Self-Esteem Begins With Body-Esteem

11/05/2016 14:45 | Updated 12 May 2016

We need to bring sexuality into the conversation about wellbeing. Our sexual wellbeing directly impacts our mental and emotional wellbeing. Even though we talk about body and mind as separate things we don't experience them like that. Mind and body interact and impact each other constantly. Raising your sexual wellbeing will benefit other aspects of your life.

Here are three ways to improve sexual wellbeing:

1. Stop criticising your body:

Listen out for that little voice in your head that criticises specific parts of your body. You know the one - it says things like, 'I wish I had a bigger this or smaller that.' Its the voice that tuts and sighs when you look at yourself in the mirror. The voice that compares your body to other 'more perfect' ones. Every time you criticise your body you send it a message that says,' You're a failure. You're wrong. You're inadequate.' Imagine how you would feel if someone messsaged you those words every day. The thing is, that little voice in your head *is* that daily message. You might push it aside and rush on with your day but the message has been received.

The problem: With enough repetition this message gets hard wired into your self-perception. Over time you run the risk of having lowered self-esteem and self-image.

What to do about it: When you hear that little critical voice in your head, stop it! Take a and out. As you breathe out, relax your body. You won't have realised it but your body will have tensed up as soon as it heard the little voice. That's one of the effects of criticism. Now, as you relax your body, give the little voice something new to say, such as, 'I am willing to feel at ease in my body.'
You might feel uncomfortable these new words. If you do, Think of it this way: its like trying a new exercise at the gym - at first it feels uncomfortable, awkward and just plain weird! Keep going. Remember that at this point you only need to be WILLING to feel at ease with your body. Willingness is enough to start you on the way to improving your body-esteem. Over time, you will start to feel at ease in your skin.

The benefits: For me, self-esteem begins with body-esteem. By improving your relationship with your body, your overall confidence and self-image will improve.

The mantra: I am willing to feel at ease in my body.

2. Say what you like and don't like: Sex is one of the hardest things to talk about but also one of the most important. During sex your body experiences its most intense, vulnerable and personal sensations. Those sensations should be the best they can be.

The problem: Because its challenging to talk about many people go through their whole sex life without saying how they like it and how they don't. They settle for mediocre sex.

What to do about it: Choose one specific type of touch that you enjoy and one that you don't. Practise describing both to yourself. Be as specific as you can. What is the sensation like? How do you experience it? How does it make you feel? Once you've practised saying it to yourself, tell your partner. Never mind if you get embarrassed. Have a laugh about it and give it another go.

The benefits: Apart from improving your sex life this will improve your ability to communicate in all aspects of life. I've seen this over and over again: people who practise communicating in bed become good communicators outside of bed too! They speak and listen with increased clarity, authenticity, effectiveness and kindness. They are better at respecting their own boundaries and other people's.

The mantra: Clear words. Better sex.

3. Slow down: One of the most pervasive ailments of modern life that we rush through it. Rushing has become our default to the point where we don't even realise that we're rushing. And our sex lives are a huge casualty of the malaise of rushing!

The problem: We don't have as much pleasure as we should! We do ourselves out of the joy of sex, of the pleasure of deep connection with a lover, of the enhanced mental and emotional state that comes from soulful sex.

What to do about it: Take it r.e.a.l....s.l.o.w! Slow kissing, slow touching, slow thrusting!

The benefits: You will start to enjoy a wider, subtler range of pleasurable sensations. You and your partner will become more present to each other - physically, mentally and emotionally. Couples who are more present to each other in bed have healthier relationships. Slow lovemaking fosters trust, openness, attraction and devotion between a couple.

The mantra: Slow kissing. Slow touching. Slow thrusting.

We need to acknowledge the role of the body - and of sexuality in particular - in fostering our inner wellbeing.

SexPod airs Wednesday 11th May at 10pm on 5STAR - Dr Vena Ramphal appears on the show as sexual wellbeing expert.