What comes to mind when you look at yourself naked in front of a mirror? Do you have a critical eye and wish your breasts were fuller, your hips were narrower or your legs were longer? You’re not alone. Most adults struggle with their reflection when they look in the mirror and honestly assess their body. While we might not possess a perfectly proportioned body shape we are beautiful just as we are. When I was growing up, my Dad would encourage me to lose “just 10 more pounds” to be beautiful. As a result, I adopted his idea of beauty, not my own. It took me years to recognize what I found beautiful about myself. This skewed body image played a vital role in how comfortable I felt during sex. Most of the time I felt like I needed to hide the parts of my body that didn’t fit the perfect ideal of beauty I that I visualized in my mind. I was convinced if I was dissatisfied with how I looked, my partner must be too! Those feelings prevented me from truly being seen by my partner and it limited the depth of intimacy we were able to build together. My negative perception of my body played a part in my overall self-image. I thought I could love myself on the inside and ignore the package I was wrapped in. What I discovered is it caused me to play small inside and outside of the bedroom. I honestly didn’t want to be seen clothed anymore than I did naked. Many clients looking for coaching to increase their level of intimacy complain that body image is a key component in their overall sexual satisfaction level. To cultivate a positive self-image you have to learn to love your body just as it is with all of the lumps and bumps. You can desire to make changes to your body through diet and exercise, but you can’t put off loving yourself until those changes occur. If you want to create more intimacy in your relationship and increase your sexual satisfaction, check out these simple tips: Stop self-objectifying. Don’t allow the media to shape your view of beauty. Recognize that most of the images in ads, on tv or on billboards have been altered by photoshop and aren’t real or attainable. Create your own view of beauty. Look inside and discover what is beautiful and achievable for you. Accept the things that you can’t change like your height or eye color. Our genes regulate some aspects of our physical body. Accepting and showing gratitude for those characteristics will go a long way in cultivating a positive self-image. Control your self-talk. Talk to yourself like you would someone you love. Be aware when you’re using negative language to refer to yourself or your body. Practice saying kind and encouraging words to yourself daily. Practice mindfulness. Pay attention to how you treat your body. Are you making an effort to eat right and fuel your body for performance? Are you keeping your body hydrated? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you being intentional about exercise? How you treat your body plays a vital role in how you feel about yourself. Design a sustainable self-care routine. Practice some form of self-care daily. Making yourself a priority on a day-to-day basis helps raise your personal value. Create your own definition of self-care, for me, it means doing things that bring me pleasure and happiness. Give up comparisons. Comparing ourselves to others kills our self-esteem. Appreciate beauty around you, but don’t compare yourself. Get in the habit of affirming what your body means to you and what it does for you on a daily basis. Get real. Tap into the power of journaling. Be honest with yourself about your insecurities and devise a plan to overcome them. Get vulnerable with your partner and invite them to support you on your journey of healing. If you want to experience more pleasure in the bedroom, you have to start by learning to love yourself inside and out. You can’t expect to cultivate intimacy with your mate if you can’t experience intimacy with yourself. Take the time needed to discover the root of your body image issues and commit to finding ways to overcome those challenges. Negative body image plagues men and women equally, however, women tend to be more vocal about it. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable. Open up a dialog with your partner to discuss your body image. Building trust is foundational to building a happy intimate relationship. Are you ready to increase the level of intimacy you are experiencing in your relationship?