"I did not find myself attractive, so I didn't understand how a man could find me attractive," shares Raeann Langas, now a body-positive advocate.
Take one look at Raeann Langas' Instagram feed and you'll quickly realize that the fashion blogger and curve model is the epitome of body confidence and body positivity. But that doesn't mean she isn't afraid to share what makes her vulnerable. She's previously talked about why it's okay not to love your body sometimes even if you support body positivity, and how she came to realize that body positivity isn't always about the way you look. Now, she's opening up about yet another way she's struggled with body image: in her relationship.
Why are you attracted to me? This was a question I asked Ben about a year after we started dating. I couldn't understand how someone with a "perfect body" would be attracted to me. Wouldn't he be much happier with someone who was thinner and more athletic like him? For a long time, Ben's body was something that caused me to feel very self-conscious and brought out a lot of my own insecurities. He told me that he simply found my body type attractive and beyond that, he was attracted to me as a person and that had nothing to do with my body at all. As I found my confidence and learned to accept my body the less Ben's appearance made me feel inferior. I can now celebrate his achievements and when he meets his health and fitness goals without thinking negatively about myself. It’s crazy how as women we think we don’t deserve a certain person because of our appearance.
"'Why are you attracted to me?' That was a question I asked Ben about a year after we started dating," she recently wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of her and her boyfriend. "I couldn't understand how someone with a 'perfect body' would be attracted to me. Wouldn't he be much happier with someone who was thinner and more athletic like him?" (Related: Why This Woman "Forgot Her Bikini" On a Date to the Beach)
Looking back, Langas says she realizes how tainted her relationship with her body really was. "At the time I was incredibly insecure," she tells Shape. "I did not find myself attractive so I didn't understand how a man could find me attractive. In my head, I believed that a woman who was thinner or more athletic than me was better than me because growing up we are taught that's what is deemed as attractive and desirable."
Her boyfriend Ben Mullis, however, explained to her that yes, he was in fact attracted to her body type. "I had never met a man that had found curvy women attractive so I just couldn't understand it," she says. "He also told me that we don't need to be clones of each other, he enjoys that fact that we have different interests in life—his just happens to be lifting and working out." (Related: Katie Willcox Wants You to Know You're So Much More Than What You See In the Mirror)
In part, Langas blames the lack of representation of diverse body types in the media for her issues with body image. "Ten years ago, there were no curve models or a variety of body types represented in mainstream magazines," she says. "The women depicted in those publications is what I believed men desired: Someone who was skinny with big boobs. To me, it was pretty simple: I thought Ben, like all men, would be happier with a woman who was skinnier than me because that is what I'd been programmed to think." (Related: Katie Willcox Wants Women to Stop Thinking They Need to Lose Weight to Be Loveable)
While Langas works out regularly and practices healthy eating, Mullis has been an athlete his whole life, played tennis in college, and is currently an assistant coach at Pepperdine University. So, yes, their bodies are built differently—but it took her years to feel comfortable with that idea, she says. "He helped me understand that it's not about how your body looks, it's just about living a healthy life—and health looks different for everybody."
As Langas found her confidence and became secure with her body through her work as a curve model and a body-positive advocate, the less her boyfriend's appearance made her feel inferior, she adds. "I think when you are happy with yourself, it's easier for you to be happy for others," she says. "For Ben, working out brings him so much joy, so I want to support him in that and celebrate his achievements with him."
To other women who might question their relationship based on their body type, Langas says this: "So many women feel like they don't deserve someone based on how they look because as women we face so much pressure to look a certain way. That is why I am such a firm believer in women finding their confidence and being open to receiving all that they are worthy of in life."