Self-portrait by Laurel Dickman

Laurel by Asher S-L.

Prior to my ex, I always tried to figure out a way to cover up my body when it came to sex. I was a big believer in “fake it ‘til you make it” and developed a dual persona in my later teen years: the big, bombastic, confident fat woman that was everyone’s confidante who gave great advice on how to love ones’ self and look good, while internally I was doubting every item of clothing that I put on, every declaration of love or compliment about my beauty. I had experienced sexual abuse at a young age and kept hurting myself in similar ways, under the proclamation of reclaiming my sexuality. By nineteen, I had turned fucking into a sport and I was gathering trophies into my late twenties between serial relationships.

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Even in those relationships, I was afraid of truly letting my partners see me – both emotionally and physically. I hid behind blankets on the bed. I was afraid to get on top, afraid of how my stomach looked in pretty much all positions, worried about a zit or two on my ass, and the thought of how I looked from the angle of someone performing cunnilingus terrified me. Granted, I had no problem performing oral sex on my partner, be they male or female, at any time of the day with any lighting.

I truly give this man a great deal of credit in breaking my negative attitude toward my body, no matter how much I dislike him now. He was a handsome, fit artist who modeled in his spare time. We met online and when I saw him order a drink at the bar, I wanted to hide in the corner because I felt that he was so far out of my league I was on the verge of traumatic embarrassment. Thankfully, I turned out to be incredibly wrong. We hit it off immediately, he spent the night, and we engaged in an intensely passionate five-month relationship that ended horribly. Heartache or not, I still would not have changed it.

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His enjoyment of my body was borderline worship, as he kissed every inch and told me what he loved about it. He would lift my heavy legs onto his shoulders, and admire the weight and strength within in. “It must take such strength to carry such a powerful body,” he would say, kissing me and dragging his tongue to areas that rarely saw artificial light, let alone daylight. He would pose and then photograph me in positions that I was terrified of, until I saw his face light up with pleasure and admiration. He would draw me over and over, until I finally began to see what he saw in me. I had never felt so wanted, so beautiful in my entire life. I felt sexually safe and I would make love to him with absolute abandon, because I knew that there was never any kind of judgement weighed against my body. When I was measured for a custom piece that I wore in a fashion show, I lamented the fact that my size 24 thighs were the literally two inches larger around than the radius of his thin waist. He grinned and said that he thought it was actually really cool, and gave me a massage while telling me all of the different things that I could do with my body that he could not. Now, I realize that part of my intense passion toward him was that I had never felt this way about myself and I was terrified that if he left, that feeling of self-love would leave, too. As he slipped away from me, I held on tighter, desperate to not hate myself again.

I did, but just for a while. I mourned that relationship almost as intensely as I had mourned deaths of loved ones, because I had no idea how to love myself the same way without the crutch of his constant praise. Not long after he left, I met the man whom I am now engaged to and plan with whom I plan on sharing the rest of my life. This article is about neither man, though. It is about learning to love myself and being okay, though maybe not as in love as I once was, with my body. I continue to practice a few things that keep myself anchored and real regarding my body.

1. Spend Time Naked With Body Positive Friends.
Seriously. Go somewhere that you can be nude together, like a clothing optional beach or spa. Hang out in your underwear together. Do not hesitate to undress in front of one another. As you are doing this, try not to compare your bodies. Smile at your own body and revel in the differences, do not lament them.

2. Masturbate With The Lights On.
This is a simple way of becoming more familiar with your body. Do it in front of a mirror, in a place where you can see yourself. Don’t go practicing your facial expressions or holding in your gut while you come – that’s not what this is about. See what your partner sees, the flush in your cheeks and swelling in your lips. See what your partner loves, and try to love it yourself.

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Selfie by Laurel Dickman.

3. Send n00dz kthx.
Take some naked selfies and look at them in your free time. Learn your curves – your partner knows them. Learn what they admire and emphasize it, both for your sake and theirs.

4. Participate in a Boudoir Shoot.
Few things will make you feel sexier than having your hair and makeup done, donning a piece of sexy lingerie, and having a professional photographer make you feel like a million dollars. You can go the au naturel route and do it sans makeup in a natural setting, too, like some kind of boho Lady Godiva.

5. Buy cute panties and hang out in them – often.
Part of being body positive is being comfortable in your own skin. Don’t cover it up when you don’t have to. Chill in your panties! It’s summer and it’s hot, anyway. This is a great excuse to buy some sexy ones and drop a lot of stuff in front of your babe to give them a quick tease.

It all comes down to this: we all have our personal hang-ups when it comes to our bodies. There is no “perfect” body, no matter how much mainstream media wants us to think that there is. No matter how much plastic surgery is performed on a body, one will always find some kind of fault. It does not matter how thin or how fat you are, how girly or masculine. I am not ignoring the fact that often issues run deeper like being in the wrong body or sexual abuse, but some issues can be worked through with immersion therapy. Try introducing these five steps into your life. It’s the only body that you have, so you may as well learn to love it.

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