How To Find Yours
Of all the things that affect our sexual satisfaction, the most important element is sexual confidence. By that I mean knowing not only that you're desirable but also that what you bring to a sexual encounter is likely to be highly valued by your partner.
Not surprisingly, sexually confident women seem to be more sexually active and have a whole lot more fun while they're at it. That doesn't mean they confuse quantity with quality. What sets the sexually confident woman apart is that she's relaxed. She experiences things fully because she isn't self-conscious. She doesn't obsess about rejection or failure, and as a result she enjoys success after success. But so many people speak of sexual confidence almost as if it were some kind of exotic potion, enjoyed only by a lucky few. They tell me they aren't certain they comprehend the concept, and they don't have a clue about how to get it.
If you're one of those folks, take heart and read on. The good news is that if this seemingly mystical characteristic is missing in your life, things can change. If you're sexually insecure or uptight, or just feel as if you aren't very good at it, all that can change—in a hurry. The really good news is that attaining sexual confidence is totally up to you. It's time for you to put a little strut in your stuff.
I'm going to focus on the female side of this topic, since most of you reading this are women. But many of the same principles apply to both sexes, so don't stop reading if you're a guy—you just might learn something.
A Little Help from My Friends Although I've picked up some insight from 25-plus years of working with couples as well as sexually active singles, I was determined in preparing this article not to lean totally on my own understanding. So I sought the blessing of my wife, Robin, who was reluctant: She can't understand why her husband has to be the one who speaks to America about such private things. With Robin's okay, I made it my business to do some informal research. Now, out of 160 people who work on the Dr. Phil show, about 140 are women—a pretty big pool to draw from. Eight of my coworkers and I sat down for a roundtable discussion about sexual confidence. Their comments and observations have been invaluable—and in some cases, unprintable. I discovered that my very professional colleagues are pretty rowdy!
Read on to find out the keys to unlocking your sexual confidence:
Sexual Confidence Defined
How To Define It
Clearly, there are some things that sexual confidence is not about. For starters, it's not about having a great body. Perhaps unexpectedly, older women describe themselves as much more sexually confident than younger ones. I say "unexpectedly" because younger women tend to be regarded as having more objective sex appeal. But older women have the extremely valuable benefit of experience.
Carla, 41, put it this way: "If I took the confidence I have now and the body I had in my 20s or 30s, I'd be hell on wheels. But would I trade what I now understand about myself, my body, and sex just to have the body back? No way, no how!" When she was younger, her fear of rejection and insecurity caused her to be a people pleaser. She knows better now: It's not selfish in a sexual situation to please yourself. Think about it—what greater gift could you give your partner than to have a really good time? If you're having fun, your partner is going to have fun. And that's not a license for selfishness; it's a recognition that you can't give away what you don't have yourself.
Sexual confidence isn't something you need a partner to give to you or validate in you. In fact, if you're focusing too much on him, that can be a big distraction and erode your sexual confidence. Virtually all the women I talked to agreed that when they were younger, they were more inclined to let other people define their sense of self. Women who know their bodies better—who know what turns them on—report enjoying sex more. They're more confident that their interactions will be successful. Rebecca, 29, though 12 years younger than Carla, endorsed her view. "If I had the confidence at 23 that I have now, I would have had a lot more fun," Rebecca says. "I'd have spent much less time worrying about what a guy was thinking and enjoyed myself more."
That's true of most of the women I've spoken to on this subject over the years. They tend to care much less as time goes by about what other people think. They certainly don't let men inhibit them. Older women, in particular, seem much more at ease with the prospect of being on their own, are more content with who they are, and feel far less desperation to be in a sexual relationship—which, in turn, allows them to relax and feel more secure in themselves. And that clearly boosts their sexual confidence.
This brings me to a point made over and over by the women in my little survey, a belief so widely shared that it's a core truth about sexual confidence: It is not all about sex. It is very much about power, the power that comes from liking and accepting yourself. A woman who is open-minded, wants to have fun, and isn't counting on getting an engagement ring within minutes of meeting a man has an ease about her that translates as power. By contrast, one who looks like she's on the prowl for Mr. Right and is deafened by the ticking of her biological clock sends a totally different message. And as any guy will tell you, that message is: Run! But if you're comfortable and genuinely happy, others sense it and want it. Women who like where they are in their lives exude an assurance that makes for some very positive vibes in the bedroom.
More on Sexual Confidence
For all the media hype surrounding sex and the ways in which it's glamorized in our society, we're pretty darn rigid in the real world of Anytown, U.S.A., and it's difficult for many women to think of themselves as sexual beings, let alone enjoy that role. If your sexual confidence meter is on empty, here are a few ways to fuel up:
The key to unlocking your sexual confidence is to check your self-perception. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—and you have to see yourself as beautiful before you can expect anyone else to. Yes, you need to feel good about your body. But as thousands of sensuous women will tell you, body image is far less important than just feeling good about yourself and your life overall. By deliberately steering your internal dialogue toward positive, empowering thoughts, you can increase your level of assurance. Maybe you need to replace your current internal dialogue with sexually confident messages like: I'm happy.
I've got it.
Once your internal dialogue is playing the right words, pay attention to what you're saying nonverbally. You can use whatever words you like, but a huge percentage of what you communicate is coming through your body language, loud and clear. If a woman projects a sense of knowing that she's desirable, the man or men in her life will be drawn to her like bears to honey—and that's true whether or not she meets any notion of what a sexy woman "ought" to look like. The way she walks into a room, her posture, how she maintains eye contact, how she dresses, how much time she spends checking out other women and comparing herself to them—all contribute to the aura she exudes.
Before you can give off a confident aura, you need to be comfortable with your body. If you're one of those people who can't even look in the mirror when you're naked, you need to get used to it. Maybe you need to start with lingerie. Maybe you need to begin with a snowsuit and work down from there. The point is, you need to feel comfortable with yourself, and then you can get to know your sexual self. Figure out whatever you need to do to get in the mood—whether it's lighting candles, playing music, or something else—and do it. Ultimately, a sexual response is much more successful when people lose their inhibitions. So you're going to have to learn to get comfortable in your own skin.
Now let's talk about technique. If you have knowledge about what works and what doesn't, you have power. Rent a video, read a book, buy a feather boa—but make it a priority to find out! And remember, something even more powerful than good technique is the willingness to surrender and immerse yourself in the interaction. Someone who has good form but paints by the numbers isn't nearly as good a sexual partner as someone who is willing to throw self-consciousness to the wind and totally engage in the process.
Power, besides being highly attractive by itself, is the spice that lends an extra something to a woman's sexuality. Norman Mailer once wrote that Marilyn Monroe was so attractive to men because she looked "easy." Sorry, Norman, but I don't think that's exactly right. For years, men have told me that they desire a woman who doesn't come off as looking like a sure thing. Approachable and unintimidating, yes, but not easy. "I think guys like women who might appear to be easy but who they know are not," says Ianthe, 31. Jennifer Aniston, for example, is viewed as the sexy girl next door; not too flirtatious—not easy—but not standoff-ish, either. There's power in her demeanor. Lots of sexually confident women, as different from one another as Jennifer Aniston and Marilyn Monroe, successfully navigate the fine line between accessibility and control. As Gwynne, 42, says: "They give off an aura that says, I've got it, you want it, and I'll decide if you can have it."
And, finally, you have to name it to claim it. It's not enough simply to say, "I want a sexually fulfilling relationship." Sexual confidence means being able to identify exactly what you like and dislike, and having the guts to express it. That may mean exploring your own body to find out what pleases you. Knowing what you want and what it takes to make you feel good will give you more confidence. That leads to more fun, which in turn increases your confidence, which creates more fun: Are you following me?
Good sex, healthy sex, is a kind of play. Be willing to get good at it, and find out what it's going to take for you to like and accept yourself. Know what makes you happy sexually. Acknowledge the power that you have as a woman. Then give yourself permission to be sexual and to enjoy it.