Question: I'm too self-conscious about my body that it gets in the way of me enjoying sex. I'm uncomfortable naked, want to cover up, don't want him to see me, and have a hard time getting past that in my head. I know that this affects my ability to enjoy myself! What can I do?
Response: Thanks for writing! What a great question! Well first of all, you are certainly not alone. These days, with models becoming thinner and thinner and with internet, Hollywood, and pornography being so much more prevalent, it's really done a number on so many American women.
The good news is that you can appreciate that there is something in your mind and perception and not just a problem with your body. This is a huge step! Feeling and being sexy is mostly about how you feel and less about how you actually look.
We can actually learn something from our French neighbors. French women have more sex later in life than American women. They speculate the reason is that French women continue to feel sexy and to enjoy their sexuality throughout their lifespan. So how can we be more French?
1. Re-examine your idea of real beauty. When your body automatically sends you signals that you are not thin/pretty/tall enough, stop yourself and try to examine logically what you consider beautiful and whether that is realistic. Research shows that women who set up their own beauty ideal have better body image.
2. Eat healthy and exercise: Taking care of your body and treating it well will help you learn the lesson that your body is great. Research shows that when women exercise to feel healthy and take care of their body (rather than to lose weight), their body image improves.
3. Make a list of the positive things about your body and put it up in your mirror. Read that list every day. Focus on what you do like about your body. When you begin to list the negatives, remind yourself of the positives.
4. During sexual activity, focus on the sensations of the moment. Work with your partner on sensual massage, very slow foreplay, and really enjoying sensations. Also, concentrate on the emotional connection of intimacy and feelings of closeness.
5. Practice mindfulness. This can be taught by doing yoga or meditation. If you can calm your mind from your negative, self-criticizing thoughts, you will be able to enjoy the sensation and the connection of sex in the moment.