There’s always a sense of awkwardness when you become intimate with someone for the first time. Feeling sexy or desirable is part of the equation, but experts say some people routinely have a hard time accepting these traits.
What’s worse is that these feelings of undesirability can start impacting your relationships.
Jennifer A. Theiss, a professor and Ph.D. director at the department of communication at Rutgers University in New Jersey, tells Global News there are likely individual and relational factors that might contribute to feelings of undesirability.
“Individuals may develop these feelings over time as a result of perceived lack of interest or repeated rejections from their sexual pursuits, or a delayed onset of sexual activity,” she said.
“They might also perceive that they do not possess the characteristics that are traditionally seen as sexy or desirable based on media or cultural representations of sexuality.”
Theiss, who focuses on romantic relationships, marriage and family, adds conditions in a person’s relationship can also contribute to these feelings of undesirability.
The feelings, she said, can arise “if individuals are uncertain about their partner’s investment in the relationship or if partners fail to provide assurances of their attraction as part of routine relationship maintenance.”
Sexual health educator and relationship expert Samantha Bitty says there could be external forces at play, like cheating, rejection or sexual trauma. For some, it’s what we internalize in terms of what’s sexy and what’s not.
For some, Bitty said, this could mean feeling undesirable for a range of reasons — from being rejected because of the colour of your skin to changes in appearance or income.
“People have a tendency to worry too much about their perceived flaws that could be a turn off to a sexual partner,” Theiss said.
“If you have made it to the bedroom, that should be a clear sign that your partner finds you desirable.”
Anxiety in the bedroom
Theiss says when you push aside your own self-doubts and focus on enjoying the connection with your partner, the confidence will come.
“Confidence is sexy and your partner is going to find you more desirable if it seems like you are enjoying sex and present in the moment.”
Bitty says this type of anxiety or feelings of undesirability during intimacy must be addressed at its root. This could mean therapy, writing in a journal or other forms of reflection.
“Essentially we have to re-train our brains and bodies and take possession of our desirability,” she said. “Also, understanding and accepting that no one feels desirable all the time … there will be dips and peaks.”
In the shorter term, this means identifying what makes you feel sexy.
“This may be something popularly understood in the mainstream, like lingerie or sexy briefs, or it could be something like meditation,” she said.
“I’m a big advocate for mindful masturbation, so bringing to mind how you want to feel about yourself/others to feel about you while self-pleasuring.”
Listening to sexy music, watching or reading erotic stories or porn or even taking sexy selfies can all help people feel sexier, she said.
Tackling undesirability day-by-day
Instead of dwelling on the negative and the traits you think are undesirable, Theiss says shift your focus by creating an inventory of your characteristics that are positive and desirable,
“If you are in a relationship, talk to your partner about your feelings and don’t be afraid to ask for more overt expressions of desire,” she said.
“They might welcome the chance to show more affection and share their desires with you.”
People who feel that they are undesirable are sometimes reluctant to initiate sex with a partner.
“Over time, avoidance of conversations about sex or limited physical connection can have a chilling effect on the degree of intimacy in a relationship,” she said.
“The more people withdraw from a partner sexually, the harder it becomes to broach the topic and the more awkward it might feel to initiate sex, which only exacerbates the distance between partners.”