It’s Valentine’s Day this month and love is in the air - but the team at Gaylife Stoke want to make sure you feel love for yourself and your body as well as for your romantic partner.
Gaylife Stoke is part of the sexual health service in Stoke-on-Trent. Along with providing LGBT+ support services, one of its jobs is to educate people about sex, relationships and body image.
Take a look at the organisation’s top tips for learning to love yourself and your body...
There is no ‘normal’ when it comes to genitals
Genitals come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Penis angles vary from person to person. Some people have more foreskin than others. Labia size and colour is different for everyone. Got one ball hanging lower than the other? That’s actually common! Everyone is different and that’s great, because life would be boring if we were all the same as one another. People often get hung up about their genitals when they’ve been watching porn - but bear in mind that porn actors are hired specifically for their looks. In just the same way that you shouldn’t compare your body to a runway model, don’t compare your genitals (or boobs, for that matter) to a porn star’s. It’s important to keep an eye out for any changes in the appearance of your genitals, such as any new lumps, bumps, blisters or sores. This could mean you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or another type of infection or condition. If you do notice any changes, visit your GP or nearest sexual health clinic.
Stop comparing yourself to others
It’s so easy in today’s age of social media to feel envious of what other people have, whether it be a ripped body, expensive car or busy social life. But social media doesn’t provide an accurate representation of who people are. It’s an Instagram influencer’s job to look a certain way - that’s what they get paid for - meaning they may well have spent hours getting that one great photo for their feed. Not many people post a true reflection of their lives on social media - try to remember that fact if ever you should find yourself feeling down. It’s a good idea to take a break from the online world and do something fun in the real world, like trying a new hobby, meeting up with friends or even relaxing by yourself with a good book.
Love somebody else… Love yourself!
No, we’re not talking about sex here. Even though this is an article about loving yourself, being kind to others can help you be kind to yourself. If you’re positive about other people’s looks and bodies, it will help you to be more positive about your own. Lead by example; being kind to or about someone else will give you more faith in the kindness of others.
Learn what feels good for you
Flicking the bean, cracking one out, having a wank… Whatever you call it, masturbation is a great way to get to know your body and learn what feels good. You can use your hands or toys (make sure you clean them properly!) along with some lube to make things feel great. Don’t use anything that’s not designed for use as a sex toy, as you could hurt yourself or get something stuck inside you. For example, if it doesn’t have a flared base, don’t use it for anal play. Having an orgasm releases endorphins, which make you feel good, and masturbation is one sexual act from which you can’t get an STI, so put some time aside and have some solo fun.
Know your worth
Unhealthy relationships can be hard to spot, whether it’s with a friend, family member or partner. If you don’t feel like you can be yourself around someone, you’re worried about how they might react if you disagree with them, or you’re miserable more often than you’re happy, your relationship may well be an unhealthy one. There are many local support services available which can help with unhealthy relationships. In Stoke-on-Trent, it’s an organisation called Glow. If someone isn’t making you happy, it may be time to move on. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to know your worth and remember that everybody deserves to be happy - including you!
For more information on Gaylife’s LGBT+ services in Stoke-on-Trent, visit www.lgbtstoke.co.uk
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