We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we actually hear the nitty-gritty details of how we might actually achieve those things? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a licensed sex psychotherapist based in San Francisco, to help us out with the specifics. This week’s topic: How to feel better naked in bed.
Q: I’ve been dating someone new. Thus far we’ve only made out, but it seems like things are starting to heat up. Any tips for that awkward first time taking your clothes off around someone new? I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hate my body, but there are definitely areas that I strongly dislike.
A: The situation you find yourself in right now is one with which most people can relate. It’s such a bummer that the excitement of being with someone new for the first time has to be marred by self-consciousness about your own body!
It’s not that I blame you though. The physical ideals that women are expected to live up to are insane, and it’s hard not to pick yourself to pieces. I don’t think it’s possible to get rid of body consciousness entirely, but I do have some ideas for minimizing its impact in the moment.
Feel Sexy Getting Ready
Is there a certain beauty routine or ritual that you genuinely love doing? Not because you feel like you’re “supposed” to do it, but because it’s authentically fun for you? For example, do you love brushing out and styling your hair? Applying the perfect cat eye? Rubbing your favorite lotion all over your body? The key word here is "authentic." There’s a big difference between, “I’ve got to put on make-up because I look disgusting otherwise” and “I feel so hot when I’m wearing my favorite shade of red lipstick.” If you’re able to enjoy the process of getting yourself ready for the big reveal, you’ll feel way more confident.
Take Care of Your Body
When you grow up in our society, it’s hard to remember that you don’t need to have the body type of Beyonce to be attractive. Like I said before, I don’t think you can completely eliminate body consciousness, but you can develop a healthier relationship with your body.
Try to find ways to take care of your body and send it the message that it deserves love and pampering. Maybe that’s getting massages, manicures, or facials. I also recommend moving your body in ways you actually enjoy. The point is not to lose weight, but to help you feel more comfortable with and present in your own skin. That might be dancing, yoga, running, weight lifting, or swimming.
Set the Scene
If you can, invite your partner over to your place. Being in the comfort of your own space can help alleviate some of your anxiety.
You can also set things up to help you get in the mood. One of the best investments you can make is a cheap dimmer switch and soft light bulbs, which are much more flattering than your typical harsh overhead lighting. Or you can buy a small bedside lamp or candles. Don’t forget to put on music that makes you feel confident and sexy.
Consider Investing in Good Lingerie
Good lingerie is an extremely underrated self-esteem booster. You want to feel excited about your partner seeing what you have on under your clothes!
The important thing is to find lingerie that shows off your best assets and captures your style. Most women think only of Victoria’s Secret when they think of lingerie, which is a shame because VS is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. There are so many more interesting style options out there these days — burlesque-inspired, minimalist, high-fashion, or tomboy.
Check out indie designers For Love And Lemons and Negative Underwear. Etsy is also a surprisingly good resource for creative and unusual lingerie. You can look for body-positive lingerie stores, like Dollhouse Bettie in San Francisco. They can also help you find the proper fit, and suggest cuts that flatter your body. If you’re not sure what kind of style you’re into, check out True and Co, which allows you to try on bras and chemises in the privacy of your own home.
Don’t Put Yourself Down
A lot of women feel so self conscious that criticize or make excuses for their bodies before even taking their clothes off. Please don’t do this! Don’t beat yourself up in front of your partners. Don’t point out your flaws. Don’t make self-deprecating “jokes” about your body. It’s unnecessary, it’s cruel, and it draws attention to things your partner probably wouldn’t have noticed on his or her own!
Remind Yourself What's Important
If you catch yourself thinking critical thoughts in the moment, remind yourself what’s really important to you about being intimate with another person. To yourself, you could say something like, “I want to focus on being present with my partner instead of stuck in my own head” or “instead of criticizing myself, I’d rather pay attention to how good this feels.”
Know That You’re Your Own Worst Enemy
We women can be so mean to ourselves, especially our bodies. I promise you that any sexual partners you may have will never be as critical of your body as you are. With each item of clothing you remove, your partner is far more likely to be thinking, “hell yeah!” than, “hmm, her upper arms look a little jiggly to me.”
I hope these suggestions lessen your anxiety and help you actually enjoy this experience. Don’t forget to have fun!
Images: FOX; Giphy