This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and it gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on something which most people struggle with at some point in their lives – “body image”.
When we talk about “body image”, we are referring to the way we think and feel about our bodies. Curvy Kate is all about embracing our bodies, however we look, but this isn’t as always as easy as it seems.
As many as 1 in 5 people have felt shame over their body in the last year, and over 1 in 3 have felt low or down because of this. Unsurprisingly, research has shown that being dissatisfied with how your body looks can significantly impact your mental wellbeing and quality of life. However, if we can help retrain our brains to be kinder to ourselves, we see a huge increase in overall wellbeing.
Things that can impact upon our relationship with our body includes our relationships with others, and how they make us feel about our bodies. Very commonly, people worry about their partner’s finding them attractive or worry that they don’t compete with an ex – even if our partner has given us no reason to doubt them! Social media doesn’t help either. It can give unrealistic or “idolised” bodies which may be enhanced through filters, editing or medical intervention leading us to strive for something unobtainable, rather than appreciating what we have. This can be further exacerbated by changes in our body due to health, aging or pregnancy and our personal relationship with our sexuality and gender. Overlay this with societal views, discrimination, cultural differences and the patriarchy…. It can be A LOT.
So with this potential cocktail of not so pleasant things, are there ways that we can learn to be kinder to our bodies? The answer is, absolutely. Here are a few practical tips to get you started:
- Curate your social media - Fill it with variety, kindness and reality. So much editing is used in the media we consume that the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred.
- Talk to people about it – Please please do! Friends, a therapist, a random woman in the ladies… it will help you realise that so many people feel the same way and destigmatise the experience for everyone.
- Be naked (or in beautiful lingerie) – dance, wiggle, feel your skin, look in the mirror, take pictures. It will help you connect with your body.
- Engage in solo sex – regular is masturbation has been shown to increase your self-confidence. It’s believe to be due to helping you appreciate what amazing things your body does.
- Make a journal of compliments – take photos, make a video or just look in the mirror. Detail the bits that you like, and why. You should also write about the bits that you don’t feel so good about, because you will be amazed how this changes over time. This is because our perceptions alter due to other aspects of our lives and where our mood is at, so can be an excellent grounding exercise.
Becoming body confident is not something that will happen for anyone overnight, but we can start working towards being kind, or at least neutral, using some of the exercises above. It is very normal for people to focus on a “problem area”. A common struggle is with their belly and can often be heightened when choosing lingerie. Hating our belly has been taught to us throughout our lives, and the hatred has been normalised but it is not normal! Whilst learning to be kind, we can start changing some of the narrative around bellies. They are soft and sensual – adjectives that are often associated with sexiness. They are also EXTREMELY sensitive. Gently stroke your belly or get someone else to (nibbles and kisses are also encouraged) to heighten arousal. Our bellies also tell our life stories - stretch marks from growing, from making babies, from drinking hot chocolate at 2am to pass finals; the scars from lifesaving surgery; the meaningful tattoos or the belly button piercing. It is uniquely yours.
Choosing the right lingerie for you can help you embrace your belly, and body in general. It is very important that you get the right fit. You should be able to get two fingers comfortably underneath the band and your breast should be completely held within the cup, with no overspill or gaping. You can always book in with a bra whisperer for a virtual fitting for extra help. Make sure you pick something that is your style – vintage, goth or girly; bold patterns or plain; lace, leather or both – there is always something available. Try not to be disheartened if it doesn’t suit you as you thought, send it back and try again. It will help teach you what shapes make you feel sexiest.
Whilst I will always advocate wearing your lingerie first and foremost for you, many people wear it for others. If you are struggling with your body confidence, it is very normal to worry about whether your partner really does fancy you. Remember, they have chosen YOU. Talk to them open and honestly, let them know that you are struggling. When they compliment you, take it on board! If you respond with “I don’t believe you” or similar, it can lead to unrest within your relationship as something fun or lovely will become negative for both of you.
Even on the hardest days, you will always deserve kindness and love.
Dr Elesha x