Sex esteem does NOT equal self-esteem.
By Ash Stevens
Sex. We all know it can be this wonderful, exciting, exotic, and powerful thing, but getting to that point requires making some mistakes that make sex not so great. As in, more awkward and heart-crushing than exciting or wonderful.
Over my years, I’ve shed a few tears and held myself from slapping a few faces. Overall, I can’t say I have any regrets, but if I could go back to give the old me some advice, I’d share these sex mistakes.
1. Using sex esteem as self esteem.
I grew up seeing women prancing around in tiny outfits, busty bustiers, and fancy push-up bras with matching underwear. Because of the subconscious ideas I acquired through society and my upbringing, I thought sex appeal was EVERYTHING. My self-worth was tied into being desirable.
So, the more heads I turned, the more I mattered. Which also goes to say that the fewer heads I turned, the less I mattered. I thought that being somebody meant being sexy and attractive.
Because of this, I shared myself intimately with a man or two that I would have never consciously chosen to be with. But because I felt that being attractive meant everything, I didn’t really see there being any other choice but to go to the bedroom.
Back then, I didn’t matter. I had no concerns about being respected, or valued, or appreciated. What mattered was being “bangable.” So even though I seemed bed-worthy to someone that saw me as another notch in the bedpost, I was willing to take the risk in hopes of feeling like a somebody. Except I only ever walked away as a nobody…
2. Taking Mr. Next instead of waiting for Mr. Right(ish).
I grew up without a solid father figure, so when I came of age I didn’t know what qualities I wanted in a man. I also didn’t know what behaviors should raise red flags. So combine that with my lust-based self esteem inspired by society, and you have a recipe for remorse.
There was so much I didn’t know. So, it never occurred to me that I should be looking for a partner that aligns with me. Instead, I pretty much went for any guy who was gutsy enough to express interest in me. Fortunately, I had a low-key lifestyle so I didn’t get out a lot, but I still made decisions that made no sense whatsoever.
I shouldn’t have taken interest in someone just because they had interest in me. My decision should have been about my needs and my wants. Then I would have saved myself confusion, and regret, and embarrassment.
3. Wishing for what could be instead of seeing what was.
As I mentioned already, I have a sexual encounter or two I could have done without. Part of that was because I would feel the need to act on any decent male interested in me—“Look! Somebody likes me!”—but it was also due to a lot of grand ideas and preconceived notions floating around in my head.
You see, I wanted to feel pretty, and appreciated, and thought of, and looked after. I wanted to have somebody give a damn and show me that I was important. I knew I wanted that, and I wanted it so badly. So even though I was around someone who made it quite clear they were not that guy, I was blind to that. I believed that if I gave myself to them, they would see the amazing person I really was and give me everything my heart and soul desired.
And so I would. I would give myself to them.
But I never got what I longed for because I was sharing myself with a person who wasn’t capable of what I wanted. Had I been looking at the situation for what it was instead of for what I wanted it to be, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and hurt feelings.
4. Thinking "me" instead of "we."
My relationship with my husband allowed me to put my old mistakes behind me, but I still had another mistake ahead of me. I became driven by the idea that our sex life should be out of this world, and I resolved to addressing everything that could benefit from little tweaks of improvement.
Open and assertive communication seemed like a great idea, but I was so stuck thinking about what I was getting from sex that I never bothered to ponder what I was contributing. I really meant well, but I gave feedback that made two big mistakes. (1) I focused on what I wasn’t getting and what was “wrong” with sex, and (2) I actually verbalized this to him. I realized later that this was a horrible mistake.
Men are notorious for their pride with bed matters, and my husband was no exception. On top of the usual male-female confusions, my husband comes from Africa — a continent that’s as beautiful and complex as it is misunderstood — and our differences in upbringing had us baffled with each other at times.
Gender and cultural differences aside, I went about doing this wrong. Had my husband asked for feedback it would have been one thing, but instead I had turned great sex into a mission. Our love life was already fantastic with just little things we could learn or try but—while I knew this—my approach to sex had created an awkward environment. Now I had provoked him to feel insecure and vulnerable, and that definitely didn’t help bedroom matters.
Going about “better sex” the way that I did only made things worse, because I was focused on what I wasn’t getting while he was stuck bedding a partner that made him feel inadequate. And that didn’t help things at all.
To conclude, I’ve come a long ways with the way I approach sex, and it’s better now than I could have ever imagined. But it’s not just the sex that’s better… It’s the way I feel about myself.
Now I value who I am, and I appreciate my body, and I make sure that the needs of my heart and soul are met. Sex no longer determines who I am. Instead, it’s an expression of every wonderful thing there is about me. I see myself as sacred, and I treat sex as such now too. And that allows sex to uplift me and to enrich my relationship with my partner as well as myself.
So, if I could tell you all to do one thing to improve your sex life, I would say “Like you for you.” Once you can be comfortable in your own skin and you can advocate for your heart, then you’re sex life is going to blow through the roof. I’ll guarantee it.
All my love!
This article was originally published at MeetMindful. Reprinted with permission from the author.