How to boost your confidence in bed
A common concern I often hear from clients, regardless of their gender, is about their lack of confidence when it comes to intimacy and sex. Perhaps this resonates with you too? Do you experience feelings of shyness, shame, or anxiety when getting close to someone for the first time? Maybe you’re uncertain about how to enjoy sex and ensure your partner’s pleasure as well. It could be that negative thoughts about your body hold you back from progressing with a new partner, causing worries about being naked, intimate, and engaging in sexual activity. These challenges can seem like significant obstacles to achieving a fulfilling, enjoyable, and exciting sex life or relationship. However, the good news is that enhancing your sexual confidence is achievable. In this blog, I’ll share fundamental principles and practices to help you feel more at ease and confident in the bedroom.
Conduct a thorough assessment
The initial step involves honestly examining the specific factors that contribute to your lack of confidence. What thoughts, beliefs, or concerns arise when you contemplate sex or recall past intimate moments? You cannot change anything you are not consciously aware of. Saying “I lack confidence” is vague; delve deeper into the details. Could it be…
- Worries about body image: weight, body hair, attractiveness, height, genital appearance, etc.
- A lack of skills: understanding what your partner likes, touch techniques, effective communication, how to kiss, how to regulate your own arousal, knowledge of the body, sexual positions, etc.
- Past negative experiences: rejection, abuse history, critical partners, awkward situations, infidelity, pain during sex, etc.
- Specific sexual issues: erectile dysfunction, vaginismus, premature ejaculation, lack of lubrication, UTIs, STIs, etc.
- Ingrained beliefs: religious upbringing, inherited shame or guilt, societal pressures, unrealistic expectations from excessive porn use, etc.
- Something else?
Some of these issues may require professional assistance. Psychotherapy, counselling, or psychology sessions can help uncover unconscious mental patterns related to sex and intimacy. Consulting a medical professional for hormone testing or to address potential pelvic health concerns may benefit you. Other concerns can be addressed individually. For example, you can enhance your health and appearance through exercise, working with a trainer or nutritionist. Educate yourself through books, online courses, or private sessions on sexual skills and communication. Ask your partners about their preferences and get their feedback to learn and adjust your approach. Remember, there’s always room to reshape habits and improve the situation. The key is to identify where to begin and where to direct your efforts for effective, lasting change. Though it may feel intimidating initially, being truthful with yourself pays off.
Building confidence takes time and practice
Last winter, I went snowboarding for the third time as an adult. Before the trip, my confidence was low, fearing embarrassment on the slopes. The issue was that I hadn’t practiced snowboarding between trips. Expecting instant confidence was unrealistic. Similarly, my clients struggling with sexual confidence often lack structured practice between encounters. If they’re single they might be stuck in patterns of porn use and facing performance anxiety, while those in relationships fall into boring routines. It’s vital to understand that sexual confidence is a state of body and mind that stems from learned skills. Skills require practice and refinement. A professional basketball player engages in drills beyond actual games—agility, coordination, accuracy—skills that don’t always resemble basketball itself. So, what ‘skills’ are involved in building sexual confidence and how can you practice them outside of the bedroom, and during intimate encounters?
Skills to increase sexual confidence
In my experience the desire to be a better lover, or feel more confident in bed can be broken down to three areas of improvement: I want to feel more relaxed during intimacy; I want my partners to experience pleasure; I want to feel like I’m in charge of my own body. These essentially boil down to:
- Accessing a relaxed state through the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Paying attention to sensations and being present in the moment.
- Effective communication of desires and boundaries.
Don’t those sound like a set of skills that are useful throughout life, not just during intimate experiences? Learning to relax, staying present, and communicating are life skills, not solely sexual ones. So how can we be more skilful at accessing our parasympathetic nervous system state during something as vulnerable and exciting as sex? How can we get better at paying attention to sensations when our mind is distracting us with really loud internal chat based on all our sexual and intimate insecurities? How can we communicate our desires and boundaries without clamming up or getting triggered? I’m going to share one simple practice for each area with you here, but there are many other ways you can train yourself to be more skilful.
Enhance the parasympathetic state
This is something you need to do regularly outside of sexual and intimate encounters. It’s like putting money into a savings account or charging up your ‘relaxation battery’. Most of us live almost perpetually in a slightly stressed, completely over-stimulated and contracted state. We don’t move, we breathe shallow and we spend too much time with our brains being lit up by screens. You teach your body and mind to be more familiar with relaxation by intentionally spending time with these kind of practices. Take 5-15 minutes per day, every day, and do the following:
- Switch off your phone, your laptop, all screens: put them in a different room to where you are.
- Lie down on your back: put pillows under your knees to support your lower back, close your eyes or wear an eye mask, let your arms rest by your sides or place your hands on your body wherever feels comfortable.
- Acknowledge your thoughts: you don’t have to ‘switch them off’ or ‘get rid of them’, just notice that they are there and pay attention to them for a few moments.
- Move your attention to your breath: notice how you are breathing and what parts of your body move as you breathe.
- Slow your breathing down: this means breathing fewer times per minute – do this by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth (in an ‘aaaah’ shape, not ‘blowing out candles’), let the exhale be a little longer than the inhale.
- Continue to breathe: spend a minute on it, spend 3, do 15 minutes – whatever is practical and possible for you. If doing just a minute, try to do it a few times a day.
- It’s not about achieving anything: it’s about using the natural mechanics of your body (your breathing) to intentionally enter a more relaxed state.
Paying attention to sensations
If you’re able to feel your own body sensations (interoception) you’re much less likely to be spinning out into mental anxiety and mindfucks about your sexual inadequacy. If you’re just paying attention to what you can feel you’re less likely to be jumping 10 steps ahead of yourself in your mind, or replaying the inner-critic narrative about your previous intimate encounters. When I ask clients in a first session ‘What can you feel in your body right now?’ they are often either a bit stumped and don’t know how to answer, or they just tell me which parts are causing them pain, or they launch into telling me ‘well work is quite stressful at the moment, and I’ve been arguing with my partner a lot, and we’re trying to sell the house…etc’. When I ask them if they can feel their feet resting on the floor, or their butt in the chair, or their heartbeat/pulse they suddenly become more aware that they have a physical body and that sensations are happening all the time – they just haven’t been paying attention. In my online mindful masturbation course I introduce a simple practice of ‘Top To Toe Touch’ to help you feel and pay attention to the moment-to-moment sensations throughout your body. You can follow along with this practice, for free, it takes about 12 minutes in total and I recommend doing this at least once per week. The more often you do this, the more detailed your ‘body map’ will become, the more easy it will be to shift the attention to what you can feel (rather than what your mind is distracted by).
Communicating desires and boundaries
Learning to talk about sex and intimacy can feel like speaking a completely new language. It can feel awkward, embarrassing, or just completely alien. As with any other skill though, practice and repetition are the key to removing the emotional charge, improving your vocabulary and fine tuning your expression. In my previous blog article ‘How to ask for what you want during sex’ I share two simple practices to help you get through the ‘blockage’ of the throat and voice so you can feel relaxed and confident in your communication. Start with non-verbal communication: exploring vibration and sound. Many of my clients initially find it very challenging to sigh, moan, hum or make any kind of sound – they have conditioned their bodies through quick and hurried masturbation habits to be silent and tight. I also suggest a practice called ‘Desire Blurts’ to practice overriding the ‘filter’ of your mind and help you to get more comfortable with accessing the deeper, authentic desires of your body and then expressing them in a relaxed way.
Practice inside and outside intimacy
Find ways to practice your skills during life outside the bedroom, and then apply that skilfulness in intimate experience to become a better lover and increase your sexual confidence. Just having lots of sex, without intentionally practicing or considering these three areas won’t get you anywhere – just because you have lots of sex, doesn’t mean you’re a good lover (you might just be repeating really awful habits without learning anything). Equally, practicing things like mindfulness, breath work, meditation, self-pleasure, and having lost of conversations about sex without actually doing it won’t result in much improvement in your skills or confidence either.
Intimate bodywork sessions are a wonderful practice space that closely mimic intimate interactions with a partner, whilst being more ‘low stakes’ (there’s no romantic entanglement) and focussed exclusively on you (you are not there to please or perform). For more information on bodywork sessions please check out the men’s, women’s or couple’s pages of my website and get in touch using the contact form if you’d like to book.