“I hate my fat rolls.” “Look at all this damn cellulite.” “My breasts are too saggy.” I wish I didn’t have all these stretch marks.” Women talk to themselves like this day in and day out. We stare in the mirror and self-deprecate. We criticize. We wonder, “Will the partner I want, want me back?”
Then, we look at other women on TV and social media and compare ourselves to them. We know their pictures are edited, airbrushed, all smoke & mirrors, etc. Yet, we still envy them and want to look even remotely like what we see in the media. Why? Why do we never feel good enough? We all want to look and feel attractive and sexy based on the viewpoints of others. But how can this be possible when we don’t view ourselves this way?
Low Self-esteem and Its Origins
Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves. Low self-esteem often begins in childhood. Our parents, teachers, playmates, childhood crushes, siblings, etc., give us specific ideas about ourselves. Unfortunately, the negative messages we receive are the ones that have the most significant impact and stay with us the most extended (NHS, 2022). The truth is most women feel self-conscious about certain parts of their bodies. This is normal. However, when we begin to obsess over our appearance, this can lead to less than favorable sexual experiences. The more severe our body image issues are, the more likely we focus on those particular body parts during sex.
Before engaging in the act, many circumstances influence our sexual perspectives. For example, it may be difficult for some people to feel sexually confident because, at some point in their lives, they were discouraged from being sexual or told that body exploration was wrong. A lack of communication regarding our sexual desires and not setting boundaries are also factors that hinder sexual confidence.
What Can We Do About It?
Now that we know where low self-esteem and issues with sexual confidence can arise from, here are some tips that can help us be better to ourselves and, thus, improve our mindset regarding intimacy:
Carry mindfulness into the bedroom: Mindfulness is a type of present-moment awareness absent from judgment. It is the pinnacle of self-compassion. Sexuality researcher Dr. Lori Brotto (2014) found that helping women learn to be more mindful opened the door for them to feel more deserving of sexual pleasure (Solomon, 2019).
Don’t be shy. Vocalize!: Talking to your partner about sex is linked to sexual desire, lubrication, sexual arousal, and orgasms. Sexual conversations with your partner help boost self-confidence and facilitate the development of a sense of trust. Building this trust makes sex less complicated and more enjoyable for all involved. Relationship scientist Dr. Sue Johnson says, “Emotional presence and trust are the biggest aphrodisiacs of all.”
Be aware of your self-talk: Practice realizing when self-criticizing thoughts sneak into your mind. Once you acknowledge that these thoughts are present, you’ve already won half the battle (Solomon, 2019). Work on exchanging the disparaging idea with a reassuring one like: “You look great, girl!” “You are amazing!” “You’ve got this.”
Universal humanity: Realize that we all struggle with insecurities in some form. Understanding that we are not alone in this sexual uncertainty can help soften the ever-so-nagging self-inflicting blow we tend to apply to our likely already fragile mental and emotional state.
Be the Type of Person You’d Want to be With
Is it them, or is it you? We’ve all heard the term, “Drop that zero and get yourself a hero!” While it’s true that a bad relationship can damage self-esteem, it’s also going to be very difficult to break free once we’ve been linked to someone who made us feel less than when they were supposed to care about us (Emery, 2015). That’s the thing, ladies. Self-esteem should not be based on what someone thinks about us. It’s about how we feel, view, and treat ourselves. Besides, our partners can tell us until they’re blue that we’re beautiful and hot and how much they love or like us. However, if WE don’t feel it, we won’t accept it, and it won’t matter anyway.
Let there be no confusion here. Sexual confidence has nothing to do with being the world’s most remarkable lover/traveling acrobat. Although it can mean many different things to different individuals when it comes down to the good ol’ meat & potatoes of it all, sexual confidence is about feeling relaxed in your own body and welcoming the idea that you deserve pleasure while being able to convey what you like or dislike to your sexual partner (Scott, 2020).
Exercising kindness to our wonderful, ever-changing, and fallible selves allows us to build a foundation for experiencing enjoyment and developing a deeper, more satisfying connection with not only our sexual partners but, more importantly, cultivating the same thing within ourselves. Instead of focusing on what we don’t like, we should practice how to focus on what we do. We all have at least one thing we want about ourselves-physically or mentally. Gathering these things and sprinkling them upon ourselves like money on a millionaire is a great way to replace the negative with the positive, which will eventually help that pessimism fades into the distant background.
Once you’re done reading, I want you to say all the quotes mentioned in the beginning out loud. Now imagine the person you wish to or your chosen partner saying these things to you. Would you desire to be with and share yourself with someone who would speak to you like that? If the answer is “no,”-stop doing it to yourself. If no one else existed, you’d have no one to “be with” other than YOU. Therefore, if you don’t want to date or share your life with someone who is an asshole, it’s simple, don’t be one to yourself.
Until Next Time,
Adrianna Moreno, MS, SEC