Midlife women have shared with me that they didn’t want to start dating until they lost weight and/or got in shape. Some said the thought of getting undressed in front of a man was so unnerving, they would rather not start the dating process if that was to be the end result. In “Getting naked with him the first time” I talked about the experience of being unclothed with someone for the first time.
A few years ago I took a weekend course on women’s body esteem from Rita Hovakimian. In it, she had us do a powerful exercise designed to help us stop being critical of body parts we weren’t fond of.
Let’s say you are critical of your thighs, calling them “thunder thighs,” and being upset with their size, shape and lack of tone. You’ve blamed their shape on your mother’s genes, and have diligently exercised to try to reduce their size and get them into the long, slender shape you desire. However, no matter what you do they continue to maintain their chubby appearance.
Rita had each workshop participant change into tights and leotards or a bathing suit and have a conversation with these less-than-ideal body parts, as if they were a separate person. So, the conversation with my thighs went like this:
Rita: How do you feel about your thighs?
Me: I’m disgusted with them. They are big and flabby and cellulite riddled. I wish I could just cut off the flab.
Rita: Okay. Let’s ask your thighs how they feel about your thinking this about them.
(Me, as my thighs): We are sad that you dislike us so much. We do a lot for you. We help you walk, bike, dance and exercise. We enabled you to ski for years. And now all we hear is complaints. How about some acknowledgment for what we do for you?
Rita: What do you think about that?
Me: They are right. I only focus on what I don’t like.
Rita: What can you sincerely acknowledge about your thighs? Tell them.
Me: Thighs, thank you for being so strong and powerful. You enable me to ride my bike, dance, do aerobics, walk, and hike. I appreciate the years of pleasure you’ve allowed me to have from these activities. You’ve never let me down.
Rita: Thighs, how do you feel hearing that?
Thighs: It feels great to be appreciated. We feel loved.
Rita: Your thighs have served you, even in their larger-than-you’d-like current form. They have done their job for you without fail. Can you forgive that they don’t have your ideal shape and allow them to continue to do their job, and appreciate them for it?
Rita: Thighs, how does it feel to hear that?
Thighs: Great. And we only got big to get some attention. If we got more regular love an acknowledgment, we wouldn’t need to be quite so big.
Me: I will love you no matter what your size.
Within months of this process, with the help of exercise, my thighs were a bit more slender and toned. They are still not my ideal shape, but I have let go of my loathing of them.
So I’ve given up being concerned about what a guy will think upon seeing them for the first time. If he’s disapproving, he’s not for me. And I can tell if he’s going to be critical of me and my body particulars long before he sees me unclothed, so I stop seeing him as I don’t need judgmental people in my life.
Do you have some body parts with which you need to make peace and appreciate so you can progress in dating? Try a conversation similar to the above and see what comes out. You may be surprised.
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