I often hear people say that they want to become more confident sexually. Often they are frustrated as to not knowing how to move forward.
One of the big obstacles here is setting a feeling state as a goal. You can’t directly create a feeling state, you can only create the conditions where it is likely.
Yes, others can see whether or not someone acts confidently or not. In this sense, confidence is more than a feeling. Authentic confident actions, however, come as a result of an internal state, a feeling of confidence.
Steps to becoming more confident sexually
Setting a feeling state as a goal is a recipe for overwhelm. It’s like saying you want to become a doctor. There are too many steps. First you need to take the classes that will get you admitted to medical school. Then you have to apply to medical school. And so on.
Instead, ask yourself how you can create the conditions that would make it likely that you felt more confident sexually?
Then, if you want to be more confident sexually break it down into small, bite size goals.
This may take some time to think and reflect. The easiest way to do this is to look at what you don’t want to happen and then flip it around.
Some possible examples might include
- I want to be comfortable touching another person.
- I want to be comfortable letting someone touch me.
- I want to be comfortable being naked with someone of my prefered gender.
- I want to be comfortable being naked with the lights on.
- I want to be relaxed during pauses when nothing is happening.
- I want to feel good making requests of the other person
- I want to be not get anxious when the other peson says no to something I want
- I want to be able to say a truthful yes or no to their requests.
Come up with your own list of specific things. Thinking about or journaling about some of your past experiences may help you with this.
For most people, it is less intimidating to pick just one, maybe two, things on your list to focus on at a time.
Now, go back and look at your list and identify the skills you need to learn for this desired thing (or two) to happen. In some cases you may have already stated the skill, in others you may need to make it more specific.
Once you have named a skill or two you need that will help you feel more confident, ask yourself how you can learn and practice the skill. Ask this question with a spirit of open curiosity and playful inquiry, not the worry of a question on a school exam that you cannot figure out.
For example, if you want to learn be more comfortable giving touch, look around your local community for opportunities. You might take a massage class or attend a Cuddle Party™.
The idea is to take a smaller goal that is not as intimidating. Identify a skill or skills that will help you reach that goal. Experiment with ways to practice and develop those skills. Then practice more.
For the time being – a few weeks or months – don’t occupy your mind with the larger goal or problem, and the angst you may feel about it. Just focus on that smaller piece and focus on developing and practicing the skills, just like you did when you learned to walk, ride a bicycle and drive.
You’ll be surprised what may happen, as have been some of my intimacy coaching clients.
Becoming more confident sexually by aiming for a smaller goal
Jacob (not his real name*) was uncomfortable touching and being touched. When I encouraged him to find a smaller goal than all types of touch or sexual touch, he decided that it would be more manageable to work on being comfortable giving and receiving a clothed hug.
In paying attention to his experience, Jacob realized that whenever someone hugged him, muscle tension and fear rose up in his stomach and chest. Gradually with select friends he began to talk a little about this.
With the few friends who responded in ways that built his trust, Jacob eventually felt ready to ask them to do some practice hugging with him. It was a slow and gradual process. Yet it led Jacob toward what he ultimately wanted, a comfort level giving and receiving touch.
Because Jacob had asked thoughtful caring friends to help him, they accepted his stops and starts. Sometimes he would ask for a hug, yet pull away in fear as soon as contact was made. Other times he’d go through the full hug and comment that he was mentally glad he did it but still felt some anxiety or muscle tension.
One friend in particular encouraged Jacob to voice whatever was true for him in the moment, listening compassionately. Jacob had never imagined this friend would be so supportive. He was glad he took a risk to start talking about what was true for him, being uncomfortable with touch. This honesty opened the doorway for their support.
By setting himself a small goal – to feel good hugging – and by being patient yet persistent, Jacob made more progress than if he’d focused on the whole big topic of discomfort with all types of touch or fear of sexual intimacy.
Becoming more confident sexually in the face of performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction
Travis (not his real name*) wanted to stop having performance anxiety that led to a loss of his erection during sex. The loss of his erection made him feel less confident sexually which created even more anxiety the next time.
With encouragement from me, Travis decided that a smaller, easier to achieve goal would be to work with his fear of having the lights on during sex.
When he was a young adult, sex in the dark seemed exciting. But, in a moment of honest self-reflection Travis realized that at age 47 he was rather tired of it. It had become a necessity.
Having identified comfort with sex in a lighted room as a concrete goal instead of the much more intimidating, bigger issue of performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction, Travis experimented with many different small things.
If he woke with a hard on, Travis would open the blinds to let the morning light in and masturbate, at least briefly. At night, he started keeping a night light on when he masturbated. Then he moved to a lamp until he was finally comfortable with having all the lights in the room on at their brightest setting.
Sex in the light with a partner was still uncomfortable for Travis. But after further reflection and inviting himself to be curious, Travis began masturbating in front of his full length mirror while looking at himself. This was very uncomfortable at first, but it became a bridge to finally being comfortable having the lights on while having sex with a partner.
Masturbating in front of the mirror while standing (instead of lying down) also helped him realize – to “get it” in his body not just his mind – that it was normal for the hardness of a man’s erection to increase and decrease throughout a sexual experience. This unexpected embodied learning helped him be more compassionate and accepting toward himself during sex with a partner.
Become more confident sexually by identifying desired skills and naming smaller goals
Rather than focusing on your big dream or goal, break it down into small chunks to come up with a small, specific goal. The successful mountain climber focuses on the next ridge to ascend, not the whole mountain.
Identify one or two skills you need to learn or deepen so that you can achieve that smaller goal. Brainstorm creatively ways you might learn it. Instead of thinking it’s impossible, get curious. Experiment with some different ways to learn the skill. With an attitude of self-compassion, notice your progress. Be curious and creative. about how you can repeat the process to go the next step.
*Identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality, while staying true to the meaning of the story.