When it comes to sex, people love talking about creating a connection with your sexual partner. In fact, research has plenty to say about how a connection between partners tends to lead to better sexual intimacy. In my earlier times of being sexually active, I remember focusing a lot on the other person I was with and how well we were “connected”, whether it was a hookup or longer-term partner.
Make no mistake, I agree that having some level of connection with your sexual partner can make sex very enjoyable. I also believe that having sex with a partner that you don’t share much of a connection with can be enjoyable as well. But over the years I’ve started to wonder why there are so many conversations about connecting with our partners during sex, but not much about the connections we have with ourselves.
Connecting to self deserves more attention because I believe that self-connection is an important part of sex. Jennifer Kogan, LICSW, describes connecting to ourselves as “recognizing our reactions and feelings so we can respond to our needs and take care of ourselves.” When we are regularly connected to ourselves, we are in line with our true desires and are able to engage from a place of confidence and depth of understanding. We are also better able to communicate with our current sexual partner(s) because we are connected to our own lines of communication between mind and body. Being connected to self allows us to recognize our needs and acknowledge our desires while we seek to fulfill them, which is the foundation for the full expression of our sexual selves.
When we are operating out of disconnection, the full enjoyment of our sexuality may be difficult. We may notice mental and emotional blocks when we are engaging in sex, like feelings of insecurity, comparison, or an inability to ask our partner for what we need.
We may also even experience physical effects of disconnection in the form of a lower sex drive or low libido. Things like stress, low self-esteem, negative body image, and poor communication can all lead to low libido. These things may be pointing us toward the opportunity to connect with ourselves more.
I want to be clear that just because we may experience some of these mental or physical blocks during sex, this does not mean self-disconnection is always to blame. There are many other factors that could be contributing, whether personal or from your partner. You can always talk with a therapist, partner, or trusted friend about what you are experiencing.
What can lead to self-disconnection?
Living in today’s current world is a constant exposure to things that can disconnect us from ourselves. This can also include how we were raised. For example, I grew up in a conservative, religious household, where sex outside of heterosexual marriage was touted as sinful. What I was taught led to me disconnecting from myself, something I’ve had to spend many years undoing.
But even after years spent learning how to connect back to myself after harmful lessons around purity and sexuality, I still notice how my day to day life can sometimes breed disconnection. A common factor for many of us is an overly stressful or busy schedule. When we are bound to a busy routine, we often have a difficult time finding opportunities to connect with ourselves because we are drowning out our inner thoughts with the things we have to accomplish.
The habit of “people pleasing” is another way in which we limit our self-connection. This is something I’m far too familiar with in my own life. This habit can have a direct impact on our sex lives, even though it can exist entirely outside of the bedroom. When we are more focused on making our partner, friends, family, or employers happy throughout our day than we are on bringing happiness to ourselves, we are in turn refusing to listen to what we need. People pleasing on a regular basis can create a pernicious habit of ignoring our inner voice. We may unknowingly carry this habit into the way we express ourselves sexually.
Comparison is an enormous factor in my own disconnection to self as well. When I am focused on what I don’t have, especially when it comes to my body, I feel out of tune with the qualities that make me who I am. I find that it’s usually during seasons where I’m on social media more often that I feel a stronger desire to compare my body to the women I see on my feed. When I’m focused on what I lack, I’m more likely to not feel a sense of connection to my body. I also personally find that watching mainstream porn can sometimes lead to bodily comparison. Mainstream porn shows depictions of unrealistic sex, which is why I try to choose feminist porn sites as often as I can. These sites focus on showing all types of sexual experiences and body types.
These are just a few ways that we can experience disconnection to ourselves in our day to day lives. There are plenty of other factors that may leave us with the desire to be more in tune with ourselves. Only you will be able to tell whether or not you’re feeling that disconnection.
Ways we can practice connecting back to ourselves
Going to Therapy
I’m a huge proponent of going to therapy at some point in your life. Having a licensed professional walk you through traumas, life events and past experiences, and current struggles is something well worth our time and our money. Therapy is an effective way of getting to the bottom of the things in our lives that may be leading to the feeling of disconnect within our minds and bodies.
Masturbation and self-pleasure
Masturbation plays a vital role in our connection to self. There are plenty of health benefits to masturbation, like stress relief, increased libido, elevated mood, and reducing menstrual pain. Aside from these immediate benefits, self-pleasure can also help us build a habit of being in tune with ourselves.
The simple acts of setting aside “you” time, creating a mood to get you in the mood, and exploring your body will help you connect back to your desires. Masturbation is also an important way to connect with yourself sexually without any added pressure of another person present. You have no other task in the moment except for pleasuring yourself.
Mirror work may be one of the most powerful tools for self-connection that I’ve experienced, but it can definitely feel strange on your first few tries. Mirror work was originally coined by Louise Hay, who discovered the power of connecting with your reflection in the mirror and speaking positive affirmations over yourself.
Essentially all you do is stand or sit in front of a mirror and look into your reflection. The important part about this is holding your gaze, even when you feel uncomfortable and want to look away. What comes up for you? What emotions do you feel when you look into your eyes? You can even say some positive affirmations out loud to yourself. There are a few different ways you could go about doing mirror work, but however you choose to do it, you will be connecting with yourself in a deep, empowering way.
Treat your body how you want to treat it
This is an exercise in asking ourselves what we want/need, without any other voices swaying our decisions. First, stop and think about how you treat your body throughout the day. Think of what you eat, what you wear, how you do your hair, etc. How many of these things do you do solely from a place of personal, inner connection? For me, it was realizing something as simple as my shaving habits. I have coarse, dark hair, but I was choosing to shave in a way that I felt would be acceptable to most people, even though it was causing my body a lot of pain from rashes and ingrown hairs.
When you get dressed in the morning, are you choosing to wear what you personally feel most confident in, or are you subconsciously wearing what you think other people would want you to wear? I believe that taking the time to pause and reflect on our reasons behind how we treat our body is a key aspect in connecting with our inner selves and sexuality. We deserve to feel sexy from a place of awareness and connection, not an assumption of what someone else would expect from us.
Being in tune with our desires, thoughts, and emotions is an important part of sex. The great news is that we all have the power to connect back to ourselves, even in a world that may be sending us messages of disconnection. If you resonate with any of this, or feel that you are experiencing some disconnection from yourself, try starting small with doing some mirror work or setting aside time for just you.