Don’t let low self-esteem dictate your sex life


Marina Yasuna

Illustration by

David Matos, Arts & Life Editor

Sexual pleasure is not one size fits all. Everyone has their likes and dislikes during sex, which is why communication with your sexual partner is always crucial. However, sex can easily become a burden when your sexual beliefs and interests are compromised because you’re suffering from low self-esteem.

According to an Oct. 16, Verywell Mind article, author Kendra Cherry said that self-esteem generally influences your decision-making, relationships and emotional well-being. Having low self-esteem can also cause most people to “fall short of their potential” or “tolerate abusive relationships and situations,” according to Psychology Today.

Decisions made during, before and after sexual intercourse are one’s own but can be influenced by ethical values and, of course, your self-esteem. Questions like “Do I feel safe with my partner?” “What are my sexual expectations?” and other questions regarding consent and safety may also get lost or not prioritized when you have low self-esteem. Truth be told, you’re more likely to be taken advantage of when your self-esteem is in the mud.

Low self-esteem is individualized and can differ from person to person. Invalidating authoritative figures, detached parenting, bullying, social media and trauma are all common sources of low self-esteem, according to Psychology Today. In fact, according to a 2019 article written by cognitive behavioral psychologist Jennifer Guttman, it’s estimated that about 85% of people worldwide have low self-esteem.

According to  Options for Sexual Health, some reasons people have sex are physical, emotional, goal-related, based on societal pressure or wanting to increase self-esteem. The connection between your mental health and choices made during your sex life is more common than you may think.

Personally, I started suffering from low self-esteem when I started high school in 2015. I began to take notice of my weight, attractiveness and personality after no longer having my support system from middle school. It felt like I was growing a new insecurity seemingly every day. It also didn’t help being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome during my junior year of high school. From that point forward, I never felt attractive, inside and out. I limited the number of selfies I took, I was constantly comparing myself to others and I took on even more weight from all the stress.

Because of my insecurities, when it came to engaging in intercourse, I was more focused on the needs of my partner than my own out of the fear of losing them. Also, from time to time I would agree to engage in sexual activity with someone I’m not completely attracted to or someone a lot older because they made me feel attractive, something I never felt up to that point. Feeling wanted and desired was enough for me to compromise my own sexual beliefs, and if you’re anything like me, stop.

Though I don’t have it all figured out, some ways you can work on improving your self-esteem are being more assertive, saying “no” and acknowledging what you like about yourself instead of focusing on the negatives. Something that has helped me is writing positive affirmations on pieces of paper and throwing them in a mason jar and reading out a new one every day. Also, seeking counseling or therapy can be a great way to work through your self-love journey.

Though having sex can briefly increase your self-esteem, from my own experience, it’s not permanent. After that high is gone after engaging in sexual commerce, I often go back to eating my feelings away with Taco Bell and crying about how my pants don’t fit me anymore — I wonder why, David.

Everyone makes mistakes, but don’t let that mistake stop you from having a more satisfactory sex life instead of one of regret. Try not to rely on other people to make you feel seen and loved when you can do that yourself. Hannah Montana said it best, nobody is perfect. However, everyone is worth self-love.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact Quinnipiac Counseling Services at 203-582-8680 or by email at [email protected].