Befriending Our Bodies

Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005

Respect Yourself

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Gary Vogin

It doesn't matter whether our bodies are fat or thin, tall or short, old or young -- women of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, philosophies, social classes and sexual preferences have problems relating to their own bodies. If we find the sight of our own nudity disturbing or unappealing, it's very hard to feel comfortable sharing that nudity with others and experiencing any of the pleasure, satisfaction, and closeness that sexuality can provide.

What can we do about this? How can we make friends with our bodies?

Imagine for a moment that you've never formally met your body before. Oh, perhaps you've seen it straightening some pillows or shopping at the grocery store. But that's hardly a real introduction.

Find some time to meet yourself as though you've never met before. Choose a time when you have no pressing responsibilities and can relax. You may prefer to make several short dates with yourself. The important thing is to really want to meet this person you've heard so much about.

Find a place where you can be alone and comfortable. Put on some relaxing music, something that makes you feel good and won't distract you from your thoughts. Get in a comfortable position on your bed, the couch, a set of cushions, or the floor, and allow your mind and body to relax. You're here to meet a new friend and that friend is very near to you now. If you're comfortable with your own nudity, allow yourself to be naked. If you prefer to remain covered, wear something loose that feels good against your skin.

As you rest and allow the music to relax you, think about the various parts of your body: your toes, your feet, your ankles and calves. Think about the hard work they go through every day to get you from here to there. Maybe they don't always move you as quickly or as gracefully as you'd like them to, but they do the best they can. Isn't that what friends are for? Inside your mind, move up your body and take special note of each working part. What do the various aspects of your body do for you on a daily basis? Are there some things you could do for them in thanks? Maybe a dip in a hot tub or a massage? Maybe just a fluffy wash cloth for your next bath.

Don't focus on whether or not you think one body part is prettier than any other. Just think about how nice it is that they stick around and help you out. But they can't do it alone. They need a friend who will take care of them and reward them for a job well done.

As your mind works its way from your toes to the tip of your head, feel free to touch your body -- lightly, if that feels good, or more firmly if you prefer. Feel the textures of your skin, the swell of your full areas and the dip of the parts that cling close to you. Try not to fret over whether any part of you is imperfect. Even the photos of high fashion models are airbrushed. Real humans contain blemishes that sometimes we call beauty marks. Focus instead upon how your body feels to you. Is it smooth? Firm? Soft? Rough?

Touch your thighs and your hips. Explore your genitals and learn their contours. Feel the swell or the hollow of your belly and the rush of your breasts. If you have scars, trace your fingertips gently along them and feel their power. Take a moment to think about the stories they tell and what medals of valor they are.

Perhaps your time alone with your body, your friend, will be pleasant and soothing. Perhaps you'll drift into a nap or even enjoy a certain amount of sensual self-stimulation. Allow yourself these pleasant moments. Perhaps some night soon when you're tucked into bed and feeling drowsy your mind can drift from your feet to your head again, dallying along the way in favorite spots. Again, don't worry about how you look. Focus on how you feel.

Eventually you may feel comfortable enough to try "mirror work." This is a technique in which we look at our bodies with honest eyes, while touching what we see. Some women find this emotionally painful, yet very liberating. If you decide to give it a try, remember that it may be something you need to do in short sessions. Don't be surprised if you eventually discover that the tummy you've spoken so unkindly to on so many occasions is a wonderful smooth mound that provides you with comfort when you stroke it. Or perhaps you'll find that the dry skin you've always loathed is a pleasure to rub with scented lotion.

Befriending our bodies is a continual process. There is so much to learn, and so much to explore. Just as you didn't learn all of your other friends' secrets immediately, your body's secrets will come to you over time.

Medically reviewed December 2001

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