Confidence is a tricky thing. You no doubt have it often enough, but no one can be on 100 percent of the time (even Beyoncé). While it’s normal to have occasional self-doubt about how you look in an outfit or whether you impressed your boss with that major work presentation, the bedroom is one place where you want to feel super-comfortable in your skin — and sexy! — the vast majority of the time, if not always.
When insecurities trip you up during sex, they mess with your head and keep you from fully reaching your pleasure potential. Essentially, when you’re not all-in during sex (you know, when you’re worrying about your thighs, tummy or oral sex skills rather than how much fun you’re having) it makes it much harder to leave feeling fully satisfied, says Dr. Rachel Needle, a sex therapist and licensed psychologist at the Center for Marital and Sexual Health of South Florida. “It’s hard to be open and free during sex when you don’t feel good about your body,” she says.
But it’s not just your own pleasure that’s taking a hit — your insecurities can also mess up your bond with your S.O., says sex therapist Dr. Debra Laino. “If a partner feels insecure, their behavior and language will show it,” she says. Your insecurity can also transfer to your partner, making them feel insecure. “Sometimes sex can stop totally because of this,” Laino says.
If you’re worried your self-doubt is going to kill your and your partner’s bedroom buzz, there are a few tricks to give your confidence a boost so you can stop getting stressed and start getting off.
Check out other women
“I have a belly pooch that I can’t seem to get rid of, and it’s distracting to me during sex,” says Liz, 32, of Brooklyn, New York. After flat-out refusing to do girl-on-top, a position says she’s most likely to orgasm in, Liz finally came up with a solution: She started following body-positive women like Ashley Graham and Dana Falsetti on Instagram and scrolls through their pictures regularly. “Everyone has imperfections — and I know this — but sometimes I need to actually see it to be reminded of it and embrace my own body,” she says.
Laino says she’s on the right track. “Own the fact that there is no such thing as perfection — this needs to be done in many areas of life, but definitely in the bedroom,” she says.
Get your mind in the gutter
A good portion of arousal is mental for women, and when your mind starts to wander to worrying about your thighs or that zit that keeps popping up on your chin, you’re working against yourself. Instead, “be mindful and present during sex,” Needle says. Try this: Accept that your partner probably doesn’t notice imperfections you’re stressing over (and likely doesn’t care about them, either), and know that you’re not going to solve anything by worrying about it while you’re having sex. So, force yourself to focus on what’s actually happening in front of you and enjoy it.
Ditch negative self-thoughts
When Ginney, 26, of Los Angeles started dating her now-fiancé, she knew he had slept with a lot of women before her — and she was worried she wouldn’t stack up. “I finally came to the realization that he wouldn’t be sleeping with me if he didn’t enjoy it, and also that stressing about how I compared to his exes wasn’t doing me any favors anyway,” she says. Nailed it.
Tell your partner about it
Actually talking about your insecurities with your S.O. can make a huge difference (as long as you don’t blow things out of proportion or make it a constant conversation). “Talk with your partner about your insecurities and see if they can support you and be sensitive to them,” Laino says. Not only does it make your partner more likely to want to make you feel comfortable between the sheets, it can bring you closer, she says.
Slip into a fantasy
Sarah, 28, of Wilmington, Delaware, says she’s always felt weird about receiving oral because she was afraid she’d taste or smell funny. As a result, she could never enjoy it. Finally, she tried an experiment. She pretended to be someone else who was more confident in bed. “It sounds weird, but I was thinking about Beyoncé’s old alter ego Sasha Fierce and figured I could do something like that,” she says. She did it so often that eventually it just became second nature. Now, she says she doesn’t even need to reach for her alter ego to enjoy oral.
Sure, everyone has parts of their body they’re not crazy about, but if you have something you can change with tweaks to your diet and exercise routine, give it a go. “Honestly, if you don’t like your body, work on it,” says Laino. Even if your body doesn’t change drastically, the endorphins you get from mixing up your routine will make you naturally feel better about yourself — imperfections and all.
A version of this story was published March 2017.
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