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Big Questions: Dealing With Negative Body Image & Sex

Welcome to Big Questions with Zach Miko, an advice column answering your questions about the things we’re not always comfortable talking about in public. Send your questions to Zach by clicking here. Don’t worry, you can send them anonymously if you’d like.

Anonymous: Hey Zach. Big fan here. As a big guy, I have always been conscious about my appearance. Honestly, it affects my confidence, especially during sex. Have you struggled with that as well or is it just me?

Dear Anonymous,

I don’t know if it’s possible to grow up as a bigger person and not feel self-conscious. When you are young, your way of perceiving the world is being shaped by every experience. As kids, we may not always know it, but much of our world view revolves around one question: Am I normal?

Wearing my father’s hand-me-downs at the age of 
10 didn’t make me feel like I was growing up fast, it made me feel like I was growing up wrong.

Every kid wants to be grown up, right? To get out of the car seat, stop ordering off the kids menu, to ride the big rollercoaster. These are landmarks in our growth that make us feel more adult.  A major difference for those of us who grew up fat is that these experiences quickly go from feelings of accomplishment, to feelings of shame. Wearing my father’s hand-me-downs at the age of 10 didn’t make me feel like I was growing up fast, it made me feel like I was growing up wrong.

As you get older, you realize that your body looks different from other kids your age. Kids can be cruel and notice those differences too, often making fun of you for it. I ended up wearing a shirt while swimming for a good 20 years because I didn’t want anyone to make fun of my body.

Something as simple as not wanting to take my shirt off in the pool manifests itself in so many aspects of your life. For some people, myself included, this affects one of the most basic aspects of being a human, sex.

Consider How You Feel About Yourself

I didn’t want to take my shirt off while having sex. In the moments I was supposed to feel most “like a man”, I was that scared and ashamed little kid again. Sex means different things for different people. For some people it’s a connection, for others it’s an escape. For me it was a connection. I wanted to feel desired, attractive, and loved. It’s why sex was always so scary for me. How can someone ever desire me, or be attracted to me, when I think I am hideous? Even when I slept with someone, in my head it wasn’t because they were attracted to me, but because I could provide them with something. I believed past girlfriends were with me because I had a car, I bought gifts, or I was funny, not because they thought I was hot, and when they gave me those types of compliments, was convinced they were lying.

I went on this way for most of my life.

Now I know your question was essentially “Have you struggled with confidence issues because of your body too?”, and my answer was a resounding yes. But I wouldn’t be much of an advice columnist if I didn’t offer some sort of advice.

Take Steps Toward Loving Your Body

It’s time you reclaimed your body from the bullies who made you feel bad about it as a kid. When you are in your home, your backyard, or out taking a walk, take your shirt off.  I began doing this a year or two ago and it slowly changed the way I think about myself. You need to become comfortable in your bare skin again. When I was a kid I used to think nudists were crazy people, now I realize they are far wiser than I could have imagined.

I want you to learn to love yourself naked, or at the very least stop hating your body. Pick one thing every day that you like about your body. At first, it will probably be smaller stuff like, “I like my arms,” or “I have nice calves.” After a few weeks, I can promise you that  you’ll appreciate yourself more every time you look in the mirror. Regular self compliments work. For years you have told yourself every day sub-consciously that you don’t like something about your body. Now you are flipping the script, and with every compliment, your subconscious changes its tune a little.

As far as finding confidence when it comes to sex, start by feeling good about being naked by yourself, and you will feel better being naked with someone else. Everyone is insecure when it comes to sex. EVERYONE. The hottest person with a six-pack you’ve ever seen feels insecure when being intimate with another person. Just remember that. When you are with someone, you are just two people looking to feel loved and desired. Be that for each other.

Love yourself, love your partner, fuck the haters.

Love, Zach