I admit I once thought positive affirmations were trite, but I got turned on to them when I was given a journal with daily prompts, one of which was writing a daily affirmation. I jotted down things like “I put on sunscreen every day” and “I am patient” and darn it if I didn’t start remembering to put on sunscreen, and somehow found extra patience when feeling frustrated! I began applying it to my business goals, and that’s been working like a charm too.
I’ve since read up and geeked out on the brain science of positive affirmations and now I’m a total convert. Here is what I learned, along with a list of 27 positive sexuality affirmations I created to set you on a path to feeling (and being!) sexuality confident and satisfied:
So evidently our brains change! In actual real, physical ways. So cool!
Our behaviors, environment, thoughts, and emotions can cause the brain to rewire itself, even in adulthood when neural pathways are well-developed, and the key to this, is repetition. Thinking “I am full of sexual energy. I am full of sexual energy. I am full of sexual energy” to ourselves on repeat can actually change our brain to HAVE MORE SEXUAL ENERGY! So there is validity to “fake it til you make it”. Whoa.
Reticular Activating System (RAS)
This is the part of the brain that makes you see sky blue Mazda Miatas everywhere after you decided you want to buy a sky blue Mazda Miata, or makes you notice 3 different people using a certain word the day after you just learned that word.
Apparently our brains receive a shit ton of information from our senses that we don’t need and it gets filtered out of our immediate consciousness. Until we tell our brain that this certain piece of information is actually needed, and then it’s brought to the forefront by our RAS.
So writing “I put on sunscreen every day” makes me more likely to notice the bottle of sunscreen on the counter that I used to walk by on the way out the door. And writing “My genitals are healthy and normal” can make it easier to notice and see opportunities to find beauty and goodness in your genitals where you used to see shame.
Humans strive for psychological consistency, and cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that occurs when we hold two contracting, inconsistent values, beliefs, or behaviors. And because of our distaste for this dissonance, human can do some impressive mental gymnastics and herculean behavioral changes to get consistency again.
This can be great. If you’re saying to yourself “Telling my partner what I want during sex is natural and easy for me”, and your brain is rewiring itself and adopting this as fact (cognition), but you don’t feel confident speaking up for what you want and in fact you’re not telling your partner what you desire (feeling, behavior), there’s a dissonance.
And to resolve it, one of two things can happen- you can believe you’re a liar, a hard pill to swallow, or you can start telling your partner what you want during sex to make your story true and have consistency between thought and action.
Such a powerful tool for sexual behavior change!
The problem is, this can majorly backfire.
There was a study finding that for some people, positive affirmations did change their thinking or behavior. But for other people, it made them feel worse because they resolved their cognitive dissonance by more deeply believing that their negative beliefs were true and that the positive affirmations were a lie instead of the other way around.
The truth is many people resolve cognitive dissonance in toxic ways. Here’s an infuriating example you may recognize:
Belief 1: I’m a good judge of character, and I know Joe Smith to be a good guy.
Belief 2: Sexual assault is bad.
Well when Joe Smith is accused of sexual assault, there’s cognitive dissonance and that psychological discomfort can be resolved in one of two ways:
Changing Belief 1 (“Joe Smith is not a good guy, I judged wrong on this one”) or-
Changing Belief 2 (“I am a good judge of character, so Joe Smith is a good guy, and therefore...” and then convincing themselves sexual assault isn’t that bad, or 14 isn’t that young, or the victim is lying, or deserved it somehow.
Take home message from this research: positive affirmations can help, especially already positive people, when they are part of a broader intervention strategy (therapy, coaching, mindfulness practice) rather than as a stand-alone self-help tool to make sure the change is going in the right direction.
So, given all that, here are my suggestions for making the best use of my list of 27 positive affirmations for sexual confidence:
-Pick 5 or so affirmations that really resonate with you and say them in your head, out loud, or write them down REPEATEDLY. Several times in a row, several times a day, for several days.
-Frame them as positives and in the present tense (I’ve done this work for you) because “I will” or “I want to” aren’t as powerful as “I am” in activating RAS, or so I’ve read.
-Use these in conjunction with other sexual and personal growth work, such as a therapist or sexual wellness coach, like me!
Without further ado:
1. Sexual pleasure is a beautiful gift that I deserve to receive.
2. I explore and embrace my sexual desires.
3. I am sexually generous.
4. I am full of sexual energy.
5. I am grateful for my body and the sexual pleasure it provides me.
6. I exude sexual confidence
7. I am in full control of my sexual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
8. I live, love, and engage in sexual behaviors according to my values.
9. I communicate successfully with my romantic and sexual partner(s).
10. Telling my partner what I want during sex is natural and easy for me.
11. My bed is a peaceful sanctuary where I feel safe and satisfied.
12. Sexual arousal is a fun process that happens easily for me.
13. I have intense and frequent orgasms that satisfy my body and mind.
14. My genitals are healthy and normal.
15. My genitals function exactly as I want them to and bring intense pleasure to myself and my partner(s).
16. My sex life is exciting and it makes me feel happy to be alive.
17. I develop and maintain meaningful relationships.
18. I am worthy of love and kindness from others.
19. I accept rejection from a potential sexual partner with respect and humility.
20. I am patient and compassionate about my partner(s)’ sexual insecurities.
21. I am a worthwhile, full-fledged human being whether or not I’m currently in a relationship.
22. I practice empathy and compassion to myself and all living beings.
23. I have a strong sense of purpose in life.
24. Exploring my body and growing into sexual wellness is a priority in my life.
25. I pay attention and listen to what my body needs.
26. I am confident and comfortable in my sexual and relationship identities.
27. I am sexually and emotionally thriving.
As a sexologist I am often asked if I know of any resources for a variety of sexual health services and information, so I decided to create this handy list of my most commonly shared referrals. Be sure to bookmark this for future reference to help yourself or a friend in need!
Note: Nearly all of these resources are non-profits and rely on donations to continue providing these incredibly valuable services. If you’re able, consider paying it forward and sending them a few bucks!
National Abortion Federation
Professional association of abortion providers with information, resources, and a directory of abortion providers by state.
Information about abortion, live chat feature to ask questions, and a directory of abortion clinics by zip code.
Directory of funds available to help pay for your abortion by state.
Image via Scarleteen
Inclusive, comprehensive, supportive sexuality and relationship info for teens and emerging adults
Sex education for teens, by teens, published by Answer, a national organization that provides and promotes unfettered access to comprehensive sexuality education for young people and the adults who teach them.
I Wanna Know
A site from the American Sexual Health Association, it offers information on sexual health for teens and young adults.
San Francisco Sex Information
Free, confidential, accurate, non-judgmental information about sex by phone or email answered by volunteer sex educators.
Image via Bedsider
Comprehensive information on birth control methods, a directory of where to get them by zip code, and a reminder app.
Comprehensive information on birth control methods, a quiz on which method is best for you, a directory of Planned Parenthood locations by zip code, and a reminder app.
Clinical Sex Therapists/Psychotherapists
Directory of clinicians, mental health practitioners, and psychologists with training in sexuality and certification by state.
Domestic Violence Survivor Support
Directory of emergency shelters by zip code, 24/7 hotline, and information on how to get an Order of Protection.
Advocates for Youth
Printable lesson plans and materials for elementary to high school aged students on dozens of sexual health topics including decision making, relationships, sexual orientation and gender identity, stereotypes and discrimination, and reproduction.
The Center for Sex Education
Curricula, manuals, and sex educator resources.
Our Whole Lives
Honest, accurate, lifespan sexuality education curricula with step-by-step instruction for program planners and facilitators, with 7 programs speaking to participants’ needs by age (grades K-1, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, young adult, adult, and older adult.)
Image via UCSD LGBT Resource Center
Directory of LGBT Community Centers by zip code (LGBT Community Centers offer services that often include community space, youth drop-in centers, books and resources, counseling, healthcare services, leadership opportunities, and social events).
The Trevor Project
Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24 via phone, chat, or text.
Legal help desk provides information and resources regarding discrimination related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and HIV status.
A free, 3 full day conference with 250 workshops of all types for anyone who feels like they belong there, anyone who identifies as an ally to the trans community, and anyone looking to respectfully learn more about themselves and others.
Research and Data
Research reports, fact sheets, and infographics on sexual and reproductive health.
The Journal of Sex Research
Scholarly peer-reviewed journal devoted to the publication of research articles on diverse topics in contemporary sexual science.
Sex and Disability
Sex and Disability
Information and blogs about sexuality and disability.
Sex Positive Doctors
National Coalitions for Sexual Freedom
Directory of psychotherapeutic, medical, legal and other professionals who have stated that they are “kink aware” and knowledgeable about and sensitive to diverse expressions of sexuality.
I am often asked by folks if I can know of a sex-positive, non-judgey, feminist gynecologist and/or obstetrician in their area. Sadly, such a database does not exist to my knowledge, but someone really should create one! Slut-shaming gynos are the worst!
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Information on sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace and how to file a Charge of Discrimination.
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
Information on sexual harassment in school and how to file a Title IX complaint.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Image via Center for Disease Control
Information on infections, treatments, and prevention from the CDC.
STI testing location finder by zip code from the CDC.
Resources for People Living with HIV from the CDC.
Sexual Violence Survivor Support
Directory of Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Centers by zip code (Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Centers offer services to survivors and their families that often include free counseling, legal assistance, advocacy and accompaniment to the hospital, police station, and/or court hearings, and 24/7 hotlines).
1 in 6
Live chat help and online support group for male survivors.
Talking to Kids About Sex
List of books to aid in parent to child sexual health conversations (Robie H. Harris’ 3 book series is especially good).
1. One-on-one sexual wellness coaching worldwide via phone.
2. Private sex education classes for adults in San Diego, CA.
3. Sexual health and pleasure products.
4. Sexuality education, information, and insight via blog posts and graphics.
**These sources are provided for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice and should not be a substitute for a visit or a consultation with a healthcare provider or other appropriate professional.**