Body Image and Respecting Your Body

Amongst reading Alan Down’s book The Velvet Rage: Overcoming The Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World, I came across a list of skills for living an authentic life.

Living an authentic life means being true to who you are while still working to improve yourself. And one main struggle many of us have is our own struggles with body image.

By: Jason Suerte Felipe

Having a positive body image is a skill in which you are able to “honor our body as you would a precious possession. Refuse to place your body in deliberate jeopardy. Adore your body, for it is the only one you have.”

Some background: I have never really felt comfortable in my own body. I look into the mirror and find it hard not to compare myself to others. Either my arms are too small or my chest isn’t broad enough. I would find “problems” with my body that I deemed as unattractive. Even when the problems weren’t really there. I even have had thoughts of romantic partners not finding me attractive anymore if I lose or gain a noticeable amount of weight.

Being in the LGBTQ community, a good fraction of men prefer men the size of string beans. And being in that space, it’s hard not to feel ashamed of your own body. One night, my partner at the time took me out to a bar. The go-go dancers wore their skimpy underwear and had their chiseled physics on display. As I was dancing for my partner, I noticed he would shift his eyes over to other men, focusing his gaze on the guy with a six pack abs rather than on me. And I know, I know– I understand that go-go dancers are purposely put there to grab attention and entertain. But seeing that took an affect on me. Made me feel that I wasn’t good enough or that I am not sexually appealing enough to keep my partner’s attention.

It’s not his fault though. We are brainwashed in believing that the bodies of these go-go dancers are far more attractive than body types outside of that.

And yes, sure washboard abs and a chiseled body and jawline is nice to look at. And I understand people have their preferences. But really, at the end of the day, people are more than what they look like. Relationships aren’t (and shouldn’t) be based on the level of attractiveness of a person. It’s based on how they make you feel. Regardless of size. I’ve had a partner in the same scenario and his gaze never left me. And that made me feel amazing. But it’s more than just what people think. It’s how we think of ourselves.

“Accepting your body in the present moment isn’t about not having fitness goals. It’s about loving who you are and how you are right now, no matter what changes you might make in the future. It’s about knowing that making changes in your body is a worthwhile hobby, but it isn’t going to make you more desirable or lovable.”

We all struggle with body issues. Convincing ourselves that we aren’t big enough or small enough. But every size is desirable and we have more desirable traits other than our looks.

Psychology Today says “those who without debilitating body image issues, looking in the mirror can create a twinge of discomfort or criticism. Research finds that “exposure to a mirror can reduce even these common self-critical evaluations. So, although it may seem counterintuitive, research suggests that one of the best ways to deal with self-critical body image issues is to take a long look in the mirror.”

So today, I encourage you to look yourself in the mirror for 5 minutes. Just five minutes. And instead of forcing these negative thoughts into your head, focus on what you like about yourself. Learn to accept and appreciate your body and if there’s something you might not like and want to change, find ways to improve it in healthy ways.

It’s a cliche but, you really are beautiful inside and out. It’s just a matter of respecting ourselves enough to see that.

Do you struggle with body image? What are you doing to overcome it? Share with us in the comments!

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