Our thoughts and feelings towards our body and desire are intricately linked.
Read on for more information about exactly how your relationship to your body shapes desire- and some tips and ideas for what to do if your confidence is low….
How to increase body confidence and revive sexual desire...
1. Learn more about the impact of stress, worry and low body confidence
Many of us struggle to have confidence in our bodies, and if you worry about how you look during sex this can have a huge impact on desire.
Being distracted by thoughts about your body might mean you find it difficult to stay present during sex. This might make you feel stressed- which acts as a biological “off switch” for desire…. meaning even if we want to want it, our body (and brain) says “no”. This is a really natural response to stress (find out more about why this is here), but stress can shut down our ability to get aroused, perhaps leading to painful or uncomfortable sex. Or just sex where you can’t get in the mood and so feel even more distracted- it’s a vicious cycle!
Learning more about the impact of stress (and worry) on desire can be really helpful, as well as how the quality of the sex you are (or were) having could be affecting desire. A really crucial link here is also our guide on how to stay present during sex which can help you feel more centred and focussed without the distracting thoughts.
2. Learn how to connect to your body
I find many women who experience low body confidence (or even hatred of their bodies) feel very disconnected from them- often living lives in their heads. This makes a lot of sense- our world encourages us to live more in our heads and there is less value placed on the deep wisdom inherent within our bodies, and many women disconnect from their bodies because of a trauma response or as a coping mechanism.
If we struggle to be in our own bodies, why would we take the time to invite anyone else in?
However, learning how to ‘come home’ to your body can be key to reviving desire because you become more aware of and in tune with arousal patterns and signals, and experience sensation more fully (many women describe themselves as numb or empty when in pursuit of more desire). When you feel fully ‘in’ your body it’s much easier to make peace with it.
Finding a deeper and more positive relationship with your body is an incredible journey to go on and some tips/resources are below if this is what you’re searching for:
- Our new course “The Art of Sexual Self-Empowerment” has a whole session around the importance of connecting to the body- and explores how to do so for women looking to deepen their connection to their desires.
- Our post on ways to spark desire when your body feels numb and disconnected has some really practical tips on how to do so.
- The field of somatic therapy is an interesting one to delve into. Somatic therapy looks at how the body can store emotions from the past, and looks at physical movement to help release trauma. Check out our library for recommended books in this area.
- The wonderful Dr Lori Brotto’s book Better Sex Through Mindfulness teaches ways to connect to the body through breathing exercises and is well recommended 🙂
3. Work on your sexual self-esteem/identity
When we don’t feel attractive, we might judge, criticise and close ourselves down so “it’s hard to imagine someone sees us with different eyes than the way we see ourselves, and we don’t feel we deserve their sensual touch- or our own” (Esther Perel).
The solution is to work on your sexual self-esteem and identity. This is because sex is a want not a need, and in order to feel want we need to feel deserving and open to a sexual experience.
I don’t believe you reach a state where you love yourself consistently all of the time and you won’t think critical thoughts or compare yourself to others. But I do think you can get to a point where you are kind to yourself, catch the unpleasant thoughts, and challenge them in order to change them. Loving yourself is a process not a state of being- the key is in learning– it’s the rituals and tools and coping mechanisms and skills you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on again. Check out this Medium article on the process rather than the goal for more inspo. It’s also cumulative- the more you do it (and the longer you do it for) the better at it you’ll become and the more you’ll see the effects.
There are two things we recommend here in how to do this:
Firstly our Art of Sexual Self-Empowerment programme was written with exactly this in mind. It’s an 8 week course designed to help you discover your sexual self and explore your sexual identity. Find out more about the course here.
Another concept you could try is FIERCE SELF LOVE. I came across this recently and, I have to say I was at best skeptical, but after having tried it it’s something I would recommend. The best two advocates of this are Grace Latter and also Layla Martin (check out her Wild Woman e-book).
To practise fierce self-love, you look in the mirror. Naked, if you can. Morning and evening. And tell yourself you love your body. And that’s it! You can focus on particular areas if you like, especially the bits you like the least, and keep repeating how much you love yourself. It works like affirmations, and the cumulative effect of just consistently telling yourself nice things, could be a gamechanger. Read Grace and Layla’s posts to find out more. I’d love to know in the comments how you get on!
4. Discover if "erotic self-focus" is your turn on
It’s not rocket science to think that negative body image can turn us off. But what if the alternative was true, and that positive body image can turn us on?
This concept is known as “erotic self-focus”. Many women can be turned on by the thought or sight of themselves having sex, because they’re imagining themselves as sexual beings or seeing themselves as sexual through their partners eyes.
It explains why many women are turned on by seeing themselves in the mirror during sex or by hearing the noises they make. And this makes sense really- because if you don’t find yourself desirable, you will struggle in allowing your sexual partner to desire you
Behind this is the idea of “the desire to be desired”. Research has shown this is an important ingredient in feeling sexually aroused- many women are turned on by the thought of their partner really wanting them.
Understanding that your arousal is dependent on how sexual you see yourself is an important component of your sexuality. It is central to the idea of your “sexual self”- the image you have of yourself and who you are/what you do and what you want when it comes to sex. The Art of Sexual Self-Empowerment is a course designed to help you uncover and connect to your sexual self if this is something you are interested in pursuing.
Another option if you are keen to increase how sexual you see yourself to be is to engage in regular sexual self-care- we have a post explaining more about that here.
5. Make your world more Body Positive
We live in a world in which it seems the ability to feel confident and happy in our own bodies is stacked against us. There are some fairly narrow idea pushed upon us of what beauty and health are, it can feel impossible to be happy enough in your own body if you don’t seem to fit these ‘standard ideals’. So instead one thing that can work is to curate your own world of body positivity!
Some tips include:
- Use Pinterest to surround yourself with what YOU think is sexy! There are SO many amazing images on Pinterest that blast through the common stereotypes of what is deemed to be mainstream “sexy”- create your own boards that
- Follow people that promote body positivity. My fellow Scarlet Ladies blogger Amy has a wicked article about who you should follow on Instagram that are body positive, as well as this article by Naya about five models who aren’t afraid to be different, scars and this one about body confidence by Grace Latter. Also, take a look at what other resources are out there that celebrate diversity and sexuality. I love this collection of pictures about the strength of Mums bodies after child birth (and the tiger stripes movement to rename our stretch marks!) as well as this Playful Promises collection of older women looking gorgeous in lingerie.
- Unfollow things that make you feel bad. The media send us some pretty shitty messages about how we should look, act, behave, express ourselves sometimes. So whilst we can campaign to change the world and have images that represent all of us, that’s going to take time. But, in the interim, let’s change your world.
- Watch burlesque. Dita Von Teese made it famous, but burlesque is for everyone. Watching women of all shapes and sizes strip tease can be really empowering.
6. Defeat your inner critic
Many of us face our inner critic on a daily basis. Whispering in our ear, they let us know we’re too fat, ugly, stupid, gross, unsexy, awkward, boring…The critic often plays a leading part in our sex drive story. They want us, our bodies and our sexual performance to match up to the “perfect ideal”- and condemn us when we don’t.
These limiting beliefs disable our senses and mean we start “spectatoring”, so that it’s almost impossible to drown out the negativity to just enjoy having sex. This can result in us wanting sex less, and unsurprisingly, a decrease in desire.
So, how to get over negative body talk? It begins with challenging the negative thoughts.
This is a technique from the world of CBT, and I find it really helpful. Begin by slowing down your thoughts enough to be more conscious of them. The negative ones camouflage into our regular everyday thoughts, so the goal is to find them and label them so they stick out. How you do this is up to you. Some methods other people use include practising meditation, journaling, breathing, counselling… do what you need to do to slow down those negative thoughts enough to see them coming. So once you’ve slowed them, what does the villain say to you? Once you can identify those thoughts, write them down. Then, make two columns below, and write down how that belief helps you and how it hurts you. This is because sometimes these beliefs do have a function- we think they protect us. Once you’ve identified those thoughts, ask yourself:
- How would you feel if your best friend said this to you?
- How would your best friend feel if you said this to her?
Likelihood is, you’d never say it! It might be hurtful and you’d never voice it to another because of how much it would upset them. Remember that you are the sum of the small decisions you make everyday. So change that voice inside your head that talks you down, and work everyday to replace it with a more positive one. Hard work- yes. Worth it- FUCK YES!
Have you found any useful resources or have any great tips on how to reduce the impact of low body confidence/self-esteem on desire?
Our community would love to hear from you in the comments below- lets share our thoughts and help each other ↓↓↓