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I Won’t Let Body Image Ruin My Sex Life

Photograph by Getty Images

No matter how I'm feeling about myself, there is one place I know I'll feel sexy—in the bedroom. It wasn't always that way. After spending most of my life hating something about myself, I've learned to love myself better. Or, at least, I've learned how to see myself from the perspective of someone who loves me.

When I was younger (well, before marriage and kids), I frequently confused sex for love and acceptance. Even if I sometimes got between the sheets for the wrong reasons, it didn't negate the fact it made me feel good. I deserved to feel good, to escape negative thoughts about myself.

It's taken a long time to accept and love myself where I'm at today, rather than longing to love the body I wish I had. Let's be honest, it's hard to let go and enjoy sex when you're too worried about how you look without your clothes on because you don't even like how you look with them on. One of the first steps was to believe that my husband truly found me beautiful. I needed to realize he wasn't just saying things he thought I wanted to hear.

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Not only does he say it, he makes me feel like it.

After having our first baby, I wasn't very interested in sex for a few months. Well, that's not exactly true. It's more complicated than that because I wanted to be intimate with my husband, but I was processing my transformation into motherhood, plus crazy hormones, and fear of sex after childbirth and stitching. My issues weren't necessarily about weight (I actually lost weight while pregnant.) I was still about as heavy as I was pre-pregnancy, but my body image was shaken again.

I felt different about my body and myself. I was uncertain, plus this new baby was still making me feel like my body no longer belonged to me. I kept communication as open and honest as possible with my husband. With sleep deprivation, leaky breasts, and the smell of baby spit-up, it was extremely hard to feel sexy. To turn off mom mode and turn on me, as a woman.

At first I treated it along the lines of fake it until you make it. Pretending I was irresistable until I felt it.

As it turns out, I'm not the only woman who struggles with enjoying sex due to feeling self-conscious. According to Tracey Cox, bad body image is one of three fears ruining women's sex lives. I refuse to let my body image ruin the rest of my life, including my sex life.

A negative body image hasn't gotten me anywhere. It's ruined too many things in my life. It's made me doubt activities, clothes, and even my abilities by being afraid what other people would think. By assuming they didn't like how I looked. By letting those who've shamed me throughout my life get inside my head.

In an effort to gain my sexy back, I booked a boudoir photoshoot over a year ago. It was an incredible experience that gave me tangible proof that I could be beautiful and confident with my body. I also discovered the power of buying flattering lingerie. At first I treated it along the lines of fake it until you make it. Pretending I was irresistable until I felt it. Instead of being paranoid about stretch marks and stomach rolls, I now feel amorous when I slip into something enticing before bed.

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As I became more comfortable within my own skin again, I found other little ways to help me relax so I could let go and enjoy being intimate with my husband. Unwinding before bed with a glass of wine and a book helps as does initiating sex when I feel sleepy. I know, I know, sometimes it's hard to put off much needed sleep, but that stage of relaxation makes it hard to think anything bad about myself.

The more stressed I feel, the more likely I am to let negative thoughts creep in. Sometimes I have to actively defend myself from self-scrutiny. When my mind and body feel relaxed, I can feel amazingly sexy.

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