-confidence: It doesn’t matter what size or shape you are, if you feel good about yourself, you will radiate with self-confidence and more people will find you attractive and want to be around you
- Stop negative self-talk: When you get dressed and look in the mirror, do you find yourself caught up in negative self-talk like “my thighs are big’’ or “my butt is so flat”? Those with body image issues only notice their flaws and imperfections and ignore their body positive attributes. Try reframing your negative thoughts and focusing on what’s good
- Seek expert advice: Not everyone with negative body image needs counselling but cognitive behavioural therapy may be helpful in helping you recognize your unhelpful thought patterns so you can challenge them and create new body positive thinking and habits
- Talk to your partner: People withlow self-esteem tend to underestimate their partner’s love and view their spouse in more negative terms. Be open with your spouse about your insecurities as your assumptions about how he or she sees you are probably not based on reality but your irrational and extreme thinking patterns. As you work on cultivating self-compassion and a healthier body image, you’ll find this adage to be true: ‘‘You have to love yourself before you can love someone else”
Do you see yourself as “too fat” or “too thin” for sex?
If your body image is interfering with your sex life, then it’s time to act and seek help!