Health Sex and sexual health Sexual Wellbeing Sexual Wellbeing: body confidence To talk about body confidence, we first have to talk about body image. Body confidence and body image, for many reasons, has always been a big issue within the LGBTQ+ community. Body Image is how we see our appearance and our bodies. It’s also the beliefs we have about the way we look: both positive and negative, and dictates what we think when we look in the mirror. Your thoughts about your build, your weight, your smile: these are connected to your body image and, in turn, the confidence you have about your body. If you have a negative view of your own body, this can lead to your mental health and you sexual health suffering as a result. Body confidence and sex If you don’t feel great about your body or you’re feeling insecure about how you look then it can impact your sex life in different ways: Your sex life might be impacted because of the shame you feel about your body You might stop having sex altogether You might seek out sex more often as a way to validate yourself A happy healthy sex life is important and there are ways to remember that because you may not like something about yourself, it doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t find you attractive. If you are finding your sex life is suffering, here’s what you can do: Find one thing you love about your body. Whether it’s your hair, eyes, legs… whatever makes you feel sexy and can boost your confidence will help you make that first step into reigniting your sex life Talk to your partner of you can. Whether it’s a long-term partner, someone you’re dating or a one-night stand, talk through your insecurities. They could reassure you, they could empathise, and it could enable you to relax and enjoy your sex life. Only do what you’re comfortable with. If you feel more comfortable keeping your top on during sex, then do so. Do whatever makes you feel the most confident and sexy. Don’t let your partner pressure you into doing anything you’re uncomfortable with. If you are seeking sex as a way to validate yourself or perhaps having sex you don’t really want because of your low self-worth, there are also things you can do: Try and revaluate your relationship with sex. Are you having sex because you enjoy it (which is great! If so, carry on!) or because it’s validation to offset your low body confidence. By asking yourself these questions, you can focus on readjusting your outlook on sex and your own body. Don’t have sex you don’t enjoy. If your self-esteem is low, then you might feel like you have to have the type of sex other people want. You don’t. Your tastes, desires and needs are valid. If someone wants to have sex with you, then you ARE sexually desirable. Don’t feel like you have to do anything you don’t want to. Look after your sexual health. If you are having more sex, then unfortunately the risk of STIs increases. You should get tested for HIV every six months and test for STIs every 3-6 months (depending on the frequency and type of sex you are having). You can also actively look after your sexual health by using condoms, the right lube, taking HIV prevention drug PrEP and discussing sexual health with your partners. [LINKS TO TESTING SERVICES AND PREVENTION METHODS} Body confidence and your mental health Having low body confidence can impact your wellbeing and mental health. It can make you anxious and even depressed. You may feel like you want to isolate and that no one understands how you feel about your body. There are things you can do to help: Talk. It sounds simple but sharing your insecurities with your friends or family if you feel comfortable doing so, really does help. You aren’t alone when it comes to your body image. So many of us suffer from poor body confidence in differing degrees but we often don’t say it out loud. Having an empathetic ear can really help you work through your issues and improve your body confidence. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends or family, use an anonymous service like our LGBT HERO Forums. You can find likeminded people who are going through the same things as you. They may be able to offer help and advice of their lived experience. Change how you use social media. Unfortunately, much of what we see on social media such as Instagram and Twitter can have a negative impact on our body image. Unrealistic representations of body types put a lot of pressure on us as LGBTQ+ people. Take steps to reduce the time on social media or unfollow or mute accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Self-care is important when it comes to engaging with social media. Surround yourself with people who make you feel confident and comfortable. By being around body positive people it can counteract any internal or external criticism. Exercise – but not for the reasons you think. It’s not about changing your body, it’s about changing your mindset. By being active for even a short period per day, can help improve your mood and your outlook. Allow the time for some physical activity, whether that be a short walk or playing a sport you love, and it will help your confidence and your wellbeing. A brisk 20-minute walk has been proven to quickly change your mood. Consider seeking therapy. If your body confidence issues are becoming overwhelming and you think you might have an eating disorder or you are considering self-harm, then contacting a counsellor should be your next step. Therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be used to re-train your brain by attacking your negative thought processes. Help and advice For more help and advice around body confidence, including links to services, visit the Body Image section of our website. For help around depression and anxiety, our mental health pages provide lots of help and advice. Mind Out, the LGBTQ+ mental health service, offers a variety of support via its website. If you’d prefer to speak to an LGBTQ+ person on the phone, then Switchboard’s volunteers are also there to listen on its dedicated helpline. You can talk to people in confidence on the LGBT HERO Forums, a safe space where you can talk to peers and ask for help and advice.