I will never forget the wife who told me that she dressed in her closet rather than let her husband see her body. I would love to tell you that this story had a happy ending, but she and her husband divorced a few years later. Not just because of her body image issues, but they played a part.
Indeed, body image issues, both for wives and for husbands, can make healthy, intimate sexuality a challenge at a best and absent for too many. I really wish we wouldn’t be so unnecessarily hard on ourselves. Here are just a few reasons why you should embrace the body you have!
1. Your body is the only one you’ve got.
Despite such movies as Freaky Friday, All of Me, and Being John Malkovich, you will never, not ever, take over someone else’s body. The one you’re in is the one you’ve got. So, your body falls squarely in the first category of the well-known Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,Originally penned by Reinhold Niebuhr
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Accepting your body means that you make peace with its challenges and flaws, but also that you recognize its beauty and effectiveness. Most of us can see, walk, and accomplish what we must do in a day. And even those who cannot perform typical tasks can still find wonder in what their body can and does do!5 Reasons to Embrace the Body You Have: "Accepting your body means that you make peace with its challenges and flaws, but also that you recognize its beauty and effectiveness." @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
2. Comparison pits you against others.
Not all comparison is terrible, if it makes you grateful for what you have. For instance, the wife in Song of Songs says about her husband: “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand” (5:10). She’s not saying those other thousands of guys aren’t worthwhile to their gals, but she doesn’t care about them because her hubby stands out to her as The One.
Likewise, you probably stand out to your spouse as The One. In fact, one’s spouse should be their standard of beauty, just as Adam and Eve only had each other as yardsticks for how great a body could look.
But that isn’t the problem as often as us comparing ourselves to others and feeling like we’re not measuring up. Too often, those measurements are fake ones such as airbrushed models or surgery-altered actresses, but sometimes they are real. Hey, I’m as guilty as anyone of feeling worse about myself when I see a friend my age who looks better than I do. But why do I feel that way? Why am I not happy for her? And happy that I look as good as I do? Or simply that my body does what I need it to do (mostly)?
Let’s call it was it is: coveting. And we need to stop it.
We need to look at our body and deal with it as it is and as it can be.
3. God knitted you together.
I know, I know, you say. At this point, perhaps you’ve had that scripture quoted at you somewhere between ten and two hundred times:
For you formed my inward parts;Psalm 139:13-14
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
Besides, those verses are from a psalm “of David,” about whom was also written: “Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome” (1 Samuel 16:12). Easy to praise God when you’re such a hottie that it gets recorded in The Book!
Except, I don’t think David wrote that when he was young. And some scholars think he didn’t write it at all. The point of the chapter itself is that David doesn’t feel great about how things are going, so he reminds himself that he was made by God, in the image of God, “intricately woven.” And that describes all of us.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made!
Here’s one example. Among all the things I’ve learned about reproductive anatomy in the nearly 12 years I’ve been writing about sex, it’s a TED Talk about how God created the penis that sticks with me. It’s a wonder how God made that body part to have erections. Intricate indeed.
But it’s also a wonder that women’s vaginal lips swell and lubricate, that the vagina expands and contracts, that the clitoris had no discernible purpose beyond pleasure that can lead to orgasm.
God did knit us in some amazing ways—from our heads, to our hearts, to our hard-ons and hoohas. We should embrace that.
4. Bodies change.
Bodies can change for the better, through maturation, healthy living, and exercise. And they can change for the worse, through aging, unhealthy choices, and simple wear and tear. Some of our lifestyle choices will make a difference, but others won’t.
If your body isn’t what it used to be because you got older, welcome to reality.
My husband and I were once watching our son play Ultimate Frisbee, and I asked, “So how long do you think we could play this game before our arthritis made us sit down?” Spock answered, “About ten seconds.” You know you’ve reached a new level of intimacy when you empathize about your aging aches and pains.
The flip side of this was living in France this past summer, where my husband and I did a lot of walking and witnessed our muscles becoming more toned. We’re still not looking like we did at thirty, but we embraced the positive changes.
When a good-willed spouse expresses dissatisfaction with their spouse’s appearance, the issue almost always turns out to be neglect of grooming and/or health. Take care of your body, but let go of unrealistic expectations.
5. Your body is pleasurable.
Your body is pleasurable, in the exact breakdown of that word: pleasure-able; able to give and experience pleasure. And when it comes to sex, that’s the point.
When I consider the couples who’ve told me they deeply enjoy their sexual intimacy, there’s no correlation to appearance—not objective beauty standards of symmetrical features or culturally accepted norms of body size, shape, age, etc. Instead, these spouses have discovered that skin is sensitive, complementary physiques are interesting, and mutual pleasure creates a beauty all its own. They also bring into their sexual relationship appreciation for one another as a person and not just a compilation of body parts.
We should appreciate our body parts for the sensations they provide us and our spouse and how those sensations draw us closer together. That’s when we can lean into the pleasure that our body—whatever it looks like—can provide.
In short, embrace the pleasure, embrace the body that makes it possible.
Embrace your body.
After giving you five reasons to embrace the body you have:
- Your body is the only one you’ve got
- Comparison pits you against others
- God knitted you together
- Bodies change
- Your body is pleasurable (or pleasure-able)
I’m now going to ask you to do something really weird: literally embrace your body. If you need inspiration, scroll up to the picture at the top or down to the one below. That woman is looking in the mirror, smiling at herself, hugging her body…and looks fantastic. Imagine the same woman slumping in front of a mirror, frowning at herself, shaking a disapproving finger at her body. How would she look then?
And yet, that’s the attitude many of us take when it comes to our bodies. Instead, embrace your body. Thank God for its functionality and sensations. Share it with your loving spouse. Enjoy the sexual intimacy you can have with that beautiful body of yours.
For more on this topic, check out the many posts that land under my blog category of body image HERE.