I recently received a call from a friend telling me I wouldn’t believe the horrible thing her boyfriend had said. I prepared myself for the worst and was already mad at him before she even opened her mouth.
“He said he likes my body…because it’s ‘healthy!’ Healthy?! He said it’s a compliment, but do you think he’s calling me fat?”
After assuring her that yes, he absolutely meant it as a compliment, I began to wonder how different her reaction would have been if he had said Skinny. Just like most women, myself included, she probably would have been ecstatic and triumphant. Why are women so terrified of the notion of being anything less than perfect, and most importantly, how is our desire for physical perfection affecting our romantic relationships?
Many women have been conditioned to believe that in order for a guy to love them or even just ask them out, they have to look a certain way. Because of this, some women often feel like they are never enough -hot enough, thin enough, sexy enough- for a man to love them. It’s a breeding ground for insecurity. This quest for unattainable physical perfection comes in many forms, often times hidden under “fitspiration” or “health” as women go to extremes to achieve physiques that are really only found in Photoshop.
“The quickest way to feel inadequate is to compare yourself to someone else – and women with a negative body image are often comparing themselves and their bodies to other women – or worse, to the images in magazines and advertising” says Health, Life and Wellness Coach Nicole Burley.
The effect on our dating life is huge.
This constant feeling of inadequacy affects our lives in many ways, the most important being that it prevents us from truly enjoying life in the present moment. The simplest activities or events – a party, a wedding, a day at the beach, hanging out with other women – can become overshadowed by self-consciousness, insecurity, and bad feelings about yourself. Not only does this negative body image hamper our relationships with other women, but it drastically impairs our romantic relationships as well.
Nicole shares more about the toll that poor self image can take on a relationship. “If you have defined yourself primarily by how your body looks and whether or not you are attractive and appealing to men, then you do leave yourself vulnerable to certain challenges in relationships. Those challenges might involve finding a good partner, or being able to sustain a healthy relationship over the long-term – one that encourages you to feel valued for who you truly are. You may find yourself needing constant reassurance or validation, or you may feel a hyper-vigilant need to diet or stay in shape – which can be exhausting for you and your partner. “
The key to preventing this type of relationship strife is to work on separating your body image from your self image. If you have a strong sense of self and are confident in who you are as a person, you’re less likely to make choices based on insecurities, no matter if you have perfect thighs or not. Because your self worth won’t be based on physicalities, you won’t need constant reassurance or validation from a man that can drain a relationship of it’s resources. Not to mention that men find women a lot more enjoyable to be around when they aren’t complaining about their looks or comparing themselves to other women.
It’s unrealistic to think that our attitudes towards beauty, body image and weight will change over night, and while you can’t control the things that have been ingrained in you in the past, you can control the things you choose to believe or listen to now. This might mean distancing yourself from friends who constantly tear you down or canceling subscriptions to the magazines that make you feel like crap every month. It might mean taking responsibility for your own inner monologue and putting a stop to the negative self talk. Perhaps instead of reading articles that promise to tell you all about “The secret ways to get a sexy body any man will love” and comparing yourself to the supermodel on the cover you can ask your own man exactly what he loves about your sexy body.
Chances are he will be eager to tell you why he finds you and only you SO HOT.
Have you ever struggled with negative body image in a relationship?