Studies have shown that people who have high self-esteem live longer, healthier lives, continue to enjoy sex throughout their lives, and are more optimistic about the future. At midlife, most of us suffer an occasional blow to our esteem. We look in the mirror and recoil at the image of our mother (or father) looking back at us.
Wrinkles, sagging skin, receding hairlines - this is not the stuff of romantic legend as we learned it. How we feel about our bodies affects our sexuality, and rare is the person of any age who hasn't experienced feelings of angst rooted in body image or performance issues.
Look out for the mirror!
"I stopped feeling sexy after I caught a glimpse of myself in the bedroom mirror while making love," says Kim, 49. "I looked at my image and thought, 'Who is this old fat broad on top of that man and why is she letting everything hang out?' Not a flattering self-analysis, but it seemed true to me."
Kim's partner, with whom she lives, did not share her negative evaluation of her body. But her physical appearance was a problem to Kim, one that interfered with her sexual enjoyment. For her, a diet-and-exercise program were the first steps toward restoring sexual self-esteem, and they may work the same magic for many midlife people. Toning the body and improving appearance can have an aphrodisiac effect on most people at any age.
Shape up - your attitude
You can also restore your confidence by:
1. Challenging your inferiority feelings.
Midlife inferiority feelings come from four major areas: physical appearance, sexual performance, financial status, and a person's worldly accomplishments.
The great majority of people never have model bodies, perfect hair, ideal faces. Boomers castigate themselves for having fallen from a state of physical grace few of us ever attained in the first place. Set reasonable, attainable physical standards for yourself. Improve what you can and be accepting of your physical imperfections.
2. Paying attention to your partner's sexual self-esteem needs.
Take your mind off your own perceived shortcomings by lavishing erotic attention on your partner. Put your own feelings aside and do something to boost his or her sexual self-esteem.
When you make your partner feel more desirable, you feed the cycle of desire shared by both.