It’s a really sad state of affairs that body image issues are incredibly common, especially among young women. Unfortunately, the media bombards us with very narrow ideals of what an acceptable body looks like, and those ideas are often reinforced by our families and friends. Body insecurity can really wreak havoc on your psyche, pulling you into a blackhole of depression, inadequacy, and self-loathing. Also, it can make it really hard to have something even remotely resembling a healthy and fulfilling sex life.
My own body image issues didn’t begin to flare up until college. My freshman year roommate was an absolute stunner from Hawaii – perfectly tanned, athletic, and completely gorgeous. Sharing a 12×12 room with a girl who looked like she stepped out of a Hollister catalog didn’t exactly do wonders for my confidence. This, combined with the fact that I was still completely and utterly invisible to the thousands of guys I was sharing a campus with, led to the cultivation of the idea that I was undeserving of anyone’s affection. I didn’t realize the extent of how deeply rooted it was until I started sporadically hooking up with guys and was reluctant to take off my clothes. I was terrified that they’d judge me for not having bigger boobs or a more defined waist or a flatter stomach and it was hard for me to let go and just enjoy the experiences.
Then I gained weight. I’m still not sure exactly how much I gained, as I didn’t own a scale for years, but it was enough for me to start getting rolls where I’d never had rolls before, enough to render the majority of my wardrobe completely unwearable. After I got a gym membership, I had a consultation with a personal trainer who took my body fat percentage and informed me that I am “obese.” That word completely knocked the wind out of me. While I never consciously looked down on anyone who was overweight, I’d always taken for granted the fact that I could eat all kinds of junk and barely exercise and still maintain a somewhat slender figure. So to hear the word “obese” and all of it’s negative connotations applied to me completely changed my view of myself.
Every morning, I’d wake up grumbling at my dwindling closet. I was really self-conscious in public, wondering if anyone was judging me or secretly shaming me. And, my libido was nearly completely shot, much to the chagrin of my boyfriend. I just could not get myself into the mindset of being a sexy or sexually desirable person, and it was all because in my head, I had convinced myself that I was unworthy, all because I had gained weight. I wish I could say that I overcame that mentality without losing weight, but that wasn’t the case. When I started exercising (purely for vanity – I derive absolutely no enjoyment from being active), I found myself more willing to be naked and sexual.
I, like so many of my peers, had accidentally internalized the idea that I can only be sexy if I’m thin. Which is completely and utterly bogus. Sexy is not about really about external appearances – it’s about being confident and having solid self-esteem. It’s about being able to look in the mirror and smile because you like yourself and appreciate all of your great qualities. I know it’s a super cliche sentiment, but in my general experience, it’s true. People like being around other people who emanate some happiness and security,and there is absolutely no reason why happiness should be reserved for people who fit arbitrary standards of beauty. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a body like Rihanna (who doesn’t even think she’s perfect). You can be attractive whether you’re fat, skinny, short, tall, have cellulite or stretch marks, have a big butt or a tiny one, etc, etc. Being and feeling sexy is a state of mind, so you essentially only have two options – choose to let your insecurities defeat you or give them a middle finger, get over the idea of being perfect, and enjoy your life.
[lead image via Olga Ekaterincheva/Shutterstock]