Low self-esteem and body shaming are common in many women’s lives and I’m no exception. I’ve always struggled to accept my body and I never liked what I saw in the mirror. However, that finally began to change when I started doing these things.
- Hitting up a strip club This probably isn’t the first thing you’d think of when you hear the words “body positivity” but for me, this was an integral step in appreciating my body. I went in on a whim one night with my boyfriend, mostly just out of curiosity. After watching the dancers for a while, an epiphany slowly dawned on me: all bodies are different. Until then, I’d never actually seen a real naked woman before, at least not with permission to stare. Seeing all these women in front of me, I noticed the ways in which their bodies were similar or different than mine.
- Making sex tapes with my boyfriend My boyfriend and I decided it might be fun to film ourselves having sex, and it wasn’t until I watched it back that I realized what I actually looked like. In the mirror, under my own judgemental gaze, I didn’t see all the beautiful things about my body. On film, however, I saw a whole different side of myself. I’d often been very self-conscious during sex, worried about how I looked or how I moved. Our home movies allowed me to see myself from the outside for once and I found that I liked what I saw.
- Accepting and believing compliments from my lovers This was the hardest but the most important step of learning to love my body. I was very fortunate to have a partner who adored my body and told me often. At first, I would just deflect these comments, brushing them off. I struggled so much to let them touch me, but he was so insistent that he managed to crack through my defenses little by little. He told me all the time what he loved about my body and I eventually started to believe him. Later, when I got compliments from other lovers, I was able to believe them too.
- Watching porn Much like my epiphany at the strip club, watching porn allowed me to see lots of different bodies. Granted, they were still traditionally attractive bodies, but for me, it was a doorway to realizing that there are many different ways to be beautiful. Contrary to what I might have expected, my self-confidence actually grew from watching porn.
- Going makeup-free I used to slather my face in an untold number of products because I was so insecure about my looks. I’d hide behind my makeup in the hopes that no-one would see all the things I judged as being ugly. However, I slowly realized that this was not the way I wanted to live. As my confidence grew bit by bit, I removed one step of my makeup routine from my life. Eventually, I stopped wearing makeup altogether and now I love the way I look without it. I still doll myself up occasionally for the fun of it, but now it’s an option rather than a necessity.
- Modeling for a life drawing class I needed a bit of extra cash and ended up modeling for a few life drawing classes. I felt uncomfortable and unsure of what to do with myself at first, but after a while, it became so normal. There was also something incredibly liberating about seeing my body as a work of art. I was freed from any notions of what my body was supposed to be. My body was appreciated simply for being.
- Masturbating intentionally My relationship with my body and with my sexuality changed entirely when I began to masturbate with intention. It used to be just fulfilling an urge, but after a chance encounter with orgasmic meditation, I learned a whole new way of touching myself. I discovered how to make love to myself the way I would to a partner, caressing all the curves of my body with love and appreciation.
- Skinny dipping with friends The first time I went to Europe, I was amazed at how casual people were with nudity. Back home, things were much more conservative and I’d never even entertained the thought of swimming naked, especially in front of other people. It came as a shock when my friends started stripping nonchalantly at a local lake. It took me a while to warm up to the idea, keeping my underwear on a first. Eventually, it just seemed so silly to hold back. The liberation of swimming naked was revelatory!
- Dancing naked in the mirror What had once been fraught with self-criticism was becoming a celebration. I still saw things I didn’t really like when I looked in the mirror, but more and more, I found a way to love my body anyway. I made it a point to dance naked in front of my mirror every morning and it created an inevitable connection the feeling of happiness and the body that I’d spent so long judging.