Body image risk and reward in massage

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Body image risk and reward in massage

I’ve had a handful of new clients in the past few weeks. Which means I’ve had a bunch of people say things like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t shave my legs,” and “I have eczema on my legs, I understand if you don’t want to massage them.”

My standard response is something like, “That is SO NOT a thing that matters here. No biggie.”

But I’ve realized that for every client who says that, there are 10 people who won’t ever say that, because they won’t even schedule a massage. (If you haven’t read Ruth Werner’s article “Body Shaming-Where Pathology and Ethics Collide” in the January/February 2016 Massage & Bodywork Magazine, hop on that.)

Body image issues can be a huge obstacle for some people. And like most other obstacles to massage, I like to get ’em right out in the open, addressing the issue in a blog post on my massage practice website.

Body image risk and reward in massage

Body image. Almost everybody has something about their body that they don’t like. For many people it’s a minor issue, no big deal. But some people have a major issue with their body image. It affects how they live and their happiness.

When I tell some people that I’m a massage therapist it can cause a strong reaction. They tell me, whether verbally or through their reaction and body language, that massage is not for them. Their body image is such an issue that they don’t think anybody else can accept them.

The paradox here is that massage can really help with body image issues. In massage school we were all nervous about taking off our clothes and letting somebody else touch us. It didn’t take long for us to discover that bodies are just bodies and become much more comfortable with our own. We also experienced how good receiving a massage made us feel. Something unexpected happened – when our bodies felt better we felt better about our bodies.

I think there are three options to consider. Let’s look at the risk versus reward for them.

  1. Don’t get a massage.
    • This is the easiest because it involves doing nothing. The risk is low since you are not letting another person see or touch you at all.
    • The reward is zero. You didn’t get a massage so your body doesn’t feel any better, and you still have the stress you had before.
  2. You get a massage, but the massage therapist either makes note of how you look, as if it matters.
    • If this has happened to you, I’m sorry. You got a crappy massage therapist. That’s a bummer, and I’m really sorry. You took a risk, and even if the rest of the massage was decent, got very little reward.
    • This is not going to happen if you come to me. Never. No way. I can’t say this strongly enough. It goes against the very nature of who I am, how I treat people, and what I believe.
  3. You get a massage. A great massage. And the therapist does nothing to make you feel uncomfortable about your body. In fact, you feel pretty good about your body after the massage.
    • In this option your risk is low. I don’t care how your body looks. That’s none of my business. I just want to help it feel better. Your reward is high. Again your body will feel better from the massage and you can start feeling better about it.
    • I have no idea how your body got to be in the condition that it’s in. You may be dealing with something that you can’t control, such as a medical condition or an injury or accident. You may be in a lot of pain or are limited in what you can do physically. Since I don’t know what caused your body to be like it is now I can’t make any judgments about you.

I’ve worked on hundreds – maybe thousands – of people. Each body is interesting and I’ve yet to come across one that I could not help.

If you have been avoiding massage because you feel uncomfortable about your body, let’s find an option that works for you. You don’t even have to explain anything to me. Leave your clothes on. Stay sitting up or face down or lying on your side or however you want. It’s up to you.
It’s my job to help you feel better. That’s it. Together let’s find a way to help you relieve your pain and stress. Don’t let your body image keep you from feeling good.