exposing body image issues's picture

What pains us makes us grow...

Why would anyone photograph and then draw themselves as a regular practice?

Is it narcissism? Vanity? Or a simple, accessible way to heal from self-rejection?

I do it because I have always judged and criticized myself harshly, and self-portraiture is the best process I have found to really change my vision. When I look in the mirror, it’s to check – criticize – correct -  (and I can always find something to fix) in a never-ending quest for perfection.

I am 44 years old now and have been drawing myself for about 8 years. I keep quitting and coming back to it, because in spite of my resistance, it works… it helps. This self-image-obsession has sucked so much vital energy from my life over the years that a part of me is really angry about it… but that anger just feeds the self-destructiveness of the mind.

Fortunately, the more constructive part of me that loves others easily is willing to look beyond the skewed vision of my mind to see something else… a perfectly imperfect yet strong woman with a still-vulnerable little girl inside, a worthy and yes, possibly even beautiful human being. AS ARE WE ALL…

It’s a double-edged sword in that it’s only because I want to be so outstandingly beautiful that I can possibly see myself as so pitifully ugly. And I’m not, even on the world’s terms, ugly. It’s craziness… but even crazier, our culture FEEDS this craziness!

Olga Wolstenholme's picture

It’s Love I’m After

I’ve been sad for days, weeks, months, years it seems. I recently stopped taking the antidepressants that I had started taking in the midst of my last relationship when I felt like the combined stress of dealing with school and my exploding feelings of love might just kill me. When the relationship ended my doctor upped my anti-depressant and then when I just wouldn’t let go no matter how much of a mind fuck this whole situation was he upped them again and then when I wanted to kill myself, because I just couldn’t deal with how much pain I was in I started a second kind of anti-depressants and on and on it went for two plus years. And now, I’m no longer taking meds, but I also feel like a basket case, or you know, a very sad person.

I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the line my self worth became intrinsically linked with what this one person thought of me or more to the point, how he treated me. He became the personification of the little voice in my head that constantly repeats “he doesn’t give a shit, he doesn’t give a shit, no one gives a shit, I’m a piece of shit”. And that’s precisely how I feel right now and have been feeling for quite some time to some extent or another.

I’m angry and I’m sad. I’m angry at him. Right now I hate his guts and would tell him so if it would change anything. But it doesn’t. I’m angry at him, but mostly, I’m angry at myself for letting all of this happen, for wanting him or that relationship or whatever so much that I thought it better to endure a certain amount of pain as a constant. As a compromise. I’m angry at myself for not caring about myself enough, for not having enough self-respect to stop any of this before it became what it has become today. I never should have let this relationship happen, especially when it was so clearly self-destructive.

Olga Wolstenholme's picture

Foot Fetish Trauma

I used to know a guy who had (and still does presumably) a foot/footwear fetish. Let me clarify, since most people use the word fetish to signify that they merely like something that is out of the ordinary, that in this instance I mean fetish in the truest sense of the word. The reason I’ve dug up this particular tale is that the man in question was very very concerned that he was perverse because of his predilection for women’s footwear. He was quite literally fixated by his foot fixation and this caused him a lot of anguish, to say the very least.

Now, I won’t go into the dirty little details, since I do want to preserve this person’s anonymity, but suffice it to say that his inability to accept this side of his sexuality led to some pretty devastating situations, mentally, physically and emotionally. As it stands now, I haven’t spoken to him in quite a few years so I have no idea whether he came to accept this or not, but I’d be willing to put my money on the fact that it simply got worse since he refused to admit that he needed help.

Several of his friends, myself included, tried to show him that in the realm of fetishes feet were pretty common and finding them sexually arousing was nothing to torture yourself with, but it didn’t matter what we told him or how many times we told him that he didn’t have a problem, he just wouldn’t believe us. Ultimately thinking he had a problem is what led to him actually having a major problem.

Olga Wolstenholme's picture

Masturbating at Work

I used to sit in class (especially in high school), close my eyes and imagine extensive sexual scenarios. I was bored a lot. Once or twice I got myself so hot and bothered that I’d excuse myself to the bathroom and go rub one out in the tiny little bathroom stalls. They were quick, satisfying orgasms that keep me going for the rest of the day. Of course, at one point I just started smoking a lot of pot to stave off the crushing boredom. And besides, you can only masturbate in the bathroom so many times a day before people start wondering what’s wrong with your bladder.

I’m making it sound like it was much more of a habit than it actually was, when in reality it happened maybe a handful of times. The pot habit proved to be much more chronic. My grade eleven French teacher posited to my father during a parent teacher meeting that I might have digestive problems, since I was always falling asleep in class after lunch. You’d think it would have been a much simpler leap of imagination to realize that I was just stoned out of my mind, which is why I would eventually fall asleep on top of my French dictionary, mouth open, drooling on my copy of Le Petit Larousse.

Back to the topic at hand, which was masturbating at work, but I somehow got sidetracked with masturbating at school and then smoking weed for some reason. Regardless, I’m not changing the tittle of the post. Masturbating at work, it’s something I haven’t done in a number of years actually, maybe because my latest jobs haven’t lent themselves to such an endeavor or maybe since I no longer live with anyone, I can enjoy masturbating in the comfort of my own home without any inhibitions or interruptions. Whether the reason I no longer indulge in masturbating at work, I can tell you that I have and that it was rather a huge turn on.

Olga Wolstenholme's picture

Rubbing One Out

As a kid, my preferred method of masturbation was rubbing up against something. I would grind against my stuffed toys, rolled up socks, pillows, what have you. I was rather young at the time and didn’t think anything of it, besides somehow “knowing” that this activity was to be done in private. I even remember crawling under the couch in my grandfather’s basement to rub one out.

In elementary school, I continued to masturbate, but on top of keeping this activity on the lowdown, I also became more aware of the general feeling surrounding it, which was “it’s bad”. I started to hide the more commonly used toys. After all, it’s not like I threw teddy in the wash and quite frankly he kind of smelt like sex. Surely, a telltale sign of my masturbatory delight.

Picture me a little older, I’m entering the teen years and by now I’m starting to understand sexual innuendoes on TV and in movies. I’ve even read a book or two that have described masturbation. I’m no longer subject to my OWN experience of masturbation, I’m silently comparing my experience to the ones I hear around me and I begin to wonder if the way I get off is normal.

exposing body image issues's picture

I Am My Own Worst Enemy

by Colette Coughlin

When I was a seventy-pound twelve year old, my dad used to call me "Thunder Thighs". His intentions were not to feed a future eating disorder, he was just teasing, that's who he was. But I put it into my emotional backpack and consciously or unconsciously, pulled it out later to flog myself with it and affirm my physical imperfections and overall unworthiness. Until I had enough of that crap...

Worse, a friend of mine confided that his ex-wife, who had been sexually abused by her father, and naturally had issues with intimacy, could get mean and even violent with him sometimes. Once, in a rage, she told him he had the smallest penis she had ever seen (how many she had to compare to, we don't really know...). Although he didn't let this get in the way of future relationships... do you think he ever discussed this openly or forgot about it? Probably not, but fortunately he didn't let it stop him from loving other women.

These are the tiny little things that great big wars are built on. Wars with others, but worse, wars within ourselves.

exposing body image issues's picture

CRIPPLED BY IMAGE CONCERNS; Mind-based body battles

By Colette Coughlin


Author’s note: I have been working on body image using myself as a model for quite a few years now. Although I have come to a place of relative peace with my body over the last year, I recently came across this frustrated entry in a diary I had written shortly before things starting getting better for me. Although there were some outside influences that helped, the transformation was mostly from the inside, and it took some uncomfortable soul-searching to unravel the knots I describe below… can you identify with this?


Style / image / branding / performance /make-overs /age-defying / enhancing….


“How do I look?”


My boyfriend knows the only possible answer to this question is something along the lines of “fabulous” or “perfect” or “stunning”. “Beautiful” will do, too, but nothing less than that, ever!! And he knows that if I disagree, no matter what he says he can’t change my mind anyways.


My brain is crippled by caring too much about how I look. My mind wastes hours every day worrying about my weight, my skin, my hair, and my clothing. It is difficult to get out of the house every morning, for work or for play, unless I can convince myself that I’ve passed my self-imposed damn-near impossible tests of acceptability.

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