Create your Body Pie: Body Image Game for Couples
Through media and television, our societies and cultures place expectations for appearance and standards of beauty on people’s bodies. We all learn early on in our lives what our bodies “should” look like to be considered pretty, handsome, attractive, or sexy. Despite the vast diversity of human bodies and their abilities, we often internalize those expectations and end up with negative self-talk, shame, and insecurities around our bodies and body parts. More often than not, these negative thoughts find their way out in the vulnerability of physical and sexual intimacy with our partners. Needless to say, many couples experience sexual difficulties as a result of such thoughts interfering with pleasure and intimacy.
Although the feelings of shame and fear are very real, the thoughts we have in our minds about our bodies and body parts might be irrational and not always how other people see us. In fact, our romantic and sexual partners may have completely different and substantially more positive thoughts about the same body parts. The activity below can engage you and your partner in the vulnerable process of sharing your thoughts and help you reality-test some of your negative thoughts. Hopefully, this will provide you with some alternative ways to look at your own body through the eyes of your loved one.
Part A: Write your Own Thoughts
Take some alone time and do a body check. Choose a position that feels most comfortable to you. You can sit down, lay down on the floor or in your bed, stand in front of a mirror, or stand up. Any position is acceptable, as long as you can place your attention on your body. Some people find it useful and helpful to stand in front of a mirror. Other folks find this experience intimidating; do what feels most comfortable to you. Now, try to look at your body in its entirety. Some parts of it will stand out fast, in both positive and negative ways. You will probably have positive and negative thoughts about specific body parts, like “I hate my nose” or “I have a really big head” or “The color of my eyes is pretty” or “My feet are beautiful”. Write down each one of these. Some people think of more generic statements like “I need to go back to the gym” or “I should be eating healthier food” or “Zumba works out great with my body”. This is completely normal, as we often turn our thoughts into “shoulds” and compliments. However, for the purpose of this exercise, try to limit your attention to thoughts about specific body parts. After you write these initial thoughts, look at other parts of your body that did not get your immediate attention and write down what you think about them. Make a list of all the thoughts you were able to collect, both positive and negative. Your list can look like this:
I hate my nose
I have a really big head
The color of my eyes is pretty
My feet are beautiful
Part B: Create your Body Pie
Take a piece of paper and form a circle. You can do that on your computer or draw the circle by hand. This is your Body Pie. Look at the list you created above and ask yourself: “How often do I have this thought about this body part in a day?” Based on your answer, give a percentage to each of the thoughts you wrote down that is representative of how frequently they appear in your mind until they all add up to 100%. Then add your thoughts in your pie. It may look like this:
Part C: Share your Experience
Once you are done with your pie, sit down with your partner and share your experience with putting this pie together. Consider the following questions:
- What thoughts do you find yourself having most often?
- What thoughts do you have less often?
- How do you feel looking at your pie?
- What thoughts were easy/difficult to come up with?
Part D: Exchange Pies
After you are done sharing, give your pie to your partner and ask for theirs. Give each other 5-10 minutes in silence and, holding your partner’s pie in your hands, look at the thoughts that are more negative or take up most of the space in the pie. Ask yourself the following question: “What do I think about this part of my partner’s body?” Replace the original thought with your thought and repeat this process until you have written an alternative, positive thought for all the negative thoughts your partner had mentioned on their pie chart. Be genuine with your answers, although being extra kind and complimentary is recommended and definitely welcome. If there are additional body parts that you think positively about in your partner, include those thoughts in their pie chart as well.
Changing your own negative self-talk about your body is not an easy task. However, having your partner share their alternative thoughts about the body parts you have been struggling the most with can be reassuring. Letting your partner see your vulnerabilities and offer their perspective can not only boost your confidence but also increase your comfort around them and, thus, your sexual intimacy and pleasure.
If you are experiencing difficulties with navigating sexual intimacy and body image, consider scheduling an appointment with our therapists by calling (215) 922-5683.