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So Don't Turn Off the Lights

On Body Image & Sex

Body image. These two simple words can stir up complicated feelings in most of us. Being human inevitably means having a love-hate relationship with different parts of ourselves, going through a winding journey of self-acceptance, and hopefully one day landing at the shining gates of *self-love*.

When you add sex to the equation, the volume of body image insecurities tends to get amplified. Our usual response is to diet, work out, try new beauty treatments, and make any attempt to change our physical appearance. But alas! We soon realize that our hang-ups are not just skin deep.

We had an in-depth conversation with Psychotherapist Rhea Gandhi (@decolonizepsychotherapy), who believes that the key to changing this dynamic is through looking inward and accepting that the way we perceive our bodies needs to shift.

It’s time we liberate ourselves from feelings of shame and realise that body-insecurity is a common phenomena (unless you’re Harry Styles, maybe). Rather than letting your perception of your body get in the way of enjoying intimacy, embracing it can lead to even more pleasure than you could ever imagine.

Read on for key insights from our conversation with Rhea, on how you can learn to embrace your (perfectly imperfect) self in all its glory:
 

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

We at MyMuse love ourselves some mood lighting, but not as a way to mask or hide our bodies during vulnerable moments of intimacy. The solution to that is definitely not switching off the lights, but questioning the root of our insecurities in the first place. Rhea says,

“[When it comes to our relationship with our bodies], we have to undo a lot of layers that have been formed over a significant period of time."

It’s not just society’s standards that shape this:  It’s our life experiences, how we were treated at home, how our parents thought about their own bodies, which translate to us. There is a great deal of subtle messaging we get. We have to peel each layer of the onion to examine it individually. And this requires a lot of internal work.” 

You Are Not Alone

Let’s face it! Getting it on with a partner can be super-nerve wracking and keep you from enjoying pleasure altogether. Who doesn’t feel hella vulnerable getting naked in front of someone for the first time? I know that voice in my head all too well: It tells me to suck it in. That I’m not attractive enough. These thoughts take control of my mind and keep me from being in the moment altogether. Result? We’re left feeling every emotion on the spectrum, but pleasure. According to Gandhi,

“When it comes to sex and the bedroom, somebody is witnessing you being naked, which is a very vulnerable space you are volunteering yourself to be in. So it takes a lot of work between you and your partner and within yourself to eventually feel comfortable.”


What’s shocking is just how common these issues really are, even in 2021. Though typical beauty standards are slowly being challenged, with increased representation on social media, the conditioning in our own lives and minds runs deep. If everyone actually used #ifeelfat when they felt it, we bet it would be trending all the time.

Why Focus On The Differences?

“A lot of evolutionary psychologists have said that differences [between us] can feel dangerous and threatening. But what that biological theory doesn’t ask is how power hierarchies structure these differences in the first place. For example, what made fairer skin better than darker skin? And a flat stomach better than one that is not?”, questions Gandhi.

The way we look is not better or worse off than anyone else, simply different. It is a result of social construction. So we don’t have to do away with the idea of difference really, but instead navigate through it and realise that difference is good.

 

Change the Dialogue

Be conscious of your internal narrative: the dialogue you’re having with yourself 24/7, often unconsciously. Rather than reinforcing things like, “I hate my nose”, or “I wish my hair was thicker”, change up the narrative and remind yourself how amazing you are by focusing on your positives and all the things you love about yourself. PSA: These don’t just have to be physical traits. Having a glowing personality beats having fake teeth whitening anyday, in our books.

Side note– comparison is truly the thief of joy. So stop scrolling and comparing yourself to every airbrushed smiling face you see. Pictures definitely don’t tell the full story, especially in the age of FaceTune.

Your Body Is A Goddamn Wonderland

As John Mayer said, your body truly is a wonderland. It’s a miracle of so many tiny cells and systems working together to create a complex, functioning, living, breathing entity unlike any other that has ever existed before. Your body is what allows you to breathe fresh air, feel the sunlight on your skin, dance till your feet hurt, experience love, adrenaline, joy, and heartbreak.

"It's a long journey to recognise our bodies are doing the best they can given our circumstances. Our bodies are our home and while they might not always be what we'd like them to be, they keep us alive, allow us to love, and are deeply forgiving.”, concludes Rhea.

Lights on or off, we believe that feeling confident in yourself and your body is a foundational part of enjoying sex. You should never sacrifice your access to pleasure – especially if you think it will find you when you are fitter or more beautiful. The Buddha summed it up saying: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” So bear in mind the ways in which you speak to your body, celebrate its quirks and feel good in your skin to experience pleasure and beyond.

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** This article was written by one of our talented contibutors, Nazma Kazani, in conversation with Psychotherapist Rhea Gandhi. If you have a perspective you'd like to share, get in touch with us on musings@mymuse.in.

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While our contributors do research a great deal to give you up to date and relevant content, this is basis publicly available information. Our contributors are not doctors or healthcare service providers and our content does not constitute or act as a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis under applicable laws. All suggestions, advice, points of view etc., are meant for adults in the privacy of their own homes.

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