Health Sex and sexual health Sexual Wellbeing Sexual Wellbeing: sexual self-esteem Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves. It the driving force behind our positive, and negative thoughts about our own abilities, worthiness, and value. Our sexual self-esteem is very closely linked. As LGBTQ+ people, for lots of reason, we are more likely to deal with self-esteem issues which can lead to us not taking care of our overall sexual health. If we don’t feel desirable or if you are uncomfortable with our body, it can impact us in different ways: Lack of sex drive If our sexual self-esteem is suffering, then we may not feel sexy, sexual or horny. It can reduce our desire for sex and sexual contact and intimacy. More sex than usual Sometimes, when our sexual self-esteem is low, we may seek out validation in sex. This means we may have more sex than we normally would, and we may not look after our sexual health as well as we should, all to counteract the feelings of not feeling valued sexually. Having sex we may not necessarily want If our sexual self-esteem is low, we may sometimes have the types of sex we may not necessarily enjoy or want in order to please others or to validate our self-worth. Avoiding sexual contact We may try and avoid sexual contact, even if our sex drive is still high or active. This can be because our sexual self-esteem or concerns around appearance or concerns around our sexual attractiveness can lead to anxiety, so we avoid situations altogether. High anxiety around sex If we are feeling low or down about ourselves, particularly around how we look or our desirability, it may cause us to be anxious in certain sexual situations or cause doubt about our ability to ‘perform’. Avoiding sexually charged environments Our low sexual self-esteem might mean we avoid sexual environments altogether, even places like bars or clubs. Physical symptoms If our sexual self-esteem is low, then this could manifest with physical symptoms, such as erectile dysfunction for cis men, problems orgasming, decreased libido etc. There are things you can do to help manage or overcome your sexual self-esteem issues: Take the pressure off It’s important to know that sex is not the most important thing. Friendships, connections and other forms of intimacy are just as important. By forcing yourself to restart or continue your sex life, when you may not feel up to it, can hinder you in the long-term. Take a step back and only have sex when you are ready. Find a trusted partner Find the right person to engage with sexually could help you overcome or process your issues of sexual self-esteem. A supportive partner who can help you navigate your sex life and wellbeing could be an important move forward. Talk to your partner If you already have a partner, then communication is key. Explain to them how you are feeling. If you aren’t feeling sexual at this time, communicate that to them. If you’re uncomfortable with your body, the talk to your partner and see how they can ease your anxiety. Talking through issues is often a great way of unpacking what you’re feeling and move forward as a couple. Look after your sexual health Test regularly. If you are having sex more often with multiple partners, test for HIV every six months and STIs every three months (depending on the type of sex you’re having). By looking after this important aspect of your health, it can allow you to feel better about other aspects of your wellbeing. Rebuild your relationship with your body If your body confidence is low, then how you feel about you can be impacted. 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 Look at your relationship to media From social media like Instagram to images in porn, all these things can impact our sexual self-esteem. If you find that certain types of media are having a negative effect on you, then it’s OK to disengage for a while and reassess how you relate to it. Talk to people Talk to friends about how you feel about your sexual self-esteem. You may find a friend who has experienced similar feelings and can offer you advice, or you can work through it together. Talk anonymously in a safe place like the LGBT HERO forums, if you aren’t comfortable talking to friends. Talk to a therapist/GP If you find that your life is being seriously impacted, then consider talking to a professional about what you are going through. If you are having physical symptoms. Like erectile dysfunction (for example) then consider talking to your GP. Help and advice For sexual health advice, such as where and how to get tested, visit the Sexual Health 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.