Body image risk and reward in massage 1

Body image.  Almost everybody has something about their body that they don’t like.  For many it is a minor issue that they deal with but wish it were better.  For example I’m shorter than average.  I’d like to be a couple of inches taller just to make it easier to buy pants.  I don’t really spend much time thinking about it.  There’s nothing I can do about it anyway.  I know that other people are going to notice that I’m short and then move on to our business or relationship .

Some people though 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 is that massage can really help with body image issues.  In massage school we were all nervous about taking off some 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.

This is not a good option since it doesn’t leave you feeling any better.

2 – You get a massage, but the massage therapist 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.

People become massage therapists because they want to help others feel better.  We are people who care a great deal.  We don’t want to cause pain in any way.  As in any profession there are people who are not ideally suited for this work, and they tend to leave quickly.  A good massage therapist is going to be one of the most caring people that you know.

In this option your risk is low.  I’m not going to treat you in a way to make you feel bad.  If you already think that I won’t like your body then you have nothing to lose.  Your reward is high.  Your body will feel better from the massage and you can start feeling better about it.

3 – You get a massage and the massage therapist accepts you and your body.

You get 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.

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.  Your body is what you use to do things with and carry you around, but it is not you.  You use your car to take you places but you are not your car.  You live in your house but you are not your house.

In this option your risk is low.  I don’t care how your body looks.  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.

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.  You can get a chair massage or on the table without taking any clothes off.  Once you experience some relief and feel better you can progress to more work that you are comfortable with if you want.

Massage therapists want to help you feel better.  That’s it.  We don’t care about how you look.  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.

Barry is a licensed Massage Therapist at Main Street Massage in Hudson, Ohio.  Find out more about him, his business, and massage at

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