How Strong is Your Sexual Self-Esteem?

Who's hot and who's not? That's the question men and women are bombarded with through television, movies, magazines, and other media outlets every day.  Far too many people place themselves in the "not" category because they suffer from low sexual self-esteem. How strong is your sexual self-esteem and how can you boost your own personal "hotness?"

Sexual self-esteem is a complicated combination of perceptions that include how we see ourselves physically, emotionally and as sexual beings. Alex Robboy, CAS, ACSW, LCSW and founder of Sex Therapy in Philadelphia/Center for Growth says, "Self-esteem can be defined as a person's overall evaluation of his or her self-worth. It includes how he or she feels about his or her self-beliefs and emotions, as well as how it manifests itself in behaviors. The way this reflects itself sexually is virtually the same. Our beliefs, emotions, and behaviors can look like questions such as:

  • Am I too fat?
  • Do I look good?
  • Do I satisfy my lover?
  • Is my lover having a good time?
  • Are my fantasies too bizarre?
  • Why do I feel such shame and guilt?
  • Am I promiscuous?

Some of these questions can lead to unrealistic expectations in how we see ourselves, our bodies, our partners, and sex itself. If they are reflective of low self-esteem, then it becomes challenging to enjoy the intimacy and excitement that comes from healthy sexual interactions."

Some studies indicate our sexual self-esteem might be connected to our earliest sexual experiences. If those include abuse, guilt, shame, coercion, violence, or other unpleasant/uncomfortable associations, our self-esteem might be set on low.  Low self-esteem has been associated with early sexual activity and dangerous or risky sexual behaviors. More often, low sexual self-esteem simply robs men and women of the full sexual and sensual life they deserve. 

How can you boost your sexual self-esteem?
Robboy's recommendations include developing an appreciation of your body for the pleasure it brings you and your partner instead of focusing on how it looks.  She points out that your partner is unlikely to be focusing on the extra bit of fat on your belly because he or she is focused on enjoying you. She also says that "increasing your sexual self-esteem means feeling good in your skin, in and out of your clothes, appreciating your perfection and imperfection, knowing that all of this makes you a unique sexual creation." One way to accomplish this, she says, is to take some time looking in a mirror and identifying the parts of your body you appreciate and enjoy. Then, reframe your thoughts from negative ones like, "I'm too fat" to more positive ones like, "I look good, my body looks good, and I'm sexy."  As Robboy says, "Your partner is with you because you're attractive to him or her." If you can get on board with that, you'll enjoy your sexual experiences more.

  • If your physical self-esteem is currently at a low point due to weight gain, poor health, stress, fatigue, or other reasons, find ways to improve your health like cleaning up your diet and poor lifestyle habits and bringing some exercise into your day.
  • If your personal appearance is holding you back, try upgrading your wardrobe and hairstyle. Feeling good about the way you look goes a long way toward improving the way you feel.
  • If your sexual history is holding you back from enjoying sex now, see a therapist. Dealing with issues in your past might be the key to improving your current sex life.
  • Ask your doctor about any health conditions you may have (including prescriptions) that could be interfering with your sex life and ask for recommendations about ways to improve it. 

Don't be shy about improving your sexual self-esteem or asking for professional help. Everyone deserves a full, healthy sex life.