I’m a chubby cis-woman in my late 20s. I lately worked through struggling with my body image and relationship to food while healing from years of disordered eating. I’ve been doing really well lately, but sadly one of the things that used to trigger my eating disorder was negative body talk from my family in regards to romantic relationships (i.e. you’ll always be alone because you’re fat).
I’m still in therapy, but I was wondering if you have any helpful advice for people who have dealt with negative body talk from family? I try to remind myself that their opinions don’t need to affect me, but I still keep waiting for rejection whenever I’m dating someone. I find that this makes me very anxious: I need lots of reassurance and validation from partners.
Meanwhile, I’m hesitant to bring this all up with the people I date because I don’t want to put my family’s B.S. on them. I often feel tense and I’m sure that my partners can sense it. I don’t want to over-share or strain my relationships, but I still want to be honest and open, and feel secure.
How can I help remind myself when I’m feeling vulnerable that I’m still lovable?
— Trying to Rock My Body
First of all, I’m sorry this familial abuse happened to you. And I’m also happy to hear that you have such great resources and resiliency.
I recently had the absolute joy of doing an interview for Curve Magazine with sex educator and self-proclaimed curvy girl Elle Chase (ellechase.com) about her new book Curvy Girl Sex. (June 2017 issue, curvemag.com, for the article.) I could not recommend it to you more.
In it she states that mega-mistake No. 1 is to “let your date determine your dateability.” That is to say that you and your body are worthy of love, affection, admiration, romance, and sexual pleasure inherently. You don’t become worthy because a date says this is so.
This level of self-love is a tough message to internalize, in general, but it’s especially difficult for people who have been incessantly told that it isn’t true. Please do add my name to your growing list of people telling you that it is true indeed: your body is great the way it is.
As humans, we thrive on connection, and so its opposite — rejection — is painful and terrifying for most of us. This means, RMB, that you will certainly not be the only one in a new romantic relationship who is navigating the line between exposing your vulnerabilities and seeking reassurance.
When I spoke to Chase, I asked: How can we embrace our inherent worthiness and sexiness when we are rejected during a delicate confidence-building stage of life?
“I’ve always said to myself,” she told me, “that ‘Rejection is protection.’ I figured anyone who wasn’t interested in me wasn’t going to be right for me anyway. At the end of the day, people either get you, or they don’t. You want someone who WANTS to know you better/fuck you/date you/be friends with you. We all deserve to spend time with people who value and see us the way we are.”
As important as it is to have your internal voice on your side, so too is it wonderful to have an affirming community to nourish the most vulnerable parts of yourself — it’s crucial to healing and thriving in relationships.
Lusciously bodacious sex educators abound and should absolutely be your next go-tos for positive modeling: Elle Chase’s book Curvy Girl Sex; Dawn Serra’s podcast Sex Gets Real; empowering erotic and pornographic model April Flores (fattyd.com); and the bountiful body types in CrashPadSeries.com queer porn are a strong start to solidifying your empowered sense of self and body.
Yana Tallon-Hicks, MA, is a local relationships therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and professional contact information on her website at yanatallonhicks.com.