You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked.
Try approving of yourself and see what happens.
As a part of my National Masturbation Month 30-day self-pleasure challenge, I renewed my commitment to pushing back against body and sex shame with a simple but revolutionary practice I like to call: Mirror Mirror On The Wall, I’ll Fuck Myself And Watch It All...AKA: taking intentional time once a week to witness myself in the mirror as a regular part of my self-pleasure practice.
If this sounds like an absolutely ridiculous thing to do, I implore you to saddle up and get after it, because that is exactly what I thought the first time I embarked on this adventure in self-voyeurism. Let me tell you...there is nothing quite like witnessing yourself in your solo naked sexy glory to illuminate any dark corners where the imprints of shame may still be lingering in your body and your soul.
Making love to yourself in the mirror is uniquely powerful because it begs the difficult question "Can you allow yourself to be truly seen, appreciated, activated, and loved by YOU?" It asks us to embody our sexiness fully, just for the way it feels on a cellular level when the juice of our creative lifeforce is surging like lava through our veins.
Becoming active enthusiastic participants in our own arousal challenges the bullshit stories we've been told about our bodies and our sexuality since the day we burst forth out of the holy hole from which we came. And raising the bar in our solo loving raises the bar for the presence, attentiveness, and quality of the loving we experience with those we choose to share our bodies with.
While there are other effective ways to unpack shame, I've personally found that consciously engaging with our bodies as we tackle this work (as apposed to just sitting and talking about it) is often a direct path into the heart of our old stories, limiting beliefs, and trauma. In my years teaching yoga and embodied movement, I've seen and felt firsthand how we carry our emotions in our bodies. Shame, in particular, can cause feelings of physical stuckness, resulting in locked pelvises, immobile spines, and feelings of general all-around awkwardness in our movement. And what lives beneath this, in the dark subbasements of our souls, are the deeper feelings of being cut off and disconnected from our innate sensuality and blocked or completely shut down in our sexuality. When we approach this work from the somatic realm, we come home to ourselves, and to that raw wild place that the dominant cultural narratives work hard to condition out of us.
The more we unpack the bullshit, the more we can enjoy our bodies...and because we have to live in these things till we die, WE MIGHT AS WELL ENJOY AND CELEBRATE THEM!
So give this a read, and take a solo sex journey through the looking glass!
1. Diving in
During one of your intentional solo-loving dates, incorporate a nice big mirror into your sensuality practice...the bigger the better (I swear I'm only a size queen when it comes to mirrors). If you need to, begin your breathwork and sensation play with your eyes closed. Start slow and take time to savor the subtleties. Once you're feeling activated, gently open your eyes and begin to drink yourself in. Trace your lines and curves in the mirror...with your eyes, with your fingertips. Meet your body with tenderness, wonderment, and presence. Move in any and all ways that feel good for you. You've all heard the Tweet + Missy Elliot song "Oops, Oh My"...BE LIKE TWEET. Watch the way your body moves when you are really feeling yourself. Make eye contact with yourself while you caress your body. So many of us have spent most of our solo sexytime with our eyes closed, or in the dark, or under the covers (which is also perfectly normal and enjoyable!) but in this practice, notice the heightened experience of stimulation through the added sensory experience of sight. Know that you have full permission to let the vision of you embodied in your sexiness feed the fire of your arousal.
2. Masturbation affirmation
How we speak to ourselves really matters. YOU are your longest and deepest sexual relationship, so as you enter into ritual solo sex space, practice speaking to yourself with the kindness and care you would want from a lover. Sounds simple, but it is nothing short of revolutionary. While you touch yourself, practice telling yourself that your body is pure fucking magic, and that you are a vessel for entire worlds of pleasure. Practice telling yourself that you honor your sexuality as a direct line to Source/Spirit/Creator. Practice telling yourself that your body is beautiful and that enjoying it is a nourishing, healing expression of self-love. Practice doing this while you behold yourself in the mirror.
If it feels unnatural or uncomfortable to say things like this to yourself, make it a consistent practice, not just in your sexytime, but in your day-to-day. The most beautiful thing about unpacking our shame imprints is that we wake up to the power we have to throw them in the trash (where they belong). It takes practice, but we can choose which stories we keep breathing life into.
It is not necessary that you reach climax, and if you need to stop at any point, that's ok. But come back and show up to this ritual space again. The intention is to literally reprogram ourselves through consistent somatic/sensory/spoken reframes. Negative body-talk is just like any other harmful habit...it thrives in the darkness and relies on silence and isolation to continue living in us. When we draw our gremlins out into the light, we have the opportunity to rewrite the script with new beliefs that reflect how we truly want to feel in our bodies. This simple act starves these stories of their power, and supports us in cultivating a healthier relationship with our bodies and our sexuality.
3. Slaying the gremlins
We are not inherently born with shame about our bodies and our sex - it is conditioned into us. The stories that have taught us to feel this way run deep, and they can come from lots of different places - the media, religion, our families of origin, socialization, and (mis)education. When I rock my mirror practice now, it feels incredible, and it nourishes me to the core, but when I first started exploring in this way years ago, it could not have felt more awkward, foreign, and straight up wrong.
As I leaned into the discomfort I was feeling, I began to pinpoint and excavate a lifetime of internalized experiences and sexist microagressions that led me to believe that enjoying how my body looks and feels was shameful. I've been talking intimately with women about body image, sexuality, and pleasure for years, and through these conversations, it became crystal clear that regardless of all the unique details, learned narratives of body and sex shame affect and hurt us all. Remember you are not alone in this work, and that there is likely someone out there who has a story that so closely parallels your own it would make your head spin.
If challenges came up for you in this practice, set aside time to do some reflective writing. Revisit any old narratives that surfaced in your practice and see if you can excavate their origin. Can you pinpoint any formative experiences that caused you to feel shame about your body or sexuality? Can you think back to your earliest memories of body shame? Can you identify who or what put these harmful ideas and judgements in your head? Write out your answers.
Then write out two columns - what you used to believe, and what is true now. Create a list of statements that reflect your formative experiences, for example: "I was taught that touching my body was dirty, and something that only 'slutty' girls did.", "I was taught that masturbation was a sin and that I would go to hell if touched myself.", "I was taught that my body should be hidden because showing it could make me a target for sexual violence." In the second column write a reframe for each of your statements that reflect a new set of beliefs about your body and sex: "Touching my body and celebrating my orgasmic nature are beautiful and healthy expressions of self-love.", "My sexuality is a direct reflection of my divinity. I nourish my relationship to Spirit by honoring my sexuality and worshiping my body.", "My body is not an apology. My body belongs to ME, and me only."
Practice repeating these affirmations to yourself regularly. Make a longer list if you need to. Weave them into a paragraph or a prayer. Speak them with genuine reverence. Rewrite them whenever you need to, as you continue to adjust your lens.
4. Get sexy and get after it
If you feel compelled to continue this work outside the bedroom, there are a lot of incredible resources to support your journey. Here is a short list of some of my favorite talks and articles about body image, shame, and healing sexual trauma, just to begin:
Brene Brown :: Listening to Shame
Dr. Gail Brenner :: 10 Life Changing Ways to Move Through Shame
Jes Baker :: Why We've Learned to Hate Our Bodies
Psalm Isadora :: Sexual Healing
Ev'Yan Whitney :: 5 Ways to Overcome Shame in Masturbation
Emily Nagoski :: Unlocking the Door to Your Authentic Sexual Wellbeing
Share your stories and your progress in whatever containers feel safe for you...with close friends who can hold empathetic space, with other women doing this work, with survivors support groups, or with a therapist, coach, or counselor. Leave a comment or reflection here, and join the movement at Bad Witch Body Wisdom for more resources and badass events throughout California!