4 min read

It can be very painful to believe that your body is fundamentally unattractive.

I've witnessed a lot of suffering that stems from people feeling like they don't look feminine or masculine enough. 

And it's something I suffered with terribly when I felt as if my body didn't match up to the feminine ‘ideal’, as portrayed in movies, music videos, magazines, and later online. 

I’m happy to say that I don’t suffer in this way anymore. I love being in my female body now, and it’s not because I look like the so-called ‘ideal’, but because I have rejected the notion that such a thing exists. 

This has given me the freedom to enjoy my body as it is. And I absolutely love it! 

If you’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to your femininity or masculinity, I hope you will hear something in what I write here that will bring you relief. 

We are conditioned to believe that there are 'ideal' ways for men and women to look, and that a lack of conformity with these 'rules' renders a person undesirable.

Feminine and masculine ‘ideals’ often focus on the natural, biological differences between men’s and women’s bodies and then exaggerate them. 

So, for example, men typically have more muscle mass than women. So, the male ideal then morphs into men needing to be very muscular with a six pack and bulging biceps. 

Men are typically taller than women, so then a man being taller than a woman can turn into a dating prerequisite. 

Equally, women tend to have smaller waists than men, so tiny waists become prized. And some women will even go to the extreme of having ribs removed to achieve the ‘ideal’ look. 

There is also a huge focus on youth. 

A woman who looks old is often not deemed feminine or attractive. 

You can see this in expectations around how women’s breasts ‘should’ look. The ideal size varies, but they should never sag – something that tends to happen as women get older, at least to some extent. 

These 'ideals' can cause us to turn against our natural bodies in unhealthy ways.

These unnatural expectations lead to many women feeling ashamed of how their breasts look, and some choose to go under the knife because they can’t stand that feeling. 

The details of exactly which attributes are most important vary over time. I’ve witnessed some of this shifting of the goalposts during my lifetime. 

When I was younger, I used to look at ‘thinspo’ imagery. These are pictures of thin women which you look at to inspire you to stick to your diet and exercise regimen, so you too can look like them. 

But later I realised that the trend had moved on to ‘fitspo’, and I became ashamed of being what some people call ‘skinny fat’, so I started lifting weights and doing more resistance exercises to build muscle, as well as continuing to watch what I ate very carefully, so I didn’t become too big. 

The pursuit of a 'healthy' lifestyle can often be a mask for feeling inadequate.

These kinds of goals are generally viewed as preferable because they involve exercise and good nutrition. And while physically they may be healthier, underneath it all, the impulse is often the same – to seek to ‘improve’ the way you look to win approval, respect and attention from others, and to arouse desire in the person/people you want to attract. 

The message is clear: you are not good enough as you are, and you must continually work on yourself to make the grade.

As I’ve healed my body image, I’ve realised that all this striving to conform to a feminine or masculine ideal is futile and unnecessary, and points to a deep unease we have with our natural bodies. 

(That isn't to say that we don't need to take care of our bodies with nutrition, movement and rest, but rather that we don't need to make our worth and desirability dependent upon the degree to which our bodies conform with current societal ideals.)

We spend our whole lives being indoctrinated into what feminine or masculine bodies should look like, so that all too often, when we look in the mirror or at a photo of ourselves, we see ‘failure’ and feel worthless and disgusting. 

What a crazy society we co-create every day by continuing to buy into all these inhumane ideas. 

We have created a culture in which very few people are entitled to feel desirable. 

But then we express shock and horror when we come across people struggling with body dysmorphia or disordered eating, as if our own beliefs play no part in creating the conditions for their malaise.

But aren’t they just the ones who’ve taken all the brainwashing to its logical conclusion? 

They are a mirror for the punitive standards we place on ourselves to merit attraction. 

You can't reduce femininity or masculinity to the size or shape of someone's body parts.

Femininity and masculinity are words that are used in a multitude of ways. They can be associated with certain character traits. 

For example, femininity is often associated with caring, empathy and the inclination to cooperate with other people. 

Masculinity is often associated with strength, leadership, assertiveness and bravery. 

But clearly, all these qualities can be exemplified by any human being regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. And a person would be very unbalanced if they only exhibited one set of traits. 

Furthermore, none of these qualities can be found in the size of someone’s muscles, breasts or waists. 

A man with huge muscles can show caring. 

A man with small muscles can be a strong leader. 

A woman with highly developed muscles can show caring. 

A woman with a tiny waist can be decisive and courageous.

To suggest that so-called masculine or feminine qualities have anything to do with physical metrics is clearly ridiculous. 

Of course, there are differences between men’s and women’s bodies. But we don’t need to put them on steroids to feel deserving of our gender. We were born deserving. 

Sexual attraction can involve more than objectification, and it tends to be more enduring and fulfilling when it does.

Yes, many of us tend to have a preference regarding gender when it comes to sexual attraction, but that doesn’t mean sexual attraction has to be reduced purely to physical details. When that happens, it’s objectification. 

With mutual consent, that’s not wrong, and we probably all objectify others at times, and may even enjoy being objectified ourselves.  It can be fun!

But if that’s the only kind of attraction you experience, sooner or later, life will start to feel very empty and lonely.  And you may find yourself engaging in coping mechanisms to deal with the pain of missing out on real loving, intimate connection.

When you see the idealised female or male body, and you become sexually aroused, that’s not because that body is inherently more desirable than any other. But rather it’s because we are products of a lifetime of conditioning, and just like Pavlov’s dogs, we respond to certain imagery as we’ve been trained to do. 

Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong or immoral about this. But if you are feeling inadequate because of your perceived lack of conformity with the current ideal male or female body, then it’s very helpful to know that you are not stuck with your limiting beliefs about how you should look. 

Fortunately, you can gather up those beliefs like tinder, set them alight and watch them burn. And while the root of your suffering goes up in smoke, you can get on with enjoying your amazing, gorgeous body.

The only test there is for whether you are feminine or masculine enough is one you create with your mind.

You may not have started the madness yourself. But if you’re suffering because you don’t think you look feminine or masculine enough, that is stemming from your attachment to beliefs lurking within your own consciousness.  

It is a self-inflicted torture.  

Once you realise this deeply enough, you can down your weapons and stop hurting yourself.  

My experience of doing just that has been exquisitely pleasurable and I can strongly recommend it!


  • Femininity and masculinity can't be found in someone's body parts.  When we consider someone's body feminine/masculine, we are projecting meaning onto it.
  • You can enjoy exhibiting feminine/masculine traits irrespective of the details of your physical appearance.
  • We can treat people as unique individuals instead of defining who they are according to the size and shape of their body parts.
  • When you come to realise that your femininity/masculinity is not something you earn/achieve by making your body look a certain way, but is an essential element of who you are, you are free to enjoy it so much more!

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