As humans, it’s natural to not feel confident in every single thing that we do in our lives. Between having imposter syndrome about work to being insecure about our bodies, it’s a constant struggle we go through more times than we’d like to admit. But if there’s one topic we don’t talk enough about amongst our friends or loved ones, it’s being self-conscious in the bedroom.
As taboo as the topic of sex can be, it’s imperative to understand how it can affect our lives. Because before we even engage in the act, cultural, familial, and psychological factors influence our view and relationship with sex, whether we like it or not. This, in turn, can either prevent or allow us to have healthy sexual self-esteem once we do decide to do it.
However, while our cultural and familial environments can influence our sexual state-of-minds, sexologist Michelle Hope says trauma could also be at play. “When we think about individuals and their ability to have confidence in the bedroom, we must seek a deeper understanding of trauma. Oftentimes, trauma can be experienced in ways that are not necessarily physical but rather mental or emotional due to shame from family members, friends, the media, religious beliefs, or even cultural identities,” Hope explains.
While the experience of trauma is different for everyone, it can help bring to light why we’re feeling self-conscious about this natural part of lives in the first place, even when we think everything is okay for the most part. “It’s important to remember that even if one believes they have overcome a traumatic experience, the body itself holds on to the experience of trauma and can sometimes express trauma in ways we did not anticipate,” Hope continues.
Having a lack of sex-confidence doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, and whether it’s because of trauma, your culture, or the familial environment in which you were brought up, there’s a way to unlearn those negative thought patterns to build up your confidence and rewrite your sexual narrative.
1. Take inventory of your feelings
“This requires us to tap into memories, past experiences, [and] feelings when topics around sexuality come up and [learn to process] them,” Hope says. Journaling about your personal experiences with sex (whether it’s about conversations you’ve had or sexual acts you’ve engaged in) can allow you to gain a 360-view of why you may not feel confident while having sex.
However, if doing this becomes too uncomfortable for you, that’s OK. Instead of journaling on your own, it might be a good idea to connect with a professional to help you uncover where this lack of confidence is coming from. “[A]t times, people may need support from therapist counselors or psychologists because oftentimes, the insecurities are stemming from past traumas, whether physical or otherwise,” Hope explains. And that’s why professionals can help.
2. Get to know yourself on a more intimate level
One of the best ways to build your sexual confidence is by learning what you like and don’t like. This means being utterly honest with yourself and not apologizing for it. And because your sexuality is rooted in having a better understanding of yourself, getting to know yourself on a more intimate level can help you build a healthier sexual self-esteem. “[I]t’s important that we get to know ourselves,” Hope says. “The first relationship starts with self, and if that relationship is off, there is a higher propensity that all of [our] other relationships will be off, whether platonic [or] romantic relationships. [A]ll of those varying relationships can be calm triggers at certain points during the act of sex or in relationships.”
3. Safely explore your interests
Whether you’re in a romantic relationship(s) or not, it’s important to try what you think you may like before you have sex with someone else. When you don’t have anyone else to worry about, you’re able to focus on yourself and your pleasure and discover what works and doesn’t work for your body.
While this could bring up uncomfortable, insecure feelings, a body scan can help you begin to uncover your wants and needs. Are there certain parts of your body you’d prefer to be touched? Are there ways your body responds to certain techniques better over others? Do you prefer to use your hands or vibrators? The more you realize what turns you on and what doesn’t, the more confident you may feel to be able to communicate about it to your partner(s).
4. Communicate honestly about sexuality beforehand with your partner(s)
Once you have a better understanding of your needs, body, and history, then you may feel more comfortable talking with your partner(s) about what you want and don’t want. However, Hope stresses that it’s important to communicate about this before you engage in any sexual act. This can help solidify an understanding about your boundaries, possible shame triggers, and kinks you may feel safe and comfortable doing with your partner(s). “I do believe the conversations around sexuality and potential sex insecurities should happen prior to hopping in bed with your partner(s),” Hope says. “[S]ex is an intimate experience that is shared with one person, multiple people, [or] a group of individuals, whether at one time or an individual session.”
5. Learn to develop routines and habits that’ll get you in the mood
Once everything is out in the open, you may be able to take the next step with your partner(s) by creating rituals that’ll help you build your confidence together. Just like the self-care rituals you do every night, through your exploration, you may discover what instantly works for you and your partner to become aroused more easily and confidently. According to an article on Medium, this stage will require reflection and exploration. While it’s important to understand yourself, it’s just as vital to comprehend your partner’s wants and needs to build your self-confidence. By listening to what they like and observing their responses, you both can develop routines and habits that’ll safely enhance the sexual experience for both of you.
While discovering your sexual desires and building your sexual confidence might feel like a never-ending endeavor, don’t panic. Remember to be patient with yourself. With consent, you’ll be able to uncover your history, wants, and needs when it comes to sex. Communicate the journey you’re going on with your partner(s) who you trust, and try to stay open and curious during this time. Nothing is going to go smoothly, but that could be fun. As long as you’re kind and don’t pressure yourself to do things you don’t want to do, then everything should work in your favor.
This article originally appeared on The Everygirl on August 3, 2019.