There’s nothing more sexy than confidence. Assess your confidence levels, overcome shyness and learn to be more assertive, with these easy tips and tricks to boost your self-esteem.
To have self-esteem is to feel you’re worth something. A poor self-image affects not only the way you behave towards others – shyness and jealousy are nearly always the result of low self-esteem – but also the way they react to you, because people tend to accept you at your own evaluation. A lack of self-esteem puts you at a disadvantage in social situations, because fear of being rejected usually makes you over-eager to please others and very reluctant to risk giving offence. And, naturally, your self-esteem has a direct bearing on your confidence about attracting and retaining sexual partners.
Causes of low self-esteem
Timidity and the sense of the inevitability of failure may be built into a person’s personality as a result of an upbringing by parents who were too strict, over-critical or even unloving. A child will accept his or her parents’ view of him. If they do not make him feel good, lovable and successful, it’s not surprising that he grows up believing he is of little worth. Often, too, a person’s self-image is coloured by childhood teasing that made him believe he was unattractive, or by unsuccessful adolescent experiences of sex that made him feel inadequate.
Even a normally self-confident person may suffer a temporary loss of self-esteem if he fails in an area that is important to him. A setback at work or the break-up of a relationship can diminish his sexual confidence as well as affecting his general outlook.
When you’ve suffered a major blow to your self-esteem, it’s important first of all to try to see your failure in perspective, as only part of you and your life, not the whole of it. Focus on other areas in which you have had more success. For the time being, concentrate your energies on something at which you are unlikely to fail and which will restore your self-image. For example, after the break-up of a relationship, you may find it helps to immerse yourself in your work more than usual, or to start on a new and adventurous project.
Remember that after any loss of prestige or self-esteem, whether at work or in a relationship, you may be tempted to embark on a fresh affair because it seems the easiest and quickest way to soothe your bruised ego. Such rebound affairs are a risky way to deal with the problem because they are likely to lead to another failure. It is probably better to wait until you have regained your emotional equilibrium.
If, in two or three months, you still feel at a disadvantage sexually, your problem may be more deep-seated. The program that follows is designed to help.
Improving your self-esteem
Assess your strengths and weaknesses by compiling two lists. First, list your good points, intellectual and emotional as well as physical. Second, list your faults, the things about yourself that you wish were different or could be improved.
Try to be specific. Do not simply put down ‘good-natured’ or ‘ugly’, for example. Work out how you are positively good natured (you like kids, you’re a free-spender, etc) or negatively ugly.
Do not be tempted to overlook or minimise your strengths. Nearly everyone remembers to write down ‘acne’, if they have it. Far fewer will give themselves credit for a clear skin.
Include among your strong points attributes or skills not directly related to sexual competence. Similarly, if there’s a skill you would like to have, which you believe would make you a better or more complete person, list it among your weaknesses.
Now, examine your lists. First off, are the weaknesses far more numerous than your strengths? If so, perhaps you’re being unfair on yourself – as a result of that low self-esteem.
Look at your strengths – and think about whether you’re making the most of them. If there are situations in which you shine, how often do you find yourself in them? If you’re tall or have beautiful eyes, are you using that to your advantage?
Look at the list of faults. Delete the ones you really can do nothing about. Look at the things you can change, if you’re willing to invest the time and energy.
Improving your image
Start with your physical appearance. It’s in this area that changes are most easily made and most readily appreciated by others. Would you look better with a different hairstyle or, if you wear glasses, with contact lenses? Men, grow a moustache if you think it will suit you; shave off a beard if you suspect it does not.
Look at your clothes. When buying new ones, don’t just play safe. Study magazines, adverts, store windows. Choose clothes in which you would really feel good. If you’ve always dressed conservatively, try a more casual approach. If you’re a sloppy dresser, smarten up. Try to buy at shops that suit the image you’d like to present. And get good perfume or aftershave: this will soon become a pleasantly recognisable part of that image.
Whatever changes you make, introduce them one at a time, over about six months. This will give you and everyone else time to adjust to them. You’ll also find it necessary to accustom yourself to other people’s changed impression of you. Although this will ultimately boost your self-confidence, it may embarrass you at first if you’ve always avoided drawing attention to yourself.
Being more confident about your looks
Get to know and like your face and physique as they really are. Too many people feel dissatisfied with their looks not because of gross or obvious abnormalities but simply because they do not add up to their ideal image.
Men, if you’ve felt sexually inadequate about the size and shape of your genitals, remember that you probably underestimate the size of your penis. The foreshortened view that you get from above makes it look smaller than it is. Remember too that you’ve probably only seen other men’s penises in a flaccid state. When they’re erect, the differences in size when flaccid tend to even out.
Stand tall, shoulders back, and show the world you’re confident about what you’ve got. Real confidence will follow, even if it isn’t there yet.
Learning to overcome shyness
Over 80% of people questioned in a recent survey said they had felt shy at some time or in some situations, and of these over 40% admitted that shyness was a constant problem for them. The chances are strong that the person you’re too timid to talk to feels much the same as you.
Don’t automatically label yourself ‘shy’. Instead, regard yourself only as feeling shy in certain situations – in large groups, for example, or with attractive strangers. Giving up the label is the first step towards overcoming the problem itself.
Have faith in your likeability. Shy people usually lack the social skill to make others believe they are worth knowing. Believe it yourself, and you will communicate your belief without even trying.
Try not to concentrate on your own feelings of self-consciousness, or to brood about what people think of you. Instead, give your entire attention to anyone you talk to or to any situation, whether sexual or not, that you find yourself in. Some psychologists suggest that an excellent way to overcome shyness is to become involved in a social or political cause. Involvement of this sort provides an opportunity to make a fresh start as an unshy person in a non-sexual situation. A sense of sexual ease should soon follow.
Men, it’s worth remembering that women are probably less dependent on the physical attractiveness of their partner than men are. Dress and appearance matter rather less to them – though this does not mean you’ll be an instant success if you’re dirty or scruffy. Manner, personality, kindness and consideration count for more.
Finally, make sure you pick the right sexual partner. Some people seem to sabotage their self-esteem by choosing partners who lower it even more. Not many people can become properly aroused with a lover who is critical or rejecting. A partnership based on love, support and mutual respect is essential for anyone whose self-esteem is fragile or for whom self-consciousness is an issue.
Learning to be more assertive
Practise saying no to suggestions you normally, though unwillingly, say yes to. If you’ve fallen into a pattern of habitually doing something you dislike just because you think it’s expected of you – seeing too much of your partner’s, or even your own, relatives when you have little in common, for example – break the habit. If your partner regularly pressures you into watching his favourite TV programme, invite him to watch yours next time. Assertiveness should not be equated with aggressiveness. It simply means expressing the way you feel and implies no criticism of your partner or others for feeling or wanting something different.
Don’t be afraid to ask for things you want. Start by seeking small favours of friends. You might ask if you can borrow something, for example. Or ask someone to pick up the occasional item for you if he’s going shopping. Sometimes even these small requests will not be granted (other people are assertive too) but part of learning assertiveness is being able to accept an occasional rebuff without interpreting it as serious rejection.
Practise making decisions and, if they are minor, don’t spend time worrying about whether they’re right or wrong. A good starting point is to resolve never to say, ‘I really don’t mind,’ when you’re asked if you prefer one thing to another. If you have a preference, make it known. Even if you really don’t care, make a firm, immediate decision.
Take deliberate risks by acting out of character sometimes. It helps if you can think of it as ‘acting’. Allow yourself to seem to lose your temper, for example, if the occasion is right and everyone knows you as a person who doesn’t lose his temper. Their impression to date may well be that you do not dare to lose your temper, and their realization that you can show anger, when appropriate, may do wonders for your reputation and so your self-confidence.
Make a deliberate effort to do something you find especially difficult, such as striking up a conversation with strangers or making a justified complaint. Sometimes you may get the snub or even the hostile reaction you dread, but more often you’ll receive a satisfactory response and a large boost to your self-esteem.
When you have gained confidence and feel more comfortable about asking for what you want among acquaintances and friends, introduce a little more assertiveness into your sexual relationships. You may find this difficult if it involves discussions about sex and your sexual feelings, but start small, suggesting things you might like to try, and you’ll get there.
Assessing your progress
Remember that you are trying to change ideas about yourself that you’ve probably held for most of your life. Do not be discouraged if, like most old habits, they die hard. If you’re determined to change and to give up an outdated view of yourself, and if you’re willing to take a few risks and expose yourself to a few minor disappointments, you will almost certainly win through.