As someone who has written a lot about body issues, I often ask myself: what is the secret to loving one’s body?
Like most things, there are no easy answers. Body image is something that affects people of both sexes but overwhelmingly, women are more affected than men.
Why is that?
Some point to the fact media images sexualize and objectify women far more than they do men. Others point to the fact that we live in a sexist culture. I believe there is some truth in both of these things. However, I think a big part is how, starting at a very young age, girls and boys are conditioned to see their bodies: the former are told see their bodies as ornaments while the latter are advised to see them as tools.
It’s true: think of how often people tell a young girl she is a “pretty girl” whereas a boy is often called “strong.” The women I have seen with body confidence tend to think a lot like guys in that they focus what their bodies can do vs. what they cannot.
1. Know that sexiness is not dependent on your size.
I mentioned this when I wrote about the secrets of seductresses, but true sexiness has nothing to do with how someone looks. Like that post pointed out, history is full of legendary sirens who would never make the cover of Vogue or even your local Shopper’s Weekly.
Men can know this. There are a lot of men with less-than-perfect bodies who are none the less considered sexy. Think of the late, great James Gandolfini. Believe it or not, I know a lot of women who considered him very sexy. I was amongst those that did and always marveled during one episode of the Sopranos where he appeared in only a small pair of briefs and nothing else with his large belly and hairy shoulders on display.
Now, one could argue he was doing this as part of his job requirement and was a great actor to boot which could hit any anxiety. Nonetheless, he appeared confident, and that was sexy. In any case, I had no problem believing that a woman who looked like Edie Falco would be married to him and find him attractive.
2. Think “outside your league.”
As a rule, men have no problems imaging themselves with a “hot” actress, model, singer and many will at least approach a woman even if they think they have “no shot” with her. Women, alas, are different, and not in a good way. There is often a bit of “Oh my God, I cannot believe he’s with me!” feeling if a woman is with a man she thinks is very attractive.
Often, they will share those feelings with the man they are with.
While some men may find it endearing or complimentary, many find it a turn off and believe that it is their job to reassure the woman she is good enough for him. Over time, that can become a huge burden to bear and may even be a factor in a deciding whether or not to end the relationship.
3. Remember that quote, ” There are three billion women who look like supermodels and only eight who do.“
It may sound obvious, but it probably needs repeating that most people do not look like models or celebrities.
Also, you can look “too perfect.” I remember years ago going to Los Angeles to visit a friend whose family worked in the movie business. I saw a lot of actors, models, etc. Some of these people were literally too perfect looking meaning that they were so Botoxed, surgically-altered, and/or made-up that they looked like they were CGI characters and not people.
Several years ago, I met a make-up artist who worked at several of the major fashion shows in Paris. When asked how his favorite model was, he said without missing a beat, it was Kate Moss. When asked why, he said it was because she had laugh lines and a slightly lazy eye. Now don’t get me wrong. Obviously Ms. Moss is lovely, photographs well, and has earned millions over the years to prove that. However, the fact that he preferred her over the glamorous amazons that defined the 90s was telling.
Being around anyone who is too high maintenance is a turn off for many. Unless you happen to be born some sort of defect or been in a serious accident, you probably look just as good if not better than the vast majority of the female population.
4. Don’t be afraid to boast about your accomplishments.
If you ask most men to name some of their accomplishments, most will have no problem doing so. Many women on the other hand struggle and think if they haven’t climbed Everest or found the cure for cancer, they have done nothing.
Of course, there is a difference between boasting and being a conceited braggart, but you should be proud of the things you have done including the “little things” like, say, paying for college while waiting tables.
Being proud about the mental things you have accomplished can help you appreciate your body. Take the waiting tables example for instance.
As someone who did this and knows how hard it is, your body has to be able to tolerate a certain amount of physical discomfort and have quite a lot of stamina. You can also proudly show off any “battle scars” you may have accumulated. (“See, this scar on my hand? That comes from having poured many cups of scalding hot coffee.”)
In short, it might amaze you to think of all the things you actually have done vs. what you have not.
As someone who generally feels that differences between the sexes should be celebrated, this is one area where it is okay to steal from the guys. I don’t mean to suggest that men don’t have body issues—they do and I have certainly met more than a few who have—but overall, the confidence that men feel about their bodies is something that few women have yet to experience.
It’s about time that has changed. While I have yet to meet anyone of either sex who is completely confident with their appearance, even the littlest steps can result in a big impact.
In any case, the tips above are a lot cheaper than any makeover and a lot more satisfying than any diet plan.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise