When you think about physical yourself, do you feel confident, or do you feel insecure? The answer to this question unlocks the root of the issue we’ll be exploring today; how body image affects sexual self-esteem. My mission is to guide you in understanding the role body image plays in our sex lives’ satisfaction and ways to improve it.
What is Sexual Self-Esteem?
Before we dive into the heart of it, let’s first cover what sexual self-esteem is.
Just like traditional self-esteem, it’s the confidence and satisfaction you have in yourself; however, sexual self-esteem takes this one step further and relates this confidence to how you view yourself as a sexual being.
Now, this doesn’t have to be directly attached to your self-worth…just how you view yourself, how you feel about yourself, and the confidence in yourself when it comes to all things sexual and intimacy-related.
For instance, you can be confident in a professional environment but have low sexual self-esteem, making you doubt your confidence in an intimate environment.
What Influences Body Image Around Sex
Y’all, there are so many things that influence body image. If you think about the world around us, there’s an endless flow of messages around body image in the media.
As a woman, you’re told to be skinny yet curvy, strong yet submissive, desirable yet well-mannered…
Not to mention how it feels when you talk to friends, and they tell you about their sex lives. Then, in addition to feeling not enough in your body as is, you now feel you’re not enough in the bedroom either!
Thoughts start to arise like, “Wow, she can do that move?” or “My stomach/legs/butt would never let me do that!”
And let’s not forget the times our partner doesn’t reach *climax* and automatically assess every part of our body, and it’s attractiveness.
You see…all of this eats into the way you view yourself and negatively influences your body image.
In turn, this impacts your overall sexual self-esteem.
Can Low Self-Esteem Affect Sex Drive?
SHORT ANSWER: YES.
When you have a poor body image, this leads to an overall low sexual self-esteem. The result, then, is a low sex drive.
Yet, as you saw above, body image is strongly influenced by external factors. So, the best way to undo this is by turning within.
You have the opportunity to look at what barriers may be keeping you stuck.
One of those may be your head. Your brain is the biggest sex organ you have because it allows you to engage in self-talk, primarily negative self-talk! Negative self-talk can be very big for us, and one of the things you may be telling yourself is your relation to sex and intimacy.
If most of your talk around that is negative, it can have a huge impact on yourself, even when it comes to sexual experience and overall sex drive.
It’s hard to be sexual if your head gets in the way and you have too much chatter up there. It’s going to be really hard for you to focus and be present at the moment with a partner, or if you’re flying solo, your head, and your brain, that negative self-talk can be a huge barrier.
Another barrier that builds on negative self-talk is comparison. When you hear friends chatting about how great their sex lives are, you start to have thoughts like, “What’s wrong with me?”. Asking yourself this can ruminate and cycle, which keeps you stuck.
Commentary From Partner
The last barrier that impacts body image that leads to low sexual self-esteem is if you’re with somebody that’s comparing you to their past partners. Example: Them saying: “I’ve never had this problem with anybody else, everyone I’ve been within the past has loved the sexual experience with me…. What’s wrong with you?” Being compared by your partner can cause you to feel really stuck, decreasing your sexual self-esteem.
See, it’s not one-size-fits-all, but every single time you start to think about your body negatively or compare it to how others look or what others can do…You’re doing your sex life a disservice.
The build-up of these barriers will either make you not want to have sex at all,l or when you finally have sex, you don’t enjoy it since you’re in your head the entire time.
3 Ways to Build Positive Body Image
Thought I’d leave you hanging? Never! Now that you understand exactly how you got to where you are, it’s time to get you out of it. Below are 3 ways you can build up a positive body image and increase sexual self-esteem as a result!
Reframe + Rid Comparisons
The first thing to do is rebuild your sense of sexual self-esteem. To do this, stop the comparison game. If you see a woman or man with a body you wish to have online or in-person and start thinking about how undesirable you must be to your partner…stop that thought immediately. Instead, list the times your current partner or past partner complimented your body and something about you that got them going.
Know Your Needs
Another tip to improve your sexual self-esteem is to know your needs. Of course, your sexual needs but in every area of your life too–friendship needs, work needs, relationship needs, and family needs. What might happen is when you look at this and start exploring it, you may surprise yourself with what you realize.
I don’t know how often you stop to look at all these different areas of your life, but it will be beneficial to get in touch with what you need.
For instance, most people I work with come into a session and say they have no idea what their sexual needs are. So, I start by exploring the above areas. It helps that person realize that they’re not sexually flawed. They’ve just not explored their needs and explored what they like.
For this tip, take time to explore these areas by either writing them out or taking them out. It will help you get in touch with your actual sexual and intimacy needs. This will eliminate any media-infused insecurities around how you should be in bed because you know how you enjoy being in bed.
Talk with Your Partner
One way to alleviate the stress of wondering if you’re doing enough in the bedroom or being enough is opening the dialogue up with your partner about sex. Once you know what your sexual needs are, guide your partner into how to please you best. Maybe you don’t feel as revved up after a long day and enjoy sex more in the morning. Maybe you don’t feel sexy after a busy day watching after the kids and feel better headspace on the weekends. Talking with your partner about when sex will be the most pleasurable will allow you to dispel any chance of feeling like you’re not “in the mood” enough.
Well, that’s all I have for you today! I hope you stop letting other people tell you what is okay and not okay with your body and how you choose to have sex. You deserve to feel confident and worthy. So stop listening to the media or your friends, and start lifting your own voice. You are worthy, and you are enough.
A clinical sexologist and psychotherapist. From sex/intimacy, personal growth, and relationships, I am here to help you every step of the way.