In my practice, I’m witnessing an influx of depressed, anxious, insecure, suffering clients from around the globe. In fact, I don’t think there has ever been a time in humanity when humans felt so bad about themselves for being imperfect. Often, I’ve mused that our performance-driven, goal-oriented society of perfectionism is great for consumption but horrible for eroticism, and indeed, horrible for self-esteem and self-worth too.
Experts say we have approximately 70,000 thoughts a day. Which ones do you choose to jump in the car with and take a ride? Which ones do you choose to just let pass? It’s when we take a road trip with self-doubt and those pesky negative thoughts, that they spin into feelings, which turn into action, and inevitably express themselves in our bodies. Whether it’s cancer, disease, anxiety, chest pains, or even sexual function, our body is the first alarm ringing to inform us—somethin’ ain’t right.
Take for example, my gorgeous gay client who is brilliant, witty, and kind. When we met, his erectile dysfunction only reared its head (no pun intended) when he was with someone he liked and wished to continue dating. Prescription drugs couldn’t fix it. That’s when he sought me out for help. But the catch was, when he went to a hotel to hook up with a random stranger he intended to never see again—usually a married straight male—he had zero problems with getting it up, and required zero medication. His deep rooted issue wasn’t that his dick didn’t work. It was that his narrative about himself, his inherent value, and his self-worth was zero when engaging with a potential partner. His body couldn’t hide this truth, so it manifested accordingly.
In my work, I see so many people using sex to resolve problems which usually aren’t sexual. Even the 20-year-old self-proclaimed raging sex-addict who swears by the notion of emotionless sex, is still suffering from the itch to get off and the need to feel power, alive, and affirmed. Emotionless sex is another one of those false ideas perpetuated by culture, because regardless of how we feel—or don’t feel—about the person we’re banging, we still feel pleasure, power, and self-validation in the act.
So many individuals grapple with feelings of self-worth and performance anxiety, which absolutely extends into our relationships. We live in a constant comparison loop, becoming stunned and shacked by notions of how we’re supposed to look and act, rather than simply enjoying the moment. For men especially, the pressure of lasting long enough, giving mind-blowing orgasms, and how they believe they’re supposed to perform in the bedroom, can slaughter their internal narrative, self-confidence, and eventually kill their desire to be active with their partners at all.
As a result of cultural conditioning for thousands of years, both consciously and subconsciously, many women place their inherent value and self-worth on their desirability. And so when their partners, so full of shame, fear, and anxiety over performance pressure, no longer initiate sex, they become depressed and often feel worthless. Even the strongest, most ambitious, positive of us—man, woman, trans, intersex, human—struggle with putting forth the practice of loving thyself every single damn day.
Whether media at large or social media, we are being programmed and informed on who and how to be. Has anyone ever stopped to ask themselves: where does culture stop, and the real true essence of me begin?
Comparison is, after all, the root of all conformity.
Every single one of us has extraordinary gifts which are greatly needed in the world. Only you can do what you do in the very unique special way you do it. Only you can impact those you impact. Only you can choose what thoughts to let pass, and what thoughts to marinate into feelings and actions.
I asked a client recently, what does loving yourself look like?
“Loving myself means not spending an hour on Instagram or Facebook every day.”
Truly. Wouldn’t we all be better humans if we spent those hours in self-reflection, nature, creative time, or engaging in real life connection with another? Wouldn’t we all feel more fulfilled?
I’m headed to Tech Open Air Festival (TOA) in Berlin next week to give a talk on the future of love, dating, and sex. Of course, I’ll have to address sex robots. They’re in the headlines daily, because people love imagining new possibilities, novelty, and because, Westworld. But we’re a very long way off from dolls with AI that can even remotely mirror Westworld. In sorting through my data from 15+ years of work on relationships, sex, eroticism, shame, consumerism, the human condition, and the brain in love, I had an epiphany.
Imperfection is a requirement for love.
In this age of perfectionism, where sex dolls can be customized to a user’s idea of perfect, where we’re lonelier than ever amidst the guise of thousands of digital followers and friends, and where we’re constantly comparing ourselves to unattainable standards set by FaceTune and Photoshop, we must be brave! Dare to be your beautiful glorious unique imperfect self!
For only then, can you experience someone loving you for who you truly are.
Mal Harrison is a clinical sexologist, coach, and executive director at the Center for Erotic Intelligence. Find her on Twitter @AdviceFromMsM or Instagram @MelodiousMsM