“All we’ve ever wanted is to look good naked; hope that someone can take it.
God save me rejection from my reflection; I want perfection”
Robbie Williams, Bodies
I am endlessly fascinated by the British series How to Look Good Naked. During each show the host, Gok Wan, will hone in on the deepest insecurities of a female guest and discover which body part she despises most about herself. He will then have her strip down to her “knickers” (or underwear for you non-British folk out there) and introduce her to a line up of average-looking women who are also in their undies. Gok explains to the guest that these women are lined up from smallest to largest of the hated body part. The woman then has to place herself where she thinks she fits in the line up. So, for example, if she is really concerned about her thighs, he arranges the women from smallest to largest thighs and then has the guest decides where she believes she measures up.
I have never seen a show where the guest didn’t go right near to the end where the largest body part was. Sometimes, while she does this, she is in tears completely undone by her self-loathing. However, Gok will then move her to the place where she actually belongs – this is most often nearer to the smaller end. The brilliant point that the show makes is that when it comes to body image, how we perceive ourselves is not necessarily reality.
We are besieged, each and every day, by images of “beauty” as defined by marketers. We somehow forget that it is their job to make us feel insecure about ourselves so that we will go out and buy their product. In fact, we get so caught up in what beauty is supposed to look like that when our lover tells us how good we look, we grimace and respond with an ungracious comment such as, “you need to get your eyes checked”. Internally, we are running through a checklist – formed through our consumption of airbrushed images – of all the reasons why s/he is wrong. But we, like the women on How to Look Good Naked, might have perspectives on our bodies which are very, very wrong.
Most people at this point go into a diatribe about how our character, our choices, our love for each other, our insides are most important in life. And I am all for those things. Truly.
However, there is no doubt that attraction is essential to a great sex life. You go to bed anticipating hot, steamy sex and all that passion you are feeling is immediately extinguished when he kisses you with unbrushed teeth and you get to taste what he had for dinner. Or she sidles up to you in her ratty sweats – so she can stay warm during foreplay, of course. Or he hasn’t cleaned under his finger nails since 1995. Or her hair hasn’t come down from that pony-tail since the kids were born. Physical attraction matters. You might be a beautiful person inside, but s/he is not making love to your insides.
When I am coaching couples, I try to redirect their focus from what our society says is attractive to what they find attractive in each other. Instead of scrambling to reach some unattainable cultural expectation (let’s face it, we’ve all seen rather unflattering photos of what the media refer to as “beautiful people”), find out what your lover sees as beautiful and what makes you feel attractive and sexy. Then set a goal to work on those things.
One of my clients shared with me her road to finding her “attractive self”. She has terrible skin sensitivities and so she cannot wear makeup easily and even hair products can be problematic. She always felt “less-than” because she couldn’t have the glamorous hair and makeup like the models. However, she discovered that she feels really attractive in skirts. So, she started to look for skirts which really make her feel sexy. Sometimes they are long; sometimes they are short. They had to be made of a fabric that felt good to her. She works with her husband, and so sometimes she goes to work with garters on underneath her skirts. And he loves this. Just knowing that his wife is wearing garters under her skirts is a complete turn-on to him especially since he can think about it all day at work. Now, if you saw her walking down the street and you were looking only for women who fit the model version of “gorgeous”, you might not give her a second glance. But she knows that she is attractive and her husband knows this too. They have found what really works for them.
What works for you and your lover? Do you actively put effort into being attractive for your spouse? If this is an area of your relationship that you would like to address, here are some things you can do:
- What does your lover find attractive about you? Have you ever asked or have you just assumed? Ask him/her – what is your favourite feature about me? What do I do that you find attractive? If I am able to do nothing else to make myself attractive, but I could only do one thing for you – what would that one thing be? If s/he is open to the conversation, turn it around and tell him what you find attractive about him/her.
- What makes you feel attractive, beautiful, sexy, hot? Do you allow yourself the time, the energy, the money to invest in this? How would your demeanor change if you did? Would your lover notice a difference? Would other people around you notice a difference? Find one (even small) way that you can feel more attractive this week and do it.
- Buy an article of clothing that makes you feel incredible. How does it feel against your skin? What do you love about it – is it the colour, the shape, the fabric, the way you look in it? How does your lover respond when you wear it?