Confidence is a Skill: Learning How to Love Yourself
We all want to lead healthy lives—and there is a plethora of information and opinions on what “healthy” looks like. However a lot of the focus, unfortunately, is not about feeling good, but around unrealistic, unnatural, and even unhealthy standards of beauty and what we should look like. While it can be hard to ignore these messages, it's helpful to shift our mindset to loving and embracing our bodies as they are rather than try to contort ourselves into a random uniform ideal that does not fit everyone. Sure, most of us can always live a healthier lifestyle. But let’s ditch the body shaming and resolve instead to love our bodies and enjoy them as they are, since that this is the one body that we have!
Learning to embrace our bodies and love them as they are is an important aspect of our sexual health. It's also a skill that will let us live happily in our skin, feel comfortable sharing our bodies with others, and approach health goals with a positive outlook.
What Does Confidence Look Like?
I spoke with Luna Matatas, a local Toronto burlesque performer and sex educator, about building sexual confidence. She said that she likes to ask people what confidence looks like when someone enters the room? Most people describe confidence as the way that an individual carries themselves. Standing up straight and making eye contact communicate body confidence—not an individual’s body shape. A confident curvy person can command a room just as much as their smaller-bodied friends. Confidence is less about physical characteristics and more about how we project ourselves. And projecting ourselves with a positive vibe is something we can strive to do anytime!
Focus on the Positives
Luna says that so often we look in the mirror and see the one or two same things that we don’t like rather than what we do like. So the first step is to look for the positives. If you love your breasts or smile, feel great about those parts of yourself; if you are able to feel sexual pleasure, appreciate the glory of those sensations; if you are able to know and communicate your desires and pleasures, celebrate what that power gives to you. Show off your favourite angles and parts when you have sexy video dates. Ask your partner what they find sexy or attractive about you. Take it in and believe it. We often don’t trust that our partners find us sexy. If you can’t fully trust yet, start small and fake it until you make it. Dress up when you go out on a date even if you live together.
Break down the Negatives
Luna suggests paying attention to the negative automatic thoughts that you have about your body. They tend to be on auto-repeat so regularly that you often don’t even notice them. Break down those messages, unravel where they came from, and whether you still want to hold onto them. Often we are much harsher with ourselves than with others, saying negative things to ourselves that we would never say about others. Counteract those messages with positive affirmations. You have the choice to believe and reinforce new messages now.
Love Your Hotspots Anyway
If you still have parts of your physique that are hard to embrace, Luna suggests sending love to them with touch and words. Try to change your relationship to those parts. If someone once made a negative comment about your body or skill, then she claims that is the shadow of past living in the present. Don’t let that comment or their attitude hold power over you. She recommends letting go of those negative messages through a ritual, such as writing the comment on a piece of paper and then throwing it into the fire, burying it, or tearing it up to let the message go. Replace the message with a new one whenever the old one surfaces: “My body is sexy,” or “My body brings me pleasure,” or “My body is stronger than any words.”
Ask for Support
There is also no shame in asking a partner for a compliment on any aspect of your sexiness you are struggling to accept (as well as all the ones you DO accept). If you are shy about the curves of your tummy, for example, Luna recommends asking them to tell you what is great about those curves: perhaps they feel soft and so fabulous to touch. Ask them to tell you while they place their hands on your body in adoration and pleasure. Ask them also to show love for you in ways that you respond to according to your Love Language. Feeling loved can also boost our confidence.
If you are the partner of someone who does not feel confident in their body, you can be empathetic about your partner’s situation and the battles that they face against the narrow mainstream notion of who and what is sexy. Then slow down your touch as to savour their body and use all of your senses, inhaling deeply as you touch them all over. Focus your words and touch on all areas, including their eyes, voice, laugh, and moans of pleasure.
Celebrate Your Own Version of Sexy
Luna suggests creating your own version of sexy: trying on new things, exploring new sex toys and sexual activities, and redefining what sexy and beautiful is for you. It might not look the same as you envisioned or have seen in porn, magazines or billboards. Strive for the authenticity of your style rather than conforming to someone else’s. Look for clothes that look good on you rather than what is “supposed” to make you look sexy. If you don’t feel comfortable in your skin and what you are wearing, you won’t feel confident and exude your natural beauty.
Get to Know Your Body’s Pleasure
Luna advises exploring your body. Take out a mirror and look at yourself in a curious way, genitals and all. Taste and smell what is normal for you and be aware of your own sexual health. Notice your actual scent (which is not supposed to smell like lavender) and the differences in your scent in the course of your menstrual cycle. Accept the sexy desire that a partner has for touching you and going down on you. Trust and enjoy the pleasure that they take in from your body.
Masturbate! Figure out what you enjoy, give yourself the gift of pleasure and empower yourself to be a fabulous lover who can give feedback on what makes you purr. Try using vibrators, dildos, anal toys, nipple clamps, or whatever brings you pleasure. Play with different kinds of fantasies and don’t worry about anyone else: Luna recommends you dress up for yourself and wear heels or sexy clothing. Practice the confidence you want to exude when you are with a partner. She further finds that this is helpful even if it does not lead to orgasm. The confidence in knowing what you want is super sexy.
Develop Healthy Habits
Eat foods that work for your body. Work out in whichever ways are feasible and practical. If time is short, park the car or get off the bus a little farther from work in order to get a little exercise on your commute. Incorporate time with friends or a partner in an activity, whether it be a stroll through the park, bowling, dancing, or an exercise class. Treat your body to exercise because it feels good, boosts your confidence, and is healthy for you, not in order to achieve a certain size. Health comes in all sizes and moving your body is the best medicine.
Give it Time
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Luna has been practicing body confidence for years and stated that she still struggles with messages and stories that resurface. The important thing is to clear the smoke of the negative messages by breaking them down. Even if you only believe your new positive messages a little bit, fake it ‘till you make it. And you don’t have to have good confidence to have great sex. So practice the attitude of confidence. The confidence in knowing what you want and who you are will be infectious and others will catch on. Find the sexy in you and others will see it too.