Some research suggests that as women who sleep with women, we are exempt from the pressure to strive towards the heterosexual ideals of a perfect woman, i.e the unrealistic Barbie! From this they claim, we should have better body confidence than heterosexual women.
Other research however indicates that body confidence can be more challenging for lesbian and bisexual women, as the potentially negative feelings and experiences associated with belonging to a minority group increase the likelihood of developing eating disorders and/or self-harming behaviour. The reality is that when it comes down to it, your sexual orientation does not guarantee your level of body confidence, but I reckon there is an opportunity to be had in our specific perspective.
As a woman, if the only images in your head of other female bodies are given to you by the media and the porn industry, being comfortable with your appearance may feel like swimming against the tide. As women who sleep with women, we are lucky enough to see non-edited, female bodies in the flesh that are likely to possess at least some of the “flaws” we are told to edit out. We should recognise that we are attracted to each other irrespective of the fact we possess what society condemns as imperfections.
The stretch marks that I deemed hideous on my own body, I then found irrelevant on my partner’s. Similarly, we should be able to testify to the reality that we really do come in all different shapes and sizes, and we are attracted to each other nevertheless, and sometimes especially because of this originality.
Whilst this realization should not be exclusive to women who fancy women, the constant reminder by the media of what men like and dislike in a woman is a pressure that isn’t mirrored in the LGBTQ community. That said, the more generic pieces that tell all women what we should look like are less easy to ignore. So, with that in mind, here are some tips to help improve your body confidence.
1 – Re-assess your ideal or banish it altogether. Constantly comparing yourself to somebody else is unrealistic, but if you’re adamant on finding a role model, let it be based on more than appearance.
2- Do not hide from the mirror and spend more time in the nude! Face your body; accept that it is yours and it is beautiful.
3- Celebrate what your body is capable of. Have you given someone who needed it a hug? Run for a bus? Had an orgasm? That's your body, being amazing!
4- Practise healthy living. Some people feel unattractive because they feel unhealthy so eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise will help you feel more comfortable in yourself.
5- Surround yourself with body-positive people who enable you to feel confident and comfortable. Being repeatedly criticized and picked-apart by others can be damaging to your self-esteem, and your wellbeing.
6- And in turn, stop being so critical of other people’s appearances! That includes binning those magazines that shame celebrities for “not looking their best”. By participating in the judgmental behavior you’re perpetuating those unrealistic standards in your own mind.
7- Change the way you talk to yourself. Instead of allowing your inner dialogue to tell you how unattractive you are each day, make an effort to list your attributes. If you don’t like your boobs, well maybe you like your bum, or your smile, or your eyes? But also be accepting of your least favorite parts by remembering we are unique in our differences but they do not define us, unless of course you want them to!
8- If your body confidence issues are persistent and are leading to damaging behaviour such as eating disorders or self-harm, see a counsellor. Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to re-train your brain by attacking your negative thought processes. A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.
If you're struggling with your body image, or if you need support around eating disorders or self-harm, LGBT Foundation offers counselling, including psychosexual counselling. Click here or call 0345 3 30 30 30 for more information.
Article by Claudia Carvell