Welcome to !Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at email@example.com.
Here's my problem. When I'm with a guy, as soon as my clothes come off, I get very self-conscious about what he's thinking when he sees my naked body, and I lose my erection due to insecurity. One time was especially embarrassing: I was about to put it in and it went soft. I spent the better part of a few minutes trying to play with it to get it back up to no avail. This lack of security has kept me from dating over the last few years, and I haven't even attempted sex in about five years. Papi, how do I love my body instead of feeling insecure over it?
Signed, Body Shameful
Hey there, BS!
So I'm going to come right out and say: I don't think this is about what the other guy thinks when he sees your naked body. Empirically, we both know this isn't the problem. You're already hooking up. He's either positive or neutral about it, and that's about as good as we can get out of other people when it comes to how they react to us in general.
I would guess that this is more about what you think about your body, and someone seeing it brings all your negative thoughts to the fore. Being seen in a physically vulnerable position like that can make you feel emotionally exposed, as if the other person can see, just by looking at you, all your insecurities and the effort you put into hiding them.
Mirrors aren't the only place where we have to confront our reflections, BS. We look for ourselves in the way people treat us, look at us, and touch us. And if we don't like the way we look, it can make us hypersensitive to that feedback, whether we're interpreting it logically or not.
I want you to feel empowered over how you look at yourself. Changing things, like dieting and working out, can be good, yes. But in my experience, if you're predisposed to finding things you hate about yourself, then that's exactly what you'll find, regardless of your exterior. I want you to change the dialogue you're having with your body.
Because that's really what body anxiety is, isn't it? It's a conversation we imagine between our bodies and the world, and, if we get burned enough times or we take in too many harmful messages, we end up limiting our vocabulary -- ugly, wrong, disgusting, etc. I want you to expand your vocabulary. I want you to introduce positives to your inner dialogue, to recognize when you're punishing yourself with unnecessary negativity, and to do your best to let those thoughts pass you by. They aren't serving you.
We can't control how other people see us, BS, and that can be difficult in a fatphobic world obsessed with normative beauty standards. But other people aren't the only ones involved here. You are too. It's a conversation, and that means you get to speak as well. When you do, try doing it confidently and in a way that empowers you, even if you have to fake it, and even if you slip up here and there. The negativity will still be waiting around. You've got nothing to lose by giving self-love a try.