Introducing My New Addiction: Comparing Vulvas
Checking was one behavioral pattern caused by my diagnosis, but it wasn’t the only one (you can read about my checking compulsion here and here). Another difficult compulsion that came hand-in-hand with my LS diagnosis was comparing. Namely, comparing my vulva, specifically my labia minora, to those of other vulva owners.
In this blog post, I discuss the behavior of comparing other vulvas to my own and the feelings compounding this behavior. This is a vulnerable and sensitive topic for me, but I believe transparency is not only important, but allows us to heal. it is important for me to always be honest with you about my journey.
Don’t forget to read until the end of this post for our weekly #TuesdayTipbyLLC!
First Came Checking, Then Came Comparing
After my Lichen Sclerosus diagnosis, I engaged in the compulsive act of checking my vulva multiple times a day. Compulsive checking, fueled by intense feelings of self-blame, stemmed from the fear of my LS progressing more/doing more damage/ than it already had. I believed if I checked often enough, I would notice important changes and catch potential cancerous patches early, something I was unable to do with my LS.
Another behavior emerged alongside checking: comparing. Comparing, unlike checking, was grounded primarily in aesthetic concerns about the appearance of my vulva. Due to the fact that I never received proper sex education, at 31 years old, I found myself with little knowledge of what vulvas looked like. In fact, I never even used the word ‘vulva’ until after I was diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosus. Accordingly, I educated myself on all the parts of a vulva, and then searched for images online to see what a non-Lichen Sclerosus vulva looked like.
Unexpected Mental Health Implications of My Search Engine Habits
My need to search images of vulvas unaffected by LS online had terrible repercussions on my mental health. It only reinforced the narrative I created in my mind of my vulva being abnormal.
Furthermore, it made me feel completely ashamed and revolted by the appearance of my vulva. I became fixated on the aesthetic of my vulva, particularly compared to the ones I saw online (especially the labia minora). Importantly, I couldn’t stop myself from comparing my own labia minora to those of others.
One major difference I noticed while comparing vulvas was the fusing of my clitoral hood to my clitoris, although, aesthetically, this bothered me significantly less.
What distressed me most was my labia minora’s appearance. In my mind, my labia was profoundly abnormal, disfigured, and disgusting. As a result, I saw myself as being abnormal, disgusting and disfigured as well.
The Fight between Rational and Irrational Thoughts
At this time, I knew all vulvas and labia were not the same and there was no such thing as a ‘normal’ vulva. Vulvas come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, etc., and they are all unique. Rationally, I understood this.
Regardless, my irrational thoughts about my vulva ran rampant, leaving no room for rational thoughts or reasoning. When it came to my vulva, its small appearance, the reabsorption, and subsequent loss of the majority of my labia minora made me feel ugly
And the more I searched images of vulvas, the worse I felt about myself. Even when I found vulvas with small labia minora, they were unlike mine. I wanted so badly to have labia minora as well.
Given the mental distress it caused me, you would have thought I would stop comparing. Instead, I doubled down and spent more time searching vulvas unaffected by LS. The irrational part of my brain pushed me to continue comparing my vulva to those of others.
Side-Story: An Aside about My Labia Minora
The first time I saw my gynecologist after my Lichen Sclerosus diagnosis, I had to fill out an intake form. This form resembled a standard intake form. However, there was a question about one’s labia minora at the end. It asked whether you felt uncomfortable with the size of your labia minora. I do not recall how they phrased it, but it seemed to be geared towards individuals who felt mentally or physically uncomfortable with how large their labia minora was.
I actually wrote down: “No. Mine is too small. I need someone to build me a labia minora”. I low-key hoped he would tell me, “Oh, I can do that, no problem!”. Obviously, this is not a thing, but in that moment I desperately wished it was, nonetheless.
Moving Beyond Comparing: How I am Working on Letting Myself Off the Hook
It was much harder for me to stop comparing vulvas than it was for me to stop compulsively checking my vulva.
I’d love to tell you I have a comprehensive checklist of how to stop comparing your vulva to other vulvas, but the truth is, I don’t. I am still actively working on stopping this habit/compulsion/impulse.
Currently, I am doing much better. For instance, I no longer deliberately search for images of vulvas.
Part of my philosophy in life is to assess my actions and consider how they serve myself and others. That is, if an action doesn’t benefit me or another person, then I shouldn’t engage in it, especially if it causes harm. Comparing my vulva to someone else’s doesn’t benefit me in any way. On the contrary, it left me feeling deeply flawed, unworthy, and caused deep sadness and anxiety. I tried to keep reminding myself of this whenever I felt the urge to look up images of vulvas.
Further, whenever the urge to search images of vulvas and compare them to my own arose, I would remind myself this comparison serves no purpose. My vulvar anatomy will not magically return to the way it looked before LS changed it.
Learning to Love my Vulva
The truth is, I lost the majority of my labia minora and it’s not coming back. In order to accept this, I first needed to grieve its loss. In future posts, I will discuss the importance and healing nature of allowing oneself to grieve. Allowing myself to grieve the loss of my vulva helped me slowly break free from the desire of comparing myself to others. I am now working on loving my vulva completely and wholly, as she is, lost labia and all.
In sum, my habit of compulsive checking led to another problematic behavior – comparing my vulva to those of others. I am currently on a journey to let go of the desire to compare myself to others and learning to love and accept my vulva exactly as she is. This journey involves letting myself feel my loss and subsequently letting it go. I will keep you posted as I continue on this journey.
Comparing vulvas is an important topic to discuss precisely because it led to more harmful behaviors and thought patterns, namely, comparing my sex life to the sex lives of others.
Stay tuned, because I will discuss this in detail in my next post.
Connect with Me!
Do you or have you struggled with comparing your vulva to others? How are you or how have you dealt with this? What obstacles have you faced on your journey? How are you working with those obstacles?
Let me know in the comments below or feel free to contact me through social media – I would love to hear from you!
#TuesdayTipbyLLC: If you are struggling with vulvar dysmorphia after a Lichen Sclerosus diagnosis, try writing one thing you love about your vulva, it could be anything. If you aren’t emotionally ready to do that, try writing down one thing you love about another body part, because we are more than just our vulvas.