The recent body positivity campaigns by major brands are great, but in my mind, they also reinforce our need for more realistic beauty standards—or, scratch that, no standards at all! Women get a lot of messages from the media about how we should look, talk, act, or have sex, so it’s completely understandable that some of us lack confidence in bed. But it’s time to stop letting these unfair and unrealistic standards get into our heads and mess with our sex lives (and lives in general).
Below, I’ve outlined five effective ways to feel more confident, sexy, and present during sex.
Yes, this is often my go-to answer for nearly every sex question I get, but it holds true: Masturbation not only helps you get more comfortable and familiar with your body—it also has some feel-good health benefits for your brain as well (you can . about them .).
Seduce yourself, and do whatever it takes to feel attractive, relaxed, and in touch with your body. Have a long, hot bath with a glass of wine; use essential oils; wear something that makes you feel irresistible; . sensual music, or do whatever it is that helps boost your mojo. When you’re feeling yourself (and comfortable in your skin), your confidence will rise.
Ask yourself why you’re not feeling confident, and listen to the answer. Maybe you have a partner who’s critical of your appearance or performance. Maybe you’re being triggered by something that happened a long time ago. It could also be just a bad or “off” day or week. Finding the root of your insecurity is often a matter of inviting it to make itself known—and then you’ll know how better to deal with it.
Fake It ’Til You Make It
This is a situation when it’s OK to “fake it” in bed—but only if you want to. To this day, there are times when even I get stage fright. Projecting confidence can actually trick your brain, and before you know it, you’ll be in the moment instead of stuck in your head. Mindfulness is very powerful.
I’ve come to realize that one of the sexiest, most genuine things to me is vulnerability. Sex isn’t perfect all the time, and nor should it be. Try opening up and sharing with your partner that you’re feeling insecure. They may echo back similar concerns, or confide something else in you. They may already be practicing number four. Either way, it will bring you closer both emotionally and physically to share this honest moment.
A version of this article originally appeared in January 2017.