Health
Body by Lynda

Body by Lynda

Ever take off your clothes and stand naked in a room full of strangers?  I just did, and it was wonderful.

I was invited to lead a body image exercise in a program put on by the International Professional Surrogates Association (IPSA).  This is a class of people training to be surrogate partners in sex therapy.  If they become certified, they will work in concert with licensed therapists to help clients with a variety of sexual dysfunctions.  Through a series of touch exercises and ongoing personal sharing, they will form an increasingly close bond that could end in sexual intimacy.  This is a simplistic description of a complex process of building a relationship, the goal of which is to teach a client how to navigate such a partnership in the real world.  In the field of human sexuality, it is a truism that sex therapy is really relationship therapy.  The IPSA website linked above has more information about the therapy, surrogate training, and the code of ethics that IPSA surrogates follow.

In the first paragraph, I tried to create a bit of drama by saying that I was naked in “a room full of strangers.”  In fact, the training classes are small:  There were six trainees, plus the head trainer (and IPSA President) Dr. Vena Blanchard.  The task I was given was to be nude in front of a full-length mirror and do a body meditation that included form, feeling and function.  Form is the physical appearance of the whole and parts of my body.  Feeling is my body’s capacity for sensation and pleasure.  Function is how well my body can perform what I need to survive and thrive.  The rationale is that surrogate partners should have a comfort level with their own bodies to help clients develop self-acceptance and learn what is possible for them.

I began by leading a group disrobing.  Starting with our heads and moving down, participants were asked to remove clothes (or other accoutrements) to the level that was comfortable.  I invited them to focus on things such as what felt easier to remove vs. more difficult; how the skin of the unclothed parts felt as compared to the clothed parts; what they might gain and lose by removing vs. not removing any particular items.  Then I gave permission to just look at each other from head to toe, front and back.

We talked a bit about what it felt like to do this.  It manifested in different ways for each person, spurring both laughter and tears, but each of us became aware of two basic experiences that we had in common:

  1. The vulnerability that comes with sharing ourselves in such an intimate way, as well as the trust that builds when we are accepted by others.
  2. The falling away of judgments about whether a body is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ replaced by a realization that all bodies are simply human and beautiful in their own individual ways.

Then I turned to the mirror to commune with myself.  I confronted the fact that at 65, I don’t have the body that I had at 25, or even at 45.  In an ageist culture that treats older people as invisible, and older bodies as perhaps even disgusting, it can be hard to find things to feel positive about.  And as we age, we begin to have failures of function that, besides being inconvenient and uncomfortable, also remind us of our mortality.  I was concerned that too much of my focus would be on the things that I have lost or that I feel disappointed in or ashamed of; but I was going to challenge myself anyway.

As I talked about my form, I found, as I’d expected, that I am disappointed that my once lustrous hair has thinned, and embarrassed by my sagging belly.  But I was pleased to note that I’m happy with my still-pretty dark eyes and full lips, and excited that my lover never seems to tire of looking at my shapely legs.  (Hooray for leg men!)

When it came to feeling, I had to admit that the former bright light of my sexual response has dimmed somewhat after menopause.  But my intellectual and emotional interest in sex is still great, and with a little help from modern medical science, my little tubes of estrogen cream and testosterone cream, I can boost my response at will.  My skin is still very receptive to touch, and I didn’t mind at all one day when my lover was caressing my thigh and asked, “When are you going to get old lady skin?”  Thus implying I haven’t.

Years ago, I came late to the idea that I might want to have a child.  By the time I knew, I had lost my reproductive function and suffered a series of pregnancy traumas (I cried during this portion of my meditation).  In addition, the scoliosis (curved spine) that I’ve had all my life is beginning to cause pain and limit some activities.  Nevertheless, I still feel strong in my body and am able to do many of the things that I want and need to do.

After I finished, the trainees thanked me for my openness about my body.  We shared some group discussion, and then they went off to private spaces to do their own body image exercise in pairs.

As I drove home, I had time to contemplate how I felt.  I accepted the inevitability that I am aging and my body is changing.  Instead of feeling cheated out of what I once had, I can enjoy remembering it, and I can still take pleasure in what I have now.  I’ve reached an age where some of my friends have passed away.  I don’t know, but can imagine, that they might wish they could reside in this imperfect yet beautifully alive body that I am still gifted with.  I feel grateful.

woman-in-mirror

What do you think you might find if you did your own

body image exercise?

170 thoughts on “Body by Lynda

    • Avatar

      Wow, great insight of the way we think vs our wonderful society and how they make us feel. Glad we have sexy cars

      Sent from Samsung tablet

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Glad you enjoyed it, Diana! We as older women especially can struggle with not meeting the culture’s expectations for ‘beauty,’ but we need to love ourselves at every age. And yes, we always have our sexy cars! 😉

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        This post reminds me of when I look at myself in the mirror naked and think to myself, ” oh god, what an out of shape beer belly fat ass i’ve become!”.It seems like today people have taken more interest in their physical appearance, which points the spotlight on people with less attractive features leaving them feeling ashamed or self-conscious about their appearance. Being in my early 40’s I have learned to appreciate people who are authentic, and find that to be just as attractive as physical appearance.

        • Lynda Smith Hoggan

          What you’re describing is a process of maturing, and realizing that there is more to life than looks, and looks don’t last anyway! I hope you’ll stop talking to yourself in that negative way, and maybe instead just make a few healthy changes to your habits – for your future self!

    • Avatar

      Very interesting, gives me a different perspective. I have to think about this.it’s hard to go from a body your proud of to one that is not fighting gravity anymore.

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      I think that it is very frightening to be open about shortcomings and pregnancy issues. I applaud you for being able to share your story with others. Also, I think it is beyond cool that people want o be surrogate partners. I myself do not think that I have the courage to get naked in front of anyone but my husband. There is a certain level of comfort there. I think sexuality is very powerful and should not be limited. Sexual freedom is the goal.

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      I really enjoyed reading how comfortable you are with your body and how open you are about sharing stories about your past life. The fact that you are 65 and still enjoy many factors of your body I admire a lot because many older women are ashamed of what their body look like. I wish to have the same mindset as you when I am older.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I hope so too! It helps to stay healthy. I’ve gained more weight than I’m comfortable with and that’s a main reason why this experience was a challenge for me. But I got through it, and learned something about myself.

        What’s the use of experience if you can’t share it to help others? 😉

    • Avatar

      After reading this, I contemplated how I feel about my body and how that has evolved over time. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been body shamed at some point in their lives. I’m no different. The older I get the less I care what others look like and the more I listen to what they have to say. It’s no longer a criteria at all for dating or intimacy. What’s sad is that it used to be. If I should ever have a child I hope I’m able to teach them body positivity. That’s something it sounds like most of us missed in childhood.

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      It’s interesting that we all aquire some sort of discomfort when it comes to being naked around someone we do not know. Many thoughts rush to our heads and we wonder what that person is thinking about our bodies. As we age we need to come to accept our body in its new form, still possessing the beauty of a natural human body.

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      I find it very interesting how at different ages, we all feel vulnerable and sensitive about our bodies. At 21, I also feel conscious about my body. I am happy and thankful for the healthy body that I have, but of course there are little things that I would like to change if I would ever get the chance. But with your blog, I also feel empowered. Knowing that it would be hard for you to stand in front of a lot of people naked is going to be hard, you still did it otherwise. I want to have that kind of confidence in my body someday. As of right now, I would try my best to empower myself with the little things that I can do. More power to you!

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I would give a lot to have back the body I had at 21 (or 31, or 41). But you know what? Even at those ages I focused more on what my body didn’t have than what my body did have; I was still dissatisfied. Now I’m more focused on the whole of who I am, not just my physical looks. Yes, I did it anyway! And that’s a good place to be.

    • Avatar

      I commend you for the comfortability that you have in your own body. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable with others, despite the possibility of negative feedback. Although I haven’t personally partaken in any activity similar to the one you described, I have noticed that these feelings may be timeless. As of right now I am twenty years old, an age that is almost universally viewed as “young,” but I would still feel the same (if not, similar) feelings and insecurities as you did. During a time that places so much emphasis on having the “perfect body” many people, including myself, sometimes feel that I fall short. I aspire to have the confidence and the comfortability that you do.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I agree that one can be insecure at any age (I was much more so when I was your age). I hope you too find a good comfort level. Part of it is just maturing and realizing that no one is perfect, we all have pluses and minuses.

    • Avatar

      beautiful post, everyone needs to take the time to study their body and learn to accept each part, even if it is difficult. Being nude in a room full of people you don’t know probably isn’t the easiest of tasks, so doing it and still being able to focus on the exercise shows great strength.

    • Avatar

      Lynda,
      This was really intriguing to read. After recently learning about sex surrogacy and sex therapy, I had many questions about the process. One of them focused on how the surrogates must feel during the therapy sessions. I know for me personally, body image and self esteem has taken me on many ups, downs, twists, and curves (literally and figuratively). Growing up I was always focused on how skinny or fat I was and how I compared to other peers. After graduating high school and entering the college domain I’ve realized there is so much more to our bodies than we can even begin to process. For me to feel healthy and happy in my own skin, I need to be fit and active. Because I am an athlete, weight gain/loss do not affect me in the same way it might others. Sometimes my aim is to actually gain weight and curves because I know it’s all muscle. However, what is right for me won’t always be right for others and that’s okay. I liked reading your entry because I never realized what little thought I gave to older people. Not necessarily in a humanistic way, but just in the sense that I never put myself in their shoes or tried to understand how they might feel about what is going on in their bodies. It joys me to hear how honest and overall, how positive you are about your body still. Especially as women it is essential to feel strong and empowered in our own skin. So, go us!

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Go us is right! I’m glad I got you thinking about what it’s like to be an older person (in a body), because we all get there sooner or later (unless we die young, and then look at all we would have missed out on).

    • Avatar

      Reading this made me extremely happy. It is nice to hear that even in old age one can enjoy sex and still be comfortable in their own skin. I have dealt with years of existential dread and a lot of that dread has come from anticipating the inevitable face that I will one day grow old. But your perspective has taught me that its not all bad, especially if you find someone that loves you for things beyond the superficial ( although nice legs are important). Thank you for this 🙂

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        You’re welcome! And if my words help you not to feel so much dread, I’m glad. I must say it was a learning experience for me as well. And guess what – I’ve been invited back to do it again next week!

    • Avatar

      I can only imagine how your study must have felt. You are very brave! Your attitude is admirable in how open you are with your body and thoughts on life. We are all blessed with the gift of life and health is most important. Theres a saying, “Growing older is like wine, we get better as we age”. So as I grow older ill keep that in mind when it comes to my body image.

    • Avatar

      This is truly inspiring. For you to be so accepting and in love with your body still at age 65, truly gives you a different perspective and didn’t understanding. So many girls my age are so uncomfortable with their bodies or get body shamed for the way they look or the weight they’re at. This just tell girls to love your body no matter what.

    • Avatar

      Reading this article gave me a sort of empowerment that you had the courage to stand there and let others view you and feeling comfortable about it. I personally struggle with accepting my body at times but reading this really inspires me to just accept the way I look no matter what age I am or even how I look.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Part of what’s great about the exercise is that you don’t just focus on how you look, but how you feel and function. It’s a balanced picture of some things that aren’t so great, and some that are wonderful!

    • Avatar

      This is awesome. For you to love your body at the age of 65 astonishes me. I mean most people over the age of 60 rarely put themselves out there but regardless, it’s amazing. As it is, in this day in age, most women feel very insecure about their bodies. The media has really took in effect on basically everyone. I’m glad you feel this way and it was a great read.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Thank you! I still have issues about some of the aspects of growing older (and my body changing), but I didn’t let it stop me from doing something I wanted to do.

    • Avatar

      I love how you expressed how you felt during the process and learning to become comfortable. I too, am pretty open and self loving towards my body but it took me almost my entire 18 years of living to feel this way

    • Avatar

      Wow, very inspiring. Even though you are at the age of 65, you still find pride in your body. You understand that it is not the same as it was when you were 25, but you are okay with that. Your husband still adores you for who you really are which is what counts. In our generation, many females are unhappy about their bodies because of what they see in the media which is a really a sad. They are focusing on the physical aspect of being human and missing what is really important which is loving someone for who they are!

    • Avatar

      I found this article very interesting and true. As women, were always susceptible to society’s views on beauty and we never stop to really observe the beautiful attributes we have, and notice the negative things, like sagging body parts, loss of hair, and a little more fat in certain areas. When I’m your age, I would love to have that confidence about myself. That is admiring.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        You make good points! As you go through life, try to change your self-talk from negative to positive whenever you notice that you’re feeling down about yourself. And you will develop that confidence!

    • Avatar

      Thats wonderful that you got to experience this. Hopefully one day everyone will feel better and more comfortable about their bodies and not ashamed of what is underneath our clothes.

    • Avatar

      I’m speechless, reading this has made me stop and realize that I’m not going to be young for ever. I have always looked at myself as if was going to have this healthy amazing body with no saggy breast, ass, thighs, and stomach. But now after reading this I was just being stubborn and closed minded about the fact that I’m aging ; i have to start in accepting my self and the process of aging and just being okay with that. I admire you for being able to fully accepting and loving your body at that age.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Wow, when someone says “I’m speechless,” I know I’ve had an impact! I wish I could tell you that you are not going to age and change, but it would be a lie. You’re right, acceptance, and love, are key!

    • Avatar

      This is amazing couldn’t ever imagine doing something like this

    • Avatar

      Thank you for this; it was very informative. Do you have any other posts, or perhaps resources, that you can recommend on the topic of accepting the body and recognizing its beauty?

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        A good book for men, I think, is The New Male Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld. It addresses MANY issues faced by men. (The word New just means that the book was updated at some point, not that male sexuality is New.)

    • Avatar

      This is the second article I’ve read on your blog and let me tell you, i am absolutely loving your writing. You are so brave for doing what you did. If I did my own body image exercise, the first I would look at are my insecurities. My stomach, my arms, my butt. I’ve read another article before that said something like, look at yourself in the mirror naked more often and you’ll feel more comfortable and little by little you’ll love what you see. I didn’t do that but I do try to look at the good things I love about my own body. I do love myself but I feel like everyone, I have those days where I just feel disgusting in my own body.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Thank you for the compliment, and I hope you continue reading and commenting! I think taking the advice to look a little each day would be a good idea. Especially to focus on the positive, or at least a balanced picture.

    • Avatar

      Your experience is uplifting and just positive. I love that fact that you didn’t feel self-conscious about your body at the age of 65 even though you weren’t young like you used to be. Thinned hair, a sagged belly, and many other features are all part of the natural aging process and I think that this is what makes us beautiful in our own way.

    • Avatar

      This is an outstanding post. To be vulnerable and share your whole self with anyone takes courage, and to do it with strangers is even more impressive. It’s not always easy to be accepting of our bodies and their unique imperfections, but it is rewarding. Thank you for sharing.

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      I think that it was extremely brave of you to be able to share your story with others. It is amazing how you exemplify such confidence in your body. I feel very inspired and empowered by your personal experience. We need to learn to accept our bodies with all its flaws and imperfections.

    • Avatar

      Its so beautiful to read about your self confidence. We are all aging every day and we should always take the time to admire our bodies. Whether 20 or 50, the human body is a beautiful thing. No one should ever feel ashamed of that. Its wonderful to hear that your lover admires you just as much as you admire yourself! Its always great to have someone like that besides you

    • Avatar

      This article is exactly what women of all ages need to hear! We as women need to embrace our bodies and the beauty of every single inch of them in order to break down the societal stigma that women should be shameful of certain aspects of their bodies! You provide such great insight into the subject of body positivity and are a true inspiration!

    • Avatar

      Some of my older family members struggle a lot with body image. I hope they can one day be as confident as you are. I will share this article with them. Thank you!

    • Avatar

      This was such an insightful post. It gave me a lot to think about specifically about the form, feeling, and function of my body. I think in such a fast paced world we forget to appreciate the beauty in something we see everyday–our bodies. And with a media that glorifies certain body types it’s hard to feel comfortable in our own skin… but definitely not impossible. This article taught be that sometimes we just need to slow down, analyze ourselves, meditate about what we see–let our thoughts take over and explore ourselves. From what I’ve read it’s a beautiful experience and one day I hope to gather enough confidence to /see/ myself in the mirror and truly love my body and myself as I am

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        It can be a long process to love ourselves as we are. I remember when I was younger I was dissatisfied with my body – and now I would give a lot to have that body back! Yet I can’t. So therefore, better to work on self-acceptance at ALL ages. Good luck doing this exercise on your own. 🙂

    • Avatar

      It’s funny how we don’t think about how much our self-image affects our
      confidence. It’s always about what other’s think of us. It should be the
      other way around. We should be happy at what we see in the mirror and not
      be afraid of it. This is such a strong exercise. I don’t know if I would
      have the courage. Kudos to you.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I agree about the other way around. And admit I was a little nervous, but I think it was ameliorated by the fact that, in spite of my age, I have been in this field for a long time. And I get that bodies change! Even the youngest and most ‘perfect.’

    • Avatar

      I think this is really interesting to think about in terms of confidence. I cannot imagine undressing in front of a room full of people, yet I feel I am confident with my body! I think this exercise is really challenging people to step out of their comfort zone and realize how alike we are to one another (or different). I think doing this especially challenges the stigmas that mass media portrays as the “ideal” type of physique, etc. I feel like what you have said about your body image and how it has changed over the years is truly powerful and living in an ageist society, coming in terms or accepting wrinkles, or grey hair can be a difficult thing for many. Truly insightful how you have come to accept yourself and how you’re promoting self acceptance for not just old/young people, but everyone! 🙂

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Thank you, Shreya. It’s definitely a journey and it’s not over (till I die LOL). Because there continue to be changes and I have to roll with them. But why not try to accept ourselves? It makes for a more joyous day and joyous life!

    • Avatar

      Your article was very moving and powerful in many ways. The inevitability of aging is upon each and every one of us; which can be quite frightening to some. However, with reading your article, it provided me with some insight that we should all try to embrace our body image, and learn how to love ourselves.

    • Avatar

      It was a really nice read for me to be blunt. In addition, it was also very refreshing to have a reminder that your body is beautiful and no matter what insecurities or dislikes you may have, there’s still always more to appreciate than to not. Thank you for giving your readers that insight and experience.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        It is nice to be reminded of that, especially as we age, because there is so much in the culture to make us feel we are not good enough. It was a challenge! But I’m glad I did it! And glad you enjoyed the read.

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      I really enjoyed to read your article. You have a good positive attitude to help others to overcome from uncomfortable feelings and fail functions when the body reach the menopause age.

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      I truly think it’s awespiring how comfortable you are becoming with your body. I used to be quite obese, so weight was always something I have been insecure about. However, even after losing a decent amount of weight, I’ve realized that insecurities are all in your mind, and it’s all about your attitude on what you have.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I weigh more now than I ever have, and I am not happy about it. But I do think my other qualities are much more important. As regards your losing weight, though, that was a healthy choice to make!

    • Avatar

      I know people of every age that struggle with body image. We lose sight of the amazing things our bodies can do because we’re too focused on trying to look like someone else. We get caught up on trying to be the perfect version of ourselves that we don’t stop and appreciate ourselves for who we are. It is difficult to for people to find self-acceptance, but it is important to find confidence with the bodies we were born into.

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      I really like the idea of being in a small group of people who are not there to shame anyone, but rather to share and learn to be comfortable around others about your body and experiences. I would definitely love to take a class like this where I can gain confidence about myself and be able to talk to others that may share the same feelings of consciousness and anxiety about my body.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        The purpose of this class was to train surrogate partners, so I doubt if this is what you’d want. But there are workshops designed to help women feel more comfortable with themselves. Just make sure you vet them as much as possible first.

    • Avatar

      I feel like society keeps trying to prevent us from feeling proud of our bodies, with constant ads and the media telling us we can look better with surgery and such. But its great to see that there are actual programs designed to counteract this! I do not know if I will ever be brave enough to do something like this, but maybe one day in the future!

    • Avatar

      This has been very helpful personally. It;s taken me a long amount of time to get more comfortable with my body. I still have some insecurities however, and this exercise seems like something that can really help me overcome that. I feel that everyone deserves to feel beautiful in the body that they have. Your positive self reflection makes the idea of aging a much more manageable one for me. I feel like I can almost look forward to growing old with grace, and appreciating my body every step of the way..

    • Avatar

      WOW! I loved reading this. shows your bravery and your willingness to help not just yourself with exercise, but to also allow others to learn from it. I think from that, in turn, they can do the same for themselves.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I’m glad you enjoyed it! I recently did this exercise again, and even though many in the class were young and fit, they realize that they won’t always be so – and can still enjoy their bodies at any age!

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      As I was reading this, I felt a little anxious because I envisioned myself doing this personally and I could not bear the fact of being comfortable enough to be naked in front of other strangers. I do struggle with body image, however, after reading your experience I felt a sense of relief and comfort on how enlightening this experience was for you. It in a sense gave me motivation to do this personally with myself at home. Thank you for sharing such an incredible experience!

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      Wow, this was very intriguing to read! I feel like these topics tend to be very “taboo” in our society and it is people like you that break free from that “social norm” we tend to uphold. It has got to start somewhere, so we might as well start from ourselves. Thank you for sharing this!

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      I have always been comfortable with others seeing me naked, however this post really made me think about how I, myself, think of my own body. I often look in the mirror naked after a shower, and while sometimes I see beauty in my imperfections, other times I’m filled with criticism and can even feel disgust. I was very intrigued by the breakdown of your body into form, feeling, and function. I am excited to start thinking in this way and see how it changes my perspective of my body, its abilities, and its beauty as it is.

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      This article taught me how to deal with aging and imperfections in my life. People may be getting old, but that doesn’t mean people have to be boring, and that doesn’t mean people can’t be beautiful for their age. I always struggle wirh my body and my weight for a long time. I was alwasy analyzing my body from every angle in the mirror, wondering if this “I look fat” thing was all in my head or if it was actually real. Thank you for sharing this experience!

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      I think it’s beautiful that you make sure the surrogates are comfortable in their own body before they help their clients with their self esteem. It’s hard to fit society‘s standard of beauty especially since physical beauty is closely related to one’s body figure. Despite this standard and after reading A Picture of Dorian Gray, I always try to be proud of my body and youth. I hope that as I get older, I , like you, am not envious of the younger self, but proud of who I was then. Thank you for your inspirational story!

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      I am thoroughly impressed with the amount of confidence you have showing and sharing your body with strangers. Younger people, although still have bodies that are in their prime, do not have the confidence level you have. With the prevalence of the internet in today’s society, more and more people are insecure with their own bodies. But a person will be dissatisfied with the state of their body at nearly every age. That’s why it is important to love your body now, or else you will always be disappointed.

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      When it comes to our bodies we are our worst critics. I admire the love you have for your body. I have learned with time that no one is perfect but we all have something beautiful.

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      I was immediately drawn to the article with the first sentence. “She did what? Where?” I’ve struggled with self- love and confidence over my body for a few years now. I used to not notice any flaws in it until other people began to point it out or compare it with someone else’s. I’ve read other people’s stories to find how they learned to accept themselves as they are but none really turned my head around until now. You have a valid underlying point that spoke to me when you mentioned your body according to your age. I realized that if I don’t love my body now, I’ll probably look back to it 20 years from now (age 40) and probably want to have that body back then twenty years again (age 60) I’ll want my 40 year old body. I realize that I should just love my body in every changing moment. You’ve saved me from a lot of insecurity now and from my future. Thank you for sharing.

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      After reading this, i can see how difficult but enlightening it is to become comfortable with ones own body. And to be a surrogate, to be all around proud and comfortable with yourself around anyone. I give props to because i know i wouldnt be able to hit that point in my life right now. maybe as i get older but now no.

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      after reading this article i want to really learn to appreciate my body completely the way you do at age 65. very inspiring.

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      The common theme experienced in you and your peers after completing this exercise definitely caught my attention. There is an extreme vulnerability in sharing yourself in an intimate way no matter who you are sharing yourselves to, and there is an overwhelming sense of trust when you are accepted by the individual(s). Changing your perspective on having a “good” or “bad” body and replacing that thought with understanding that we are all just unique, beautiful humans really hit home to me. I struggled with accepting myself in many ways, especially physically in my years prior, but growing from that and learning that I am simply human made me love myself more and made myself more confident in sharing myself with others. You stated that “in an ageist culture that treats older people as invisible, and older bodies as perhaps even disgusting, it can be hard to find things to feel positive about”. It is absolutely saddening that society tends to not be accepting of people who are aging, yet the sadder part is that those same people who treat older people as invisible or disgusting are still going through the aging process. I believe that aging is a beautiful thing and it is something that everyone in this world goes through. We may not have the same bodies that we did x amount of years ago, but it is important that we find the beauty in every stage of life. In a society where it is hard to be satisfied, we should learn to be satisfied with ourselves. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

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      I really enjoyed this post, Its very real and you shared vulnerability through this context which I admire profoundly. I am 18 and I don’t think I can do what you did or what the rest of those in the room were capable of doing too. I hope to one day be able to accept myself and come to terms with the reality but if you have any advice or tips, please let me know!

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      As I was reading this, I began to point out various flaws my body has as well. When looking at our own body we do tend to point out the things we don’t like about ourselves rather than the good things we like/love about ourselves. You’ve made me look at my body a certain way I never thought I could. It’s very hard to see my body as a positive aspect because of mental abuse I had faced as a child. Though I’m still working on becoming body positive, this definitely made me realize that my body is beautiful no matter how many stretch marks or how much saggy skin I gain in the future.

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      Thank you for sharing such an intimate experience! I feel like this Body Image exercise is something that can help a lot of people with body image issues and help create a stronger sense of vulnerability and intimacy like you shared. I like how you talked about an ageist society that we live in and how this can maybe affect your views on your own body but I admire how you are able to see beauty in all stages of life and appreciate aging. We’re all so unique 🙂

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      was this your first time being exposed in front of strangers? if so, what were some thoughts that you had going through your head? and if it isn’t..well does it get easier each time you do it? or yoou feel different emotions each time?

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      How long did it take you to agree or come up with the decision to do this? I didn’t even know this was something individuals can do. Its really inspiring and encouraging to see the self love and acceptance you have towards yourself. Everybody would be so much happier with this mindset.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        It was actually easy to agree, because I had gone through their training myself many years ago. I know it’s important to teach them how to love themselves … and their clients.

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      I love how you are so open and have come to accept how your body looks. Every body is beautiful and it takes a great amount of courage to do what you did with strangers, something I could probably never do!

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      First, congratulations on being so open and brave. If I was ever courageous enough to do a body image exercise I am sure that my results would mirror yours, as far as the feelings of accepting what I have at the age am. For now, I know that I am still considered young, although I feel old, but I need to take proper care of my body now since I will not have it forever. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

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      Very brave in sharing yourself personally, regardless of who you share with, and there is an immense sense of confidence when you are embraced by the person.

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      We are at some point in our lives insecure about our body. Many of us are able to become confident and love ourselves while others are stuck in an endless loop of hatred. Very proud that you were able to overcome what others would label as flaws and love every inch. I’ve hardly felt comfortable in my own skin until mirror exercises where I’d look at myself and I try to normalize the way I look rather than tear it down and “fix” it. You’re very brave and confident for the group exercise.

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      I really admire how you were able to get out of your comfort zone and have the strength to be naked in front of people that you did not know. I hope that at some point in my life I will be so comfortable in my skin that I would be able to participate in this activity. It is especially hard now to learn to love yourself in an age where physically unattainable bodies are seen as the “the ultimate goal.” Hopefully, I will reach this level of comfort being myself one day, as you have learned to do.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Thank you, but to be honest, I have to admit it was not easy! I was in my 60’s already when I first did this, and let’s just say the years have taken a toll (at least appearance-wise, but not pleasure-wise!)

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      This was absolutely lovely to read, I was intrigued by the very first sentence. After reading this I want to try this exercise. Like you, I myself are disappointed with some parts of my body but I feel like this would be a great experience to find love in those parts that I hate.

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      I feel like most of us have our own negative thoughts on certain parts of our bodies, but with your exercise it is amazing how you can learn to appreciate your body.

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      While reading this blog this one especially it really made me think about how I see my body and what feelings can come up from seeing myself naked and so vulnerable. I’ve never really taken the time to look at myself and today I actually did and I did cry because I made comments towards myself that weren’t so positive but really took the time to understand my body is beautiful in its own way. Being this vulnerable is hard I hope within time I can see myself in a more positive light.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I’m really glad you did that exercise. I cry sometimes when I do it, too. A little because my body isn’t perfect but more because of how hard I’ve always been on myself. I wish I had been more celebratory of my body through all its stages.

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      Working at strip clubs, I’ve always been very critical of my body and what I seen in the mirror. I’m not sure if I’m jumping the gun by saying this, but it seems as if this exercise makes you much more appreciative of the journey you and your body are going through. Not only that, but even the previous comments are a reminder that everyone has their own reservations and insecurities in relation to their body and age. I’m definitely going to try this exercise, because I want to look forward to the changes that are to come as I get older and I want to have the same mindset towards myself now and in the future!

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I was very self-critical when I was young, too. And the irony is, I would now love to have that younger body I was so hard on! But it’s not possible, so the only answer is to be as healthy as we can be and embrace the changes. I wish that for you!

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      After reading this article, I am truly amazed. The amount of vulnerability this exercise required is astonishing. I am personally very self conscious about my body. Growing up I always struggled with my weight and other body insecurities, so doing something like this seems terrifying to me. However, I admire you for being able to do this and realize that even at 65, you love yourself. This is something I wish to do. It has motivated me to not be so self critical and take self love more serious. i even hope to some day be able to do something like this.

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      Not going to lie but the first part that I read threw me off but after reading more into it I started to understand what you meant and I find interesting that they make people stand in front of a mirror to not only be comfortable but comfortable with themselves and their own body.

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      This blog was very enlightening.

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      I admire your courage to stand nude before a group, big or small, of people. Finding comfort within your own skin is challenging and not a common topic to discuss. Although I have yet to experience anything similar to what you have shared. For many years I felt discomfort within my own skin. At the very very young age of 13 I got a rather large tattoo on my stomach that I instantly regretted. It has taken me 10+ years to accept and feel comfortable in my skin.

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      First of all, I am honestly astonished and amazed with the courage of standing in front of strangers, nude and telling them what you feel looking at yourself. I could never do that, its very scary. And I respect your thoughts and courage with your self analysis. Its really amazing for the way you see yourself and the positive outlook on life.

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      I admire your bravery in doing this exercise! As I read, I found myself thinking “No way!! Did she really do that?! I could never.” Like you said, it is such an intimate experience. I think it can be done alone or with our significant other, but I would not be able to do it in front of random people. Loving our bodies is important and it is great to see that you continue to do so. Regardless of age women should always be able to feel beautiful in their skin.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        Yes, I really did that, LOL! I’m glad you appreciate body positivity. It doesn’t have to be appreciated in a roomful of people, even by yourself and for yourself is just fine.

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      I loved the quote “a realization that all bodies are simply human and beautiful in their own individual ways”. There are such harsh expectations put on what our bodies should look like. I think most people end up comparing themselves to a very warped idea of what the perfect body looks like- one that is largely by the media we consume. At 10 I remember standing in front of the mirror with my best friend and pulling at our stomachs. We constantly heard how our mom’s needed to loose weight or go on some new diet. this mindset carried into my teen years and caused a lot of insecurity for me and for so many close to me. I still feel that there’s a certain way my body needs to look and that I constantly need to be working to that ideal body type. I have gotten a lot more confident and comfortable in my body but it is always such a wonderful reminder to read something like this. I love your take on self love and acceptance. I admire your view on your changing body and I will hold on to your insight as my body grows and changes.

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      Lynda,
      Good God I started reading this story out of curiosity then the “big Stuff” hit.. I put myself in your shoes and here comes the water works.. When You ask the question about if we would do it and what will we see…..(birds chirping)…… If I can fix the broken pieces in my brain to admire the two 10 lbs baby skin that formed on my belly and the once dd bra size now to ehh emm small B then maybe just maybe I can stare in the mirror and find what I like.. You have me thinking…
      Mercedes

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      I agree that loving the body is the first step to loving ourselves. Aging is a normal natural process, but there are many prejudices against people’s appearance. Whether it is adolescence with hormonal outbreaks, middle-age with constant weight gain, or fragile old age, people are struggling with their body, hating themselves for not being thin enough, not beautiful enough, when youth passing away and the beauty is no longer.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I agree it’s hard not to give in to those prejudices. I’m arguing that it is possible to accept ourselves, imperfect as we are, and hopefully even love our bodies – because without these bodies, we would not have life!

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      It’s always hard to deal with our bodies. Everyone is a little insecure in someway about it and for you to be able to be openly naked in front of so many people is admirable. After reading this, what I got out of it was you accepted yourself in all areas despite how difficult it was. There are many cons to ourselves but there are also pros to each individual. I feel we’re so hard on ourselves that sometimes credit should be given when deserved even in the smallest things.

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      I genuinely really enjoyed reading this post. I am so glad that this exercise was so beneficial for you. I myself have never been able to reflect on my own body image like the way you have but, this has inspired me to do so because who knows if I may find something new to love and appreciate about myself.

      • Lynda Smith Hoggan

        I hope you do it, and I bet you WILL find more to appreciate! We tend to agonize over our weaknesses, but we have so many strengths to balance them if we look at ourselves in a kinder way. My friend the sex therapist calls it “kind eyes.”

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      Wow! that is the first thing that comes to my mind after reading this I do not understand why I am so late on reading blogs especially yours. This blog post is so informational you go from what is happening at that moment and what you see from your body and observations to your emotional state. I feel that if I were to do my own body meditation I do not know what to expect, but I would be willing to give it a try.

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      This blog discusses such an important topic, loving your body despite its imperfections. Although I don’t think I’ll ever find the courage to stand naked in front of a group of people, I think that I should start practicing standing naked in front of the mirror. Taking a look at myself naked would allow me to see my imperfections. I know that at first, this might be hard, I think as I do it more, I will become more comfortable. In the end, I must be comfortable in the body I walk-in in order to love myself, and once I learn to love myself, I will reflect that on to others.

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      I really enjoyed the vulnerability and honesty of this article. Society has glorified young youthful bodies and I think a lot of people struggle with what they use to look like versus how they look to date. I really appreciate the veracity of your own experience.

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      This is such a comforting piece of writing. You described every aspect seamlessly and still managed to connect back to the main storyline. The paragraph where you start being descriptive of your body and emotions is well written. I have never seen people for their age. This is the first time I’ve heard of someone feeling ashamed or having this idea of “aged” bodies being disgusting. It’s good to be aware of others and what they might not feel comfortable with about themselves. Body meditation is something I should try. It’s sounds very therapeutic.

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      Loved the way you started this! It’s incredible to think that these classes and resources are available because we rarely ever talk about let alone consider them. What’s most interesting is that like you said, it isn’t necessarily “sex” therapy but rather a different approach to “relationship” therapy.

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      I was educated about the wonders of kegel exercises and estrogen cream for the ladies. Human sexuality covered that. I admire your bravery for participating in this exercise.

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      Every time I read one of your articles I admire you more for all your stories. You are a very brave person because not everyone dares to share an intimate experience. I loved the exercise explained at the beginning. I will give it a try because I know it will help me love those parts of my body that I don’t like. I think it would be very good if we all tried the Body Image exercise, so we would appreciate every detail of our body. Thank you for sharing this.

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      You were right as I was intrigued or maybe lured by your first paragraph. I felt a sense of curiosity as maybe others. Your description about your experience could actually imagine. I think what I took out of this is that a person’s worst critic is oneself and that I need to accept me before I judge anyone else. Thank you for sharing.

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      This really speaks to me because of all the negativity I have about my body. I remember drawing an exaggerated version of all my flaws back in 9th grade because I was so self-conscious. In the picture, I had huge shoulders, lots of acne, a hooked nose, and chubby hands. I love this article because it reminds me that I don’t need to be pretty in order to justify being alive. The world tells us all that being attractive and lusted after is the most important thing in life. But my body can do way more than just look a certain way. My body is the reason I’m alive, the reason can do all the stuff I love to do. My hands may not look feminine and dainty, but they can sure as hell create art, or hit a volleyball. The same things goes for all the other parts that I’m insecure about–they weren’t made to look good. They were made to do things. And they do those things well.

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      I would be so nervous to do any of that. Your confidence is something I wish I had. I have always struggled with looking at my body and just loving it. It made me nervous to be intimate with my partner because I was worried on how he saw me. BOY WAS I WRONG!

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