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BODY IMAGE
"A (person) who is self-conscious can't relax to let her sensuality come into play. .. If she is ashamed of her body, its movement will be stilled" 
~Naomi Wolf

“My breasts are too saggy. My feet are too big. My butt is too wide and soft. My testicles are uneven. I’m skinny as a string bean. I’m fat. My hands are stumpy. I’m not muscular enough. My penis is too small and it’s bent funny. My ankles are too thick. My labia are too long and lumpy. My nose is too wide. My eyes are too close-set. My ears stick out. I have too much body hair. My lips are too big. My lips aren’t big enough. My skin is too pale. My skin is too dark."  

Sound familiar?
Our body image is how we perceive ourselves physically, and how that makes us feel. 
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How do we become dissatisfied with our body/being? What messages do we internalize that make us feel insufficient just as we are – or that tell us we’re “approved”?  

Who are the body image police? Who empowers them to rule our lives? What makes their impact so strong that we become self-conscious about the way we look even when we're making love?

Because most of us would be content with the way we look if there weren’t messages "out there" telling us that we should look different than we do.

Ask yourself: 

What influences my sense of attractiveness and aesthetic acceptability?

What messages do I get about my body from my environment?

Where do these messages come from?

My family? Friends?

Television, magazines, movies, on-line sites or other media?  

What do they stand to gain by controlling my body image?

Tuning Into Your Influences
Take your time filling in the following questions. Answer examples could be: "My mother tells me that I’m short and too wide, I have a pretty pug nose, and my hair is too long and thick. She tells me my skin is blotchy, and my breasts are pretty because of their shape." Or: "My sister tells me I'm small and I have nice eyes; my nose is nice but my skin is too dark. She says my penis is shaped weird."

Now you fill in these sentences:

My mother tells me…..

My father tells me…..

My brother tells me…..

My sister tells me…..

My other family members tell me....

My friends tell me....

My partner tells me....

My spiritual advisor tells me....

My teachers tell me.....

My school mates tell me.....

Society tells me....

Television tells me....

Movies tell me.....

Magazines tell me....

Fashion tells me....

Other sources (who?) tell me.... 

Do you think they're right?  

Have you been wounded by the impression that you're not beautiful? 

Torri: "I remember how clearly I got the message that I was "too black" looking. All the African-American women I saw -I still see! -on TV and movies have light skin with white features, thin noses and lips and processed hair. It made me feel my body, my features are inadequate and ugly."  

Body Language, Body Wounds

The body is a repository for psychic wounds. As our esteem is damaged, our lives bring us grief and fears, our body reflects and expresses the wounds we sustain in our posture, our breathing, our muscle tension. We become - we embody - a map of our experiences and the expectations they have instilled. Our body image is a part of this, seen in our defeated slouch, our frightened lifted shoulders, our ashamed tucked pelvis, our lifeless skin tone. Learning to iunderstand this expressive body language is a valuable key to understanding yourself and others.

 

 Exercise: Tuning In
To tune into your body image, find a room with a full length mirror. Make sure that it’s warm, comfortable, and private. 

Take off all your clothes and take time looking at your body in the mirror. You can touch yourself as you look. Start with your hair and work down. Don’t leave out your face, back, buttocks, or genitals. As you travel over your body, note how you feel: 

I like my hairs texture and color, it looks a little frizzy and I don’t like that, I wish it looked smoother….I like the shape of my forehead where it sweeps back from my temples, my hairline is too high….My eyebrows are delicate, like wings….My eyes are too small… 

Be very detailed. Don't forget your back and genitals.

Reclaiming Your Body Image

When we internalize body-image messages from our social environment, these messages take over how we see ourselves. We become part of an engineered social construction that controls our ability to be self-loving and affirming towards our body.

We can take our power back by learning to appreciate our uniqueness as human beings, physically and spiritually, and loving ourselves for who we are. By feeling good about ourselves from the inside out, as whole people, not as visual objects subject to external standards and judgments.

No one else in the entire universe looks like you, never has, and never will. There's only one you! Who is to say whether your body, your features, your soul are beautiful or not? Only you. How YOU feel about yourself defines your happiness - and other peoples responses. So take a second look at the parts of yourself you don't like, and  see yourself anew. You are phenomenal. 

 Repeat Exercise with a Difference: Affirming 

Repeat the Tuning In exercise, affirming your body. These are your goals: 

Find beauty in every part.  

Caress and sculpt yourself with pride and sensitivity.  

See with loving eyes; be your own lover and best friend.   

Are you cool without make-up and with hairy legs? Are you secure if you have a round belly and scars? Let yourself transcend the temporary fads and superficial "aesthetic" standards that society imposes and discover your own special beauty: you are one of a kind!

           

Loving Your Breasts

No body part is subjected to more silly, unrealistic, and damaging expectations than the breasts. Breasts come in different sizes and shapes, all of which are beautiful. But during different epochs, trends in fashion glorify one breast shape or another, and denigrate breast shapes which happen not to be 'in vogue'. We can take back our power to affirm ourselves by debunking this cruel, unrealistic, oppressive status system. Your breasts are wonderful and sensual just as they are. They are not too small, big, saggy, elongated, far-apart, or wobbly. They are womanly and just right. 

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Loving Your Genitals

                          male genitals    

We often have the most distorted ideas about how our genitals should look! We think our penises should be huge and straight, and our labia tiny and smooth; a microcosm of the gender role binary! It's unrealistic, pointless, and incredibly harmful to our self-esteem. We need to have a romance with our real, human genitals. They are beautiful, pleasure-filled, life-affirming, and delicious; have a good look at yourself and marvel at their gorgeous colors, textures and forms!  
 
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