Clothing keeps us warm, protects us from other environmental harm, and can be a beautiful way to decorate ourselves. But what's underneath is good too.
How to get over body shame?
First, a short overview on some of the influences and factors that contribute to the body shame of our most covered up parts. . .
Having any level of body shame is common among both females and males. From a very young age people are often taught that the full human form is supposed to be hidden. We are told to not explore or touch our own bodies and sometimes not even told the correct names for genitalia. This sends a message – even if not stated explicitly – that our bodies are wrong, weird, funny, or dirty.
Among the several influences that can hinder someone’s view of their anatomy, it is easy to imagine that if clothing did not exist these insecurities would hardly be an issue. In a way, clothing restrictions and laws set us up for failure to thinking negatively of how we all are in our most natural state. How are we supposed to get a good sense of normal human variation if we do not get to see much of it except for our own?
But of course clothing cannot be blamed! Clothing does not have a voice to insult people or a mind to have an opinion about the bodies it covers. The source of the issue lies in how people have created a certain perspective, how realistic anatomy is not always recognized or looked at in a positive light. We are conditioned by mass media and the people we interact with to believe that there are bad, unmentionable parts of ourselves that are only allowed to be seen and touched under sexual circumstances. But hiding ourselves until that point – say for thirteen to seventeen years – (when people often start sharing their sexuality with others) has an effect because most of us already have been thinking poorly about some aspect of our bodies without having conversations or being educated by parents or school about it.
Similarly, it is interesting to mention that people would probably have a better opinion of themselves if simply: they saw more naked people. Heterosexually speaking at least, females and males will see the opposite sex naked much more than they see the bodies of their own sex. Only in super close, open relationships do people sometimes see their parents or friends undressed. People who are gay and bisexual potentially have less body shame because it is more likely that they have seen a variety of their own sex naked and thus will become more comfortable with themselves.
It is not only what we see though, it is also what we think about. People who struggle with poor body image often have negative thoughts that come back to mind, yet are not always fully aware of when they are occurring. A key in creating a better body image is to take the beliefs and thoughts that have been passed down to us and change them by replacing them with more positive thoughts.
Some common negative thoughts:
“I look weird, unattractive, ugly”
“My butt/breasts/chest/nipples/penis/testicles/vulva is too big/too small”
“I’m not symmetrical”
“I shouldn’t have hair there”
“I’m not masculine enough”
“I’m not feminine enough”
These thoughts are often an internal dialogue that are never shared, not even with close friends and family. But if we shared these thoughts more we would discover that we are not alone in them and not alone in how our bodies are. The truth is that people have hair everywhere (pretty much everywhere but palms of hands, soles of feet, & lips), no one is truly symmetrical, body parts come in all sizes and shapes, and the way you look does not equal your worth.
In a time when there is still such pressure to look a certain way, influencing people to have complaints about their appearance, along with options for cosmetic procedures increasing, we need to be reminded that it is absolutely possible to accept, enjoy, and love our bodies just the way they were made!
So, don’t feel bad. You were born normal, you were just not born in a society with a realistic, rational outlook of the human body and what it means.
Now, some advice on how to get over body shame:
A huge part of life would be so visually boring if everyone looked alike. No one is completely identical to another so embrace your unique form, because no one will ever be exactly like you! And how cool is that? There are billions of humans and none of us are truly the same. It’s pretty amazing, really.
Not everyone prefers what you do. There are many people who will/would be attracted to what you are insecure about.
If someone else has negative thoughts towards your body then that represents that they have an issue, unrealistic expectations, or inexperience when it comes to human anatomy. This is their problem, not yours.
Knowing you are not alone helps tremendously. Talk to a friend or someone you trust about body shame, research online, or find a book that details the experience of someone that relates to yours. Continue to learn and remind yourself that you aren’t alone in how you feel and in how you look.
And most of all, see what other people look like!
Below are websites that show photos of just some examples of the variation of human anatomy, as well as other information and interview-type articles. (remember, since no one is exactly the same you might not find someone who looks a lot like you in these pictures) :
Breasts, Nipples, Areolas:
– photos http://www.bratabase.com/breast-shapes/?page=1
– photos http://www.007b.com
– we all have nipples http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4011576/Can-tell-male-female-Genderless-Nipple-account-Instagram-challenges-double-standard-app-s-anti-nipple-policy-close-ups-men-women.html
– nipple facts https://www.buzzfeed.com/carolynkylstra/nipple-factoids?utm_term=.ijlX5wbX#.voqye56y
– men have breasts too https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/15/moobs-and-me-matt-cornell
– gynecomastia http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1663453,00.html
– breast cancer in men http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/BreastCancerinMen.html
– photos http://www.channel4embarrassingillnesses.com/galleries/penis-gallery/
– photos http://www.willyworries.com/the-picture-galleries/aboutpixgalleries/about-galleries/the-normal-gallery/
– photos http://www.foreskin.org/page2.htm
– talk about circumcision http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a32417/sex-talk-realness-circumcision/
– photos http://www.largelabiaproject.org/About
– vulva body image through art http://www.greatwallofvagina.co.uk/home
– it’s called androgenic hair https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_hair
– why do we have butt hair? http://www.seventeen.com/health/news/a39107/science-explains-why-you-have-butt-hair/
– talk about body hair http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/news/a33193/sex-talk-realness-female-body-hair/
– talk about body hair http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a61408/why-men-shave-their-pubic-hair/