Having sex can do wonders for our self-esteem. It can make us feel attractive and loved, chase away inadequate feelings about ourselves and fulfill our needs for acceptance and connection.
However, sex is not necessarily the most reliable ego-booster. Because sex drive comes and goes, and bodies don’t always respond to stimulation the way we would like them to, sex can, on the contrary, rattle even the most confident amongst us. Society’s high sexual standards and our own expectations towards sex as a source of validation can make it difficult to maintain a positive self-image when things don’t turn out the way we want them to.
So things can get risky if our self-esteem depends on our partner always saying “yes” to our sexual advances or on a specific sexual outcome (reaching orgasm for example). Having sex can then have the opposite effect and become a source of self-doubt or tension in a relationship: “Why didn’t you orgasm? Aren’t you attracted to me anymore? Am I doing something wrong? “.
Meanwhile the more likely causes of the perceived sexual “failure” are overlooked, such as fatigue, stress, distractedness, alcohol or sexual side-effects of medications and so on.
So how can one know if they’re relying too much on sex to maintain their positive self-image? They may:
- believe that sex is serious stuff and become stressed as they try to “do it right”.
- have sex to gain approval and the admiration of others.
- feel jealous and inferior around people who talk about their sexual experiences.
- avoid trying anything new during sex for fear of failing at them.
- doubt their attractiveness or abilities as lovers when their partner refuses their sexual advances (despite having satisfying sex on a regular basis).
- get down or frustrated after sex when their partner doesn’t reach orgasm, get erect etc.
- feel good about themselves after having sex but then, soon enough, their self-doubts reappear as well as their need for more sexual validation.
If you recognize yourself in any of the above examples, I suggest taking a time out to think of why you’re having sex and what you’re expecting from sex. Has sex been effective in making yourself feel good about yourself? Are you giving sex too much power in defining your self-worth? Are there other more reliable ways you can give yourself an ego-boost when you need one?
In order to sustain our self-esteem while navigating the ups and downs in any sex life, it’s best to keep expectations at a reasonable level and not take ourselves too seriously. Our ability to laugh things off when we make the occasional sexual blunder and to take things in stride when sex falls short of what we expect will ensure that no matter what happens, our egos will remain intact.