14th Sep 2018
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Sex is the next step but Janette is ashamed of her body
Too ashamed to have sex

Janette is ashamed of her body because of multiple surgeries. Ten years after her husband died, she is in a relationship and wants to take the next step but is struggling. Dr Emmanuella Murray explains how to get past body-shaming and get physical.

Q. Janette
It’s been 10 years since my husband died and I’ve met a man. The issue is that I don’t think I can consider a sexual relationship because I’m ashamed of my body after multiple surgeries. It’s hard to talk about.

A. I’m sorry to hear that your husband died. I can’t imagine how hard that has been for you. You are so brave putting yourself out there again. Meeting someone new isn’t easy and it can be so daunting, especially when making the decision to take the relationship further and become more intimate.

You say you are ashamed of your body after multiple surgeries. Of course, it’s hard to talk about. Shame is not an easy emotion and it often prowls when we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Women can be very harsh when giving body appraisals. We think we must have the perfect body all our life and that’s impossible. It doesn’t help with all the body-shaming messages out there, but I do believe we are getting better at appreciating who we are even with our imperfections.

You need to practise more self-compassion. If you can learn to become more loving and compassionate with yourself, you will be more likely to embrace your imperfections.

We all have imperfections! I hate to go all ‘muso’ on you but the song All of Me by John Legend is one that I quote a fair bit in therapy when people present with body shame in a relationship 

When we enter a relationship, we give all of us not just the good parts – that’s what being in a relationship is all about. The more we try to aim for perfection, whether it be with body or mind, shame is always waiting.

I have no doubt those surgeries were necessary to help you live a happy and healthy life, and what a gift that is. To overcome our need to be perfect, we must be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities, just as you have, and practise self-compassion.

Self-compassion is about being understanding towards ourselves and recognising that we all have insecurities. While we can’t just ignore our insecurities, it’s important that we don’t over-identify with those thoughts and feelings and get swept up with the negativity as this can prevent us from enjoying life’s moments and, in your case, moving forward in a relationship.

This is going to sound clichéd, but I want you to ‘dress to impress’ for yourself. Put on your favourite top or dress and feel good about your body with all its imperfections.

Give self-kindness your full attention and allow yourself to enjoy the next step of your relationship by reminding yourself that your imperfections are only reminders that we are all imperfect humans together.

Dr Emmanuella Murray is a clinical psychologist who has been practising for more than 10 years. She works with children, adolescents, adults and couples and presents to professionals and community groups.

If you have a question for Dr Emmanuella Murray, please send it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au

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    COMMENTS

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    tisme
    14th Sep 2018
    10:31am
    I dont go out socially etc because of the weight ive gained on meds ive never been self confident but now ……………….
    Pammy
    14th Sep 2018
    10:56am
    Tisme. I have a friend who is very heavy, also due to meds, and struggles to leave her home. She is a beautiful person and her friends would love to have more social occasions with her. We care about what is inside her, not about external appearance. Any true friend, of either sex, would feel the same. You love a person, not a body.
    Cheezil61
    15th Sep 2018
    6:41am
    Great advice but surprised it wasn't mentioned how Janette would view her would-be 'partner' if they were in her situation? We would not be so harsh on someone else as we are on ourselves? So why do we beat ourselves up like this?
    Adrianus
    15th Sep 2018
    1:40pm
    Whether you're scarred by surgery or scarred by an accident, those scars tell a story. They are part of you, wear them with pride. They are your story.
    When I was renovating a house recently, not being very good at it, I decided to use the Japanese method of renovation. That is to say the cracks are not concealed but simply filled to make safe and stop further damage etc. This reveals the house's history. How it has endured over time. Often history may not be a good experience but it can be a good reminder of how we have mustered the courage to overcome adversity. Now that is something worth being proud of.
    Janette, it seems to me that you've come through the hardest part, now's not the time to quit.


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