I need some major help with body image issues (self confidence)
August 12, 2010 8:04 PM   Subscribe

I need some major help with body image issues (self confidence) I'm reaching out to the hive for some extremely personal advice (thank God for anonymous-ness). I apologize beforehand for my casual typing - I tend to type the way I talk, and it can go all over the place...

I dated a lot through high school and early college but never had sex due to my religious upbringing... During my 2nd year in college I met my future wife (she was 17) and we dated for about 3 years. We were married for almost 13 years when I found her with another man and after a year separation we divorced.

After the divorce I found comfort in eating and ballooned up to 440lbs... I would say it was an emotional eating thing, but I also think it was a comfort bubble thing... In other words, the bigger I got = the less attractive I was to the opposite sex = the less chance I would be heartbroken again... It has been 10 years since the divorce... in that time I have focused solely on my kids - making sure they were taken care of and loved as much as possible (mission accomplished as they are amazing young adults now).

Fast forward to the present... I have gone through a lot of physical, spiritual, and emotional healing in the past 10 years and finally feel I am ready to love again. But here is my dilemma.... I have lost over 160lbs in the last few years and my skin (especially around my stomach and chest) hangs horribly. I still have about 50lbs more to lose but I definitely am on the road to better health. I also had diabetes and hypoglycemia (the diabetes disappeared after losing the weight). This, combined with my age (mid 40's) have raised some concerns that I might experience ED when I choose to be sexually active again. I'm also concerned that I have only been intimate with my ex-wife... and although I always thought we had a great sex life - I'm concerned with my lack of "experience".

So, recently I met an amazing beautiful girl who is way out of my league - and she really likes me for who I am... We are casually dating but nothing intimate yet. And I have been open with her about my confidence issues regarding my abundance of skin, needing to lose more weight, and my lack of sexual experience. And she stated honestly that we will just have to cross that bridge when we get to it (which could be pretty soon). So Hive - what can I do to ease my concerns? How can I get my confidence back? With my clothes on I look really good and have no problem attracting women... But I am totally grossed out and self conscious when I am naked...

And right now surgery is not an option as my insurance does not cover it - and I cannot afford to pay it out of pocket. I know it really shouldn't be an issue - but it is... and it drives me crazy with concern. What can I do to regain my confidence and self respect again? Any ideas or comments will be greatly appreciated!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you took out your next to last paragraph, I would say the best thing that could happen to you is you find an amazing beautiful girl who likes you for who you are, etc. etc. etc. And go through it with her.

So you already found her. You already admitted your hang ups even. So go through it with her.
posted by oreofuchi at 8:30 PM on August 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ask your doctor if Viagra is right for you!

(No, seriously. Do that. And then take one an hour or so before Happy Fun Time. Then focus on HER body, IYKWIMAITYD.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:41 PM on August 12, 2010


I have lost over 160lbs in the last few years

Congratulations! That's really amazing.

This sounds kind of stupid, but I would suggest scheduling yourself for a massage/body scrub with a female masseuse. This will accomplish a couple things:

-Body scrubs and massages stimulate your skin cells and can help tighten up some of your loose skin.

-You'll be naked, being touched by a female stranger. But there is little to no emotional risk, because this female stranger has done this thousands of times before. Afterwards, though, being seen and touched by someone you care about may be easier, since you've already crossed the hurdle with a complete stranger.

-Everyone feels sexier and more confident after being rubbed with rosemary sage body oil. Fact. Proven by science. (One assumes.)
posted by karminai at 8:50 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds like you've been taking care of yourself and working hard to get healthy for some time now--I congratulate you on that! Honestly, you will probably still feel a little insecure when the big moment comes. It may help you to set the mood with some attractive lighting and soft music (and a bit of wine, if you two drink). I agree that you should focus on her. If you are feeling insecure about your sexual performance I suggest that you watch a couple of instructional videos ("instructional" sounds weird; they're more like "technique videos"). This will help reassure you that you're "doing it right." I know it sounds like a weird idea but trust me it will make you feel eager to have sex and less intimidated by your new (potential) partner. You may even pick up some new ideas!

Good luck!
posted by duvatney at 9:06 PM on August 12, 2010


I can't speak to your fears about ED, but I am a fat woman who has had a lot of good sex as a fat woman, and also with people who were or are fat to varying degrees. (I know your concern isn't about being fat, but I'm thinking about what might be analogous for me in terms of self-consciousness about getting naked, being seen and being touched.) For me, sex isn't very visual--when I think about what makes sex good for me, it's about what my partner and I are doing, how we're touching each other, what we're saying to each other. I don't know how true that is for other people, but for me, for instance, having a partner with loose skin like you have now would probably not affect my sexual enjoyment.

OK, you say, but what about touch? What if I feel self-conscious about being touched because of it? I can speak a little bit to that, too. My partner of 17 years underwent some very body-altering surgery 10 years or so ago, as part of his gender transition. Both the look and feel of his chest after the surgery took some getting used to, and even someone who knew he used to be a woman would probably feel something was unusual if she ran her hand over his chest. I'd say I've gotten 98% comfortable with the feel of his chest, but I still notice it if I put my hand there. But this is only one tiny tiny part of being physical with him, and I really like his body as a whole, so it's fine.

I like oreofuchi's comment. This woman you're dating sounds lovely, and willing to explore this with you if things get that far. Right now, you don't know what's going to happen, and it's not going to help if you imagine her being uncomfortable with the look or feel of your chest and stomach--that's just going to feed the fear. Tell yourself instead, if you find yourself worrying about it, that it's just as likely, if not more so, to be fine.

I like karminai's idea, too. Again, speaking as a fat woman, a good massage from someone who is respectful and professional can really help me feel good in my body.

Finally, it's OK to be a bit uncomfortable. I was involved with a woman a long time ago who never took her shirt off during sex because she was very uncomfortable about her breasts (she was extremely butch). I never saw them or touched them. And yet we had amazing smoking-hot sex. So, maybe you're more comfortable keeping your t-shirt on for a bit longer than you might otherwise do...it's not the end of the world. I hope for you that all your concerns evaporate in a puff of mutual attraction, but if not, better to have some nice intimate time with your shirt on than not to have it at all.

Oh, I do have one more thing to add: remember that people whose bodies are imperfect in various ways have sex all the time. Fat people, super-skinny people, all the people in between, women after mastectomy, people with scars, people with disabilities, people with big hairy moles. I saw a friend naked in the locker room a couple of weeks ago, and she is a very cute and trim size 12 except that she has floppy skin on her stomach from having babies. You're not in a unique situation at all; only the details vary.
posted by not that girl at 9:12 PM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I meant to say that even someone who didn't know he used to be a woman would feel that something was unusual about his chest...jeesh.
posted by not that girl at 9:13 PM on August 12, 2010


Here's my advice as a lady person, who does not have your exact problems but who has definitely had some body issues w/r/t to naked time (and who has listened to more than her fare share of Dan Savage's podcast, which I'd recommend for generally sane sex advice).

a) Have a drink or two/a little weed before you go all in. Unless you have medical/religious/other reasons not to, these exist to help you lower your inhibitions a bit and get in there. (Just keep it to a couple or you'll have a whole set of new problems!)

b) Also the first time you head into sexy time, take the "sex" off the table. Just go for oral and hands. That should take the pressure off your concerns about maybe ED*/lack of experience.

c) Remember that people tend to focus on their flaws WAY more than other people will. All the time friends are like pimple! flab! spots! whatever! and until they point directly to their 'problem' I don't even have the slightest idea what they're taking about.


* Which, er, wouldn't you know about? I totally don't know all about ED but I thought it was sort of regardless of whether you had another person involved or not.
posted by grapesaresour at 9:35 PM on August 12, 2010


Can you just mentally fast-forward to that point when you're casual comfortable old farts together? With any new partner, there's that moment of discovery and vulnerability, and in some ways (10%) that wonder is always there, but the other 90% of the time, you feel really comfortable and end up wearing sweatpants together while watching Netflix. Put differently, long after she discovers your body, the you that makes dinner, brushes your teeth, and watches Netflix is the you that she's going to hang out with. And she obviously digs that you. The way your body looks is an interesting and unique fact about you, but once the love for the inner you is there, the physical attributes are treasured decorations. I loved my tall boyfriend's height. I loved my short boyfriend's shortness. Etc. It becomes a cute detail. I know you feel horrible fears around it, but so did my scrawny no-muscles boyfriend, and I loved that about him, too. So, I don't know if this helps, but could you just envision yourself being accepted and treasured, more for who you are but including how you look, and then imagine getting comfortable together?
posted by salvia at 10:37 PM on August 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


grapesaresour wrote: "* Which, er, wouldn't you know about? I totally don't know all about ED but I thought it was sort of regardless of whether you had another person involved or not."

I have never once in my life had trouble getting a stiffie when masturbating, but I have on rare occasion had the problem with other people. It's really not a big deal, as there are plenty of things to do in the sack that don't involve an erect penis.

Asker, given that you're comfortable enough with your lady friend to discuss your body confidence issues, I don't think it will be a problem. Even if it is, it'll probably go away. If it doesn't, there are drugs to help with it.

If people focused that much on body "flaws" when getting into bed, nobody would have sex.
posted by wierdo at 12:09 AM on August 13, 2010


Somewhat related, and doesn't address the root of the issue, but my ex always wore a shirt during sex. I think it was a self-conciousness issue but I just rolled with it. The sex was awesome and that was just one of his quirks. Now it's my turn to be self-concious - I'm breastfeeding so I haven't had sex sans shirt for a year or so now. It's an option in the early self-concious days.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:05 AM on August 13, 2010


Another thing: when the time comes don't apologize for your body. I say this because you wrote:

I apologize beforehand for my casual typing - I tend to type the way I talk, and it can go all over the place...


And then you proceded to write a very clean, straightforward story. (I mean, have you read some of the epics on here? Or some of the ones that leave out stuff? Yours was well done.) Unnecessary apologizing will seriously get in the way of the fun of y'all's first time, so don't do it.
posted by JanetLand at 4:48 AM on August 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, I do have one more thing to add: remember that people whose bodies are imperfect in various ways have sex all the time. Fat people, super-skinny people, all the people in between, women after mastectomy, people with scars, people with disabilities, people with big hairy moles. I saw a friend naked in the locker room a couple of weeks ago, and she is a very cute and trim size 12 except that she has floppy skin on her stomach from having babies. You're not in a unique situation at all; only the details vary.

I came in to say something along these lines, but not that girl beat me to it. Many, many women who have had babies have issues with hanging skin around their stomachs, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. Stretch marks, droopy breasts, things that just aren't where they are supposed to be any more. And yet women with kids still get laid all the time. Even divorced women with kids and bodies that didn't "bounce back" after pregnancy find lovers and new husbands after divorces, so it's not just the baby's daddy being kind.

A woman I know was into partner-swapping back in the seventies when it was popular. She had terrible stretch marks and sagging skin around her tummy from her pregnancies and yet she apparently did ok for herself at these parties. She also remarried more than once and had boyfriends in between.

Another woman describes her vertical c-section scarred and pooched-out belly as a "tummy-butt", yet she has had a number of long-term boyfriends and an active sex life.

Someone who cares about you and is attracted to you is almost certainly not going to be put off by an imperfect body. Particularly if she already knows about the issue going in, I'd say the odds are near 100% that the only thing she is going to be thinking when she looks at you is "Woohoo, I've finally got this awesome guy naked with me!"
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:53 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I thought of something else. My husband is significantly overweight, and I love his body. I think he's very sexy and I love looking at him naked. I wish he could be naked all the time. I'm not "into" fat as a sexual thing, it's just not a thing at all.

He's not happy with his weight and has gone through periods where he really seems down on himself and unconfident, and he'll say disparaging things about his body. Occasionally he has avoided being sexual with me because of it.

And I have to say, his "issues" are the least sexy thing about him. When he acts all uncomfortable about himself, when he grabs a handful of belly fat, shakes it with disgust and says "look at that!", when he avoids the issue of sex... those are the times I am less attracted. It is harder to see him as a sexy and sexual person because he turns his sexuality off. It's not that I want him to strut around the room like a Chippendale dancer. When he just forgets about his body and focuses on something else like getting ready for work in the morning, or my body, or how eager he is to get to the sexing we are about to have, the self-consciousness disappears along with any awareness of awkward body issues on either side.

Everybody is nervous about being seen naked the first time. Your girlfriend is anxious about her body too, even if she never says anything, and so the first time together your mutual lack of confidence won't be off-putting. After you and your lover see each other for the first time and nobody runs screaming, it becomes tons easier to forget about yourself and focus on the fact that you're getting to have sexy naked time with this gorgeous girl. You'll have crossed that first hurdle of 'oh my god what if she hates my body' and then you don't have to think about it any more after that. It's cool at that point so you can let it go.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:38 AM on August 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


So Hive - what can I do to ease my concerns? How can I get my confidence back? With my clothes on I look really good and have no problem attracting women... But I am totally grossed out and self conscious when I am naked...

I think it helps to realize that pretty everyone has some sort of hangup about how they look, and virtually all of those people make a bigger deal out of it than they should. Yes, you might not look as good as you did when you were 20, but neither does anyone else. I bet the beautiful woman you are dating has also thought she wasn't attractive enough at various points in her life, even though you would probably think those kinds of concerns were insane. And there are plenty of guys who would love to "look really good and have no problem attracting women" and be in your shoes. There's no reason to spend time feeling bad about yourself, because life is too short and at the end of the day the people who care about you won't focus on your flaws nearly as much as you do.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, recently I met an amazing beautiful girl who is way out of my league

She is with you therefore she is not out of your "league." I take issue with that term as a whole. You sound like a great person. No one is out of your "league."

I was told by someone once that I was out of his league and I really felt insulted and hurt. This woman is obviously attracted to you and choosing to go out with you. Don't insult her by saying she is too good for you. When you say things like that, it implies her judgement is wrong and that is hurtful. Plus, you are just as valuable as her.

Try to feel more comfortable in your own skin. Up thread, someone suggested getting a massage. I think that's a good place to start.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:20 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The other commenters have covered the emotional aspect of your concerns very thoroughly, so I will just offer a practical tip: to avoid anxiety, why not take the undressing very slowly?

One of my favourite parts of sex with my partner is kissing and touching while we're both half-dressed. For him, that's an t-shirt and underwear and for me it's a tank top and underwear. It's a fun, playful, teasing phase of our sex and we both love it.

If you bought a black men's tank top and some black bottoms (both should be made from a very soft and touchable fabric) you would probably feel awesome because you'd have a sleek silhouette, because you can ease into the nakedidity at a comfortable pace, and because you can still hold her intimately.

(You seem like a smart guy who would already know this, but anyway: your underclothes should be nice, maybe even new - no stinky old shirts or underwear with holes.)
posted by cranberrymonger at 4:30 PM on August 13, 2010


The anxiety is always worse than the actual event. You need not be stark naked under floodlights. Candlelight and wine are clich├ęs for a reason; they hide many, many "flaws." I agree with wearing some sort of clothing until you feel comfortable. Women wear lingerie all the time to hide or minimize perceived flaws. Why shouldn't men wear things that make them feel sexier? Shapewear for men is apparently in vogue, so when you two get ready for sexytime, wear that under your street clothes. You've already told her what you're self-conscious about, so she should get why you're wearing it and respect that. Take it as slow as you need to - take intercourse off the table at first and see if the ED is truly a problem. You can do all kinds of stuff with your underwear still on... but don't be surprised if she helps you take it off!
posted by desjardins at 5:30 PM on August 13, 2010


OK, so I'm something of a underwear fetishist, but I would be all over a guy wearing this (preferably in black), and it has a fly so you can do your thing when you're ready without even taking it off.
posted by desjardins at 5:35 PM on August 13, 2010


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