Your self-image is your mental picture of yourself, both as a physical body and a person. This mental picture is important to your wellbeing. A healthy body image means that you see yourself as you really are, and that you feel good in your own skin. Self-image also involves your emotions about your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Because sex involves both the body and the mind, our self-image can have a strong affect on our sexual health.
It’s important to realize – and remind yourself every day – that, just as you have a unique mind with its own gifts to offer the world, you also have a unique body that is one-of-a-kind. This is important to remember if you’re feeling self-conscious about the way you look. Valuing and respecting your own body is a crucial part of a healthy sexual life (and a healthy life in general)!
The Influence of Media
Images in the media don’t usually show the realistic bodies that we all have. To make products seem more appealing, models or spokespeople are often edited, even beyond recognition. This is not just limited to advertising. On social media, apps like FaceTune or photoshop are often used by ordinary people to change parts of their faces or bodies. It’s so hard to know what’s real!
Because of this, it’s important to not compare yourself to the images that we see online. Think about what you like about your body. What’s your favorite feature? What are your favorite activities? Your body makes it possible for you to do these things. Some examples might be: “I really like the way my cheeks look when I smile” or “I’m glad I have strong legs so that I can bike as far as I can” or as simple as “I’m glad that I can communicate with my mouth”.
The more you actively value your own unique qualities, the easier it is to think about your body as an extension of the amazing personal traits that you possess. If you routinely struggle with this or if your self-image feels overwhelmingly negative, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about how to get help.
Vaginal Self Image
For a lot of women, it is difficult to know what is considered an attractive or even a normal vulva. But, as long as you are able to use the bathroom, menstruate, and engage in sexual activity that you are looking for, your vulva is normal. Abrupt changes like bumps or irritation are cause for concern. But, otherwise, your vulva is beautiful and uniquely yours. There is a lot of variety in the shapes, colors, and textures of labia, clitorises, and even vaginal openings. The texture and feeling your vulva and your vagina will also change as you age, especially if you choose to have children. Long term changes to your vagina and vulva are also normal and to be expected. Increased vaginal dryness is a common example that can often be solved with lubricant.
What are some common female sexual difficulties?
Self Image as We Age
As women get older, our bodies experience new changes. For some women, it can be difficult to maintain their positive self image as their lives and bodies change. But, it is important to continue to remind yourself of the amazing things that your body can do.
Menopause is a transition that can be additionally challenging. Your body chemistry may shift very abruptly, and it can be difficult to deal with the emotional changes that can accompany the physical ones. The process of aging, too, brings on new feelings and experiences that can affect your sexual life and your self-perception.
When it comes down to it, a woman’s physical body is constantly changing. Actively learning about what to expect as you age can help you prepare for the feelings that those changes may bring. Don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider about what you should be watching for as your body goes through the stages of life. Remember that your body is an amazing thing; it is capable of showing love, giving and receiving pleasure, and experiencing new things!