At some point or another, we all experience insecurity in the bedroom. If you feel like you're not totally comfortable with your ~sexual~ self, there's absolutely no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Sex is a super intimate act, and it's natural to feel a little vulnerable sometimes (even if you're with a long-term partner) — but it's worth working on, because having insecurities in the bedroom can have a negative impact on your sex life.
"When someone is sexually insecure, their minds tend to be taken out of the moment and over-focused on performance or approval — like what they may or may not be doing 'right' or what they don't like about their body," Kristin Marie Bennion, Licensed Mental Health Therapist and Certified Sex Therapist, tells Bustle. "When someone's mind is focused on these annoying distractions, they have a difficult time experiencing desire, excitement, anticipation and pleasure — all of which are important ingredients to an ideal sexual experience."
Getting comfortable with yourself sexually and learning to be confident in bed is a process, and everyone moves at a different pace. It might seem daunting to tackle an issue like being insecure or anxious about sex, but things like exploring your body through masturbation or talking to a sex therapist can massively help you if you want to get more acquainted with your sexual side. "When someone is comfortable in bed, it usually means that they anticipate that the experience will be enjoyable and pleasurable for both partners," Bennion says. "It also means they likely know enough about their own sexual template (e.g. sexual desires, preferred techniques, etc.) and don’t shy away from communicating those desires to their partner."
Here are seven signs that you might have some work to do on getting more comfortable with your sexuality.
1You Constantly Seek Validation
It's OK to appreciate when your partner gives you compliments and positive attention, but if you actively seek validation from them and always need that to feel good during sex, that's not a good sign. "There is a big difference between openly communicating about how one likes to be touched and constantly seeking approval from a sexual partner," Bennion says. "It can be exhausting (and not very sexy) to constantly be asked to validate if your partner is attractive or if you are having a good time."
2You Have Self-Critical Thoughts
We all have days when we don't feel our best, and that's OK! But if the majority of your thoughts during sex revolve around dissatisfaction with your body or performance, that's a red flag. "Most [people] have thoughts of self-doubt or criticism when we are in vulnerable situations and sexual experiences, certainly, tend to be vulnerable to varying degrees," Bennion says. "Overall, having the periodic self-critical thought is quite common; yet, it could be a sign you aren’t totally comfortable in bed if they are more frequent than the thoughts about enjoying the sexual experience."
3You Hold Back
If you often feel like you can't fully be yourself or express what you want in bed, it might mean you're uncomfortable with your sexuality. "It could be a sign you aren’t totally comfortable in bed if you find that you are constantly holding back," Bennion says. "Examples of holding back too much could range from always let your partner take the lead to never letting them know what you need in order to experience orgasm."
4You Don't Know What You Like/Dislike
A huge part of the process of becoming secure in your sexuality is learning what you do and don't like in bed — from your erogenous zones to your wildest fantasies. "If you find that you are frequently saying 'I don’t really know' when a partner asks what you like or prefer when it comes to sex, you may not be totally comfortable in bed," Bennion says.
5You Hate Masturbating
No one is obligated to like masturbation, but if you find yourself totally grossed out by the idea of touching yourself, it could be a clue that you have some larger hang-ups when it comes to how you view yourself sexually. Many people are raised to think of masturbation as shameful and dirty, which can affect us long into adulthood. The reality? Masturbation is an amazing tool that can help you get attuned to your body's sexual needs, so it's worth trying, even if you're a skeptic.
6You Compare Yourself To Others
When you're dealing with insecurity, it can be easy to fall into the habit of always comparing yourself to others, whether they're an ex of your partner or a random Instagram model. But if these thoughts carry over into the bedroom and affect your confidence during sex, that's a problem. "If you have gotten into a pattern of comparing yourself to other[s], try to take that same energy and turn it into curiosity about yourself, your body, and your erotic preferences," Bennion says.
7You Avoid Intimacy
One of the most obvious signs that you're not sexually comfortable? You avoid sexual and intimate situations whenever possible (or only have sex when you're under the influence). While it's your choice how often you want to engage in sex, if you recognize that you're actively avoiding sexual situations and want to work on getting more comfortable in the bedroom, that's totally possible.
Ultimately, everyone's personal journey with their sexuality is unique, and there's no reason to be embarrassed if you're having some difficulties feeling comfortable and confident during sex. All you can do is self-reflect and figure out what (if anything) you need to work on, and then do so in a productive, positive way — in no time, you'll be on the way to a healthy and happy sex life.