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Overcoming Body Insecurities When Being Intimate

Being sexually and physically intimate with someone is a natural part of growing up. But sometimes, getting close to someone can make many people insecure about their body. This is especially true if you compare yourself to what you think others find attractive.

WARNING: Due to the nature of the subject, some of the content in this blog may not be suitable for some of our younger readers.

This blog is part of our No Shame No Secrets – Sexual Health and Wellbeing Campaign, where we look at many different elements of keeping yourself sexually healthy and safe. You’ll find links to all our campaign blogs here, and follow our social media channels (links at the bottom of the blog) to watch some fun videos.

The role of the media

Our idea of the perfect body is often shaped by what we see in TV, films, adverts, social media, and even porn. These ‘beautiful’ people are often selected for the job based on their appearance. But, this isn’t a realistic portrayal of beauty.

Technology like filters and Photoshop can make people look a certain way. We’ve gotten used to seeing altered images and videos. If you’re comparing yourself to this it can make you feel a bit rubbish

It can also make people think they have to do certain things to be attractive. Like having hairless underarms, legs and pubic hair. Some women may do this for themselves, but others may do it because they feel they should do it.

Beauty standards change and are different for cultures all over the world. Try to not compare yourself to the ‘perfect’ person you see on your socials.

Pink mirror with handle illustration for body image blog

Are your genitals normal?

What is normal? People don’t tend to talk about how their genitals look. Most people get an idea of what a vagina or penis is meant to look like from pictures and porn

There is no normal. Some vaginas have small lips, some have large lips, and they can range in colour from light to dark. Penis sizes vary a lot. The giant ones seen in porn are not your average willy! They can be thick or thin and might have a bend in it. 

Some people have pubic hair. Some choose to trim it. Others decide to get rid of it altogether. It’s a personal choice.

The truth is, there is no normal, so don’t think you’re weird for not matching up to the ‘perfect’ genitals you see on the internet or in porn.

Check out Dr Ranj Singh’s advice in  ‘Is my vagina normal’ or ‘What does a normal penis look like’ on The Mix website.

Worried about body imperfections

Perfectionism is a myth. It doesn’t really exist. Nobody is ‘perfect’, even those who look ‘perfect’ in the media. 

We are all unique, and no two people (not even identical twins) look exactly the same. This is good because the reality is that everyone has different tastes. What’s attractive to one person may not be attractive to another. Everybody’s ‘perfect’ person looks different.

When we look at ourselves and start to criticise all the things we would change about our bodies, we are comparing ourselves to these ideas of perfection that aren’t real. Maybe you really want a thigh gap, skinnier underarms, a bigger bum, fewer freckles, no stretch marks, and less spots, but these are the things that make us human. 

Embrace the diversity of your body and challenge the unrealistic expectations of ‘beauty’.

Looks aren’t everything

Some people worry that they aren’t attractive to others if they don’t look a certain way. For example, men who think that if they don’t have a large penis, nobody will want to be intimate with them, or they won’t be able to please someone sexually.

The truth is, looks aren’t everything. A good personality, a sense of humour and confidence is attractive. Knowing what to do with your tools and how to use them properly is more appealing than what they look like. 

Illustration of man looking at himself  and his body in the mirror positively

Overcoming negative self-talk

Negative self-talk, like saying or thinking that you aren’t skinny enough, your penis isn’t big enough, or your boobs aren’t perky enough, can be really damaging to your self-esteem. This can be a huge barrier to you feeling comfortable and confident in your body when you’re by yourself or when you are being intimate with someone else.

Try to be aware and honest with the thoughts that you have about your own appearance and the way other people look too. When you start having negative thoughts, challenge them with positive affirmations.

Tell yourself that your body is unique, strong, beautiful and helps you live your life. Remind yourself that you and your body are worthy of love and acceptance. It probably won’t happen overnight. It could take a lot of practice over a long time, but being kind to yourself can help you change your mindset and lead to a more positive body image. 

Body image getting in the way of intimacy

If how you feel about your body makes you uncomfortable when being intimate with someone, then being open and honest with yourself and your partner(s) about your feelings could help. Anyone you are close with likely finds you attractive, just as you are.  

Try to shift your focus from your appearance to the experience of being intimate. Concentrate on your emotions and the sensations you’re feeling. Be present in the moment by thinking about all your senses – touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. 

Further Information

If you’d like to learn more about what real sex is like and how to stay safe when having sex, make sure you look for trusted sources of information. 

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Talk to Meic

If you think your body image is affecting your mental health, seek support from an adult you trust. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to anybody, you could contact us here at Meic. Meic is the information, advice and advocacy helpline for children and young people across Wales. Contact Meic if you need to talk to someone about anything that’s worrying or upsetting you. It’s free, confidential and anonymous. The service is open from 8am-midnight every day, and you can contact them by phone, text, or online chat