Somebody contacted me about a case of sudden body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is when you worry about flaws in your appearance that are often not something that others would think of or even notice. This was from a woman who in general was very confident when having sex, but who had recently started to worry about the appearance of her body, for example perceiving her breasts as being saggy and then thinking about this when being together with her partner. There was an eating disorder in the history of this woman.
You are not a body
Firstly I think this is a pretty complex topic. The severity can vary and you may need to see a therapist. It could perhaps also be different in different phases of your life. However, I just wanted to provide some thoughts and open up for reader comments and contributions too, because I think so many people, and women especially, are overly critical of their bodies and appearance these days, and put unrealistic demands on themselves. It is a conversation we need to have. The word “body-image” doesn’t help, nor other body-focused words. The focus should NOT be so much on our body if you ask me, it should be on the whole person. We are not a body. We are not seen as a body by others. We should not see ourselves as a body. When you feel good about yourself as a being, the body matters less.
I had an eating disorder for several years in my late teens and early twenties. I have been obsessed with my weight and how I look, I have been very broken, I have hated myself, I have felt worthless and unlovable. Of course, objectively speaking, this was totally unnecessary and unjustified but logic does not work to explain these things. If you are with someone who suffers with these problems you have to understand that rational arguments do not work. Just give unconditional love.
From body dysmorphia to self-esteem
Today I feel great most of the time. I feel sexy, I am mostly happy, I enjoy my body, I am proud of it and I am not afraid to show it. I never switch the light off in the bedroom and there are five mirrors in there including one in the ceiling. Does it mean I am flawless? Of course not, but I feel OK about myself, and why shouldn’t I? What is a flaw anyway? What is perfect? It’s in the eye of the beholder. One is you, and you hold the power to decide what to think about yourself. Chances are anyone else you might be with will think you are wonderful and in their eyes perfect. Imperfection is a construct in your own head.
Unfortunately we are bombarded with social media images that associate success with unrealistic body shapes and this I believe contributes to us becoming overly critical about ourselves. Men and women alike struggle in different ways but the concept is the same and body dysmorphia is common.
So, what can we do about it? Let’s be clear, I do not have the answer, but some things have helped me. So… where could you start? Here are six tips.
1. Who do you spend time with?
We often hear that we need to love ourselves before can love others. But how do we love ourselves? The image of self is formed in interaction with others. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
Who are you spending time with? How do they make you feel? If your relationships are detrimental to your self-esteem what can you change? Are there people you should break with? Are there people who could speak to you or treat you differently? Are they aware? Can you tell them?
2. Who are you allowing yourself to be influenced by?
Who are you following on social media? How do they make you feel? I unfollowed someone who bothered me a lot because they were constantly showing off a super skinny body and bragging about how much they were training on their rest day. It annoyed me and I blocked them from my feed. You won’t miss out just because you exclude a few people, trust me. Instead seek out people who make you feel good, who project positive vibes, who can boost your self-esteem.
3. Respect yourself – self-care
By this I mean have a self-care routine. Get out of bed in the morning, have a shower, put some make-up on if it makes you better, get dressed. Care about yourself. Eat healthy food and have an exercise routine. Do not count calories but learn what is good for your body.
4. Treat yourself – practise self-love
Enjoy the good things without guilt. Have some chocolate, have some wine. It’s a balance. Life is not black or white and it’s ok to to have a treat. What makes you relax? What feeds your soul? Maybe it’s a hot bath, a massage, a dinner with friends, reading a book, listening to music, spending quality time with someone who makes you feel good. Do something for YOU. Note that this does not mean indulging in two pizzas and a pint of ice cream. Some people call this self-love but I don’t think it is a sustainable treat, nor is it self-respect in the long run.
5. Feel the love
This is the most important thing of all. And perhaps the most difficult. Trust in the love you receive and accept it. Don’t fight it or push it away. If someone says you are beautiful, sexy, have lovely eyes, that your are clever, caring, glowing or a wonderful person, allow yourself to believe it (unless they are a narcissist, then run and find someone better!). My eating disorder disappeared with love. I could focus on all my body’s imperfections, which, after 43 years and with countless scars from a variety of events, stretch marks and god knows what else are a few, but I choose not to as much as I can. I trust those who give me compliments and I feel good about what my body can still do for me and for others.
6. Dare to feel sexy
Dare to be hot! What do you fantasise about wearing? What makes you feel super sexy? What does your partner like? Put it on, play a role, whatever works. Nobody cares if you don’t look like a pornstar, supermodel or elite athlete; if you don’t have the smallest waist, firmest boobs , hardest six pack or biggest dick. Seriously. If you feel sexy and project that confidence, that is what actually matters. If anyone tells you differently they are not worthy of you. If you dare to believe the compliments you get when you radiate the sexiness you feel, you will see that this is true. Be in touch with your erotic self, whatever this means for you.
So, a few of my thoughts on the topics of body dysmorphia and building self-esteem. What do you think? Have you suffered but overcome body dysmorphia? What helped you? Are you in the middle of it? What are you doing? Let me know in the comments. You can also send me anonymous comments via my contact form if you would like to share but don’t want to do so in public or give your name. You can also submit questions there for me to consider for future Q&A topics. Thanks for your interest and support!
Until next week ❤️
PS: To talk to me about those or other topics, see my consultations here.