Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Your Personal Sex God: On Sex and Self-Worth

Serious topic today—and one that could merit a whole book really.

I’m sure just about everyone knows what it’s like to have someone in your life that does two things:

1) When he or she shows you attention or affection, you feel higher than a kite;
2) But most of the time he or she just makes you feel hopelessly bad about yourself.

Rock singer Matthew Sweet wrote about this in his hit song “Sick of Myself” back in the 90’s:

You don’t know how you move me, deconstruct me and consume meI’m all used up, I’m out of luck, I am starstruckBy something in your eyes that is keeping my hope aliveBut I’m sick of myself when I look at you…

Personal happiness is very largely rooted in self-worth. If you truly believe you are a good person, with unique gifts and talents, who deserves the respect and love of others, you will probably be pretty content in life. On the other hand, if you aren’t convinced of any of those things, you will go to any lengths, even self-destructive ones, in your efforts to find validation.

There is no one so sexy (or captivating, or important) as the person who holds the power to validate you.

I’m not talking about guys you recognize as attractive, who are handsome or well-built or charming. I mean the special one who can make or break your entire day with a word or a smile. You may know him personally, or he may be a celebrity crush or someone you worship from afar. But the point is, for some reason you may or may not understand, he holds the key to your self-worth.

If he were ever to tell you he loves you, it would be the most heavenly thing ever to happen to you. If he rejected you, you would lose much of your will to live. And if a magic sex fairy granted you one wish to spend the night with anyone on earth, this is the guy you would choose because intimacy with him would transcend all other pleasures.

To you, this particular guy is your personal sex god. His favor is, for you, the way you measure your own desirability. You are driven to please him, and the fact that it is so very difficult to do so only makes it harder for you to escape the test. Meanwhile, if it became any easier you wouldn’t like it—you know that feeling well. It’s the “oh, but if he’s attracted to me, then he can’t be that great after all.” Sound like a painful conundrum? It is! It’s like being addicted to something that doesn’t even feel that good most of the time—just once in a blue moon.

But once in a blue moon it feels really, really good, and that’s why you can’t escape. That and the fact that to abandon your quest to please your sex god would be the ultimate failure. In your mind it’s the only way you have to find out if you’re any good…without this test, you’ll never know. So you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Personal illustration time, first from our Celebrity Crushes file: About 15 years ago I had a really intense crush on Sting. In my mind he was the ultimate combination of artistic talent, spiritual understanding, and sexiness. Obviously he was not personally involved in my life so I could not directly test my appeal to him, but I found myself so devoted to the man that I filled a lot of my day with thoughts of him, photos, music, videos, and so on. The quandary for me came that I felt ashamed of this obsession and feared that I needed to let go of it. Worst of all, I felt like Sting himself would find the intensity of my feelings off-putting if he knew me, and that was the way in which I sensed his “disapproval.” But at the same time, I felt the only way I could be worthy of his approval was to be devoted to him. So I put myself in a no-win situation by engaging in an activity that I felt both proved my worth and my unworthiness at the same time.

How’d I get out of this mess? First of all, by realizing there was nothing wrong with my attraction and it was a very common human experience. And secondly, by realizing my appreciation of certain attributes I saw in Sting really said more about me and my own values and character than it did about the man himself. I admired his physique, so I took up weight training. I was intrigued by his spirituality so I studied Carl Jung, his mentor. I internalized the value I had previously placed in Sting. I found my own self-worth internally.

Secondly, from the Personal Acquaintance file: A few years back I befriended a man who was cute, funny, charming and interesting. His greatest appeal was the fact that he seemed to have feelings for me too, and I was the one person he opened up to about his most private thoughts. He was also a moody guy, with an unpredictable temper, who by nature tended to keep aloof from others. So he drew me in by suggesting he was an almost impossibly hard nut to crack, and I alone stood a chance of success. And then he rebuffed me by fighting my every attempt at closeness.

He became the ultimate test—my personal sex god. He could make me ecstatic or devastate my ego by the smallest gestures. My daily happiness hinged upon him, and although he was a pretty regular looking guy, in my mind there was no sexier person on the whole planet. Such is the nature of this phenomenon. It was an addition of sorts, an addition to something that feels bad the vast majority of the time.

How’d I get out of this mess? One day I realized this guy was pretty f’ed up himself, riddled with flaws, and possibly the least deserving person to be the judge of my self-worth. Meanwhile, it dawned on me that I had way too many talents and too much to offer the world to be letting this man bring me down. My constant feeling that I was failing the test had become too painful to endure any longer—I made the decision that I’d rather quit and fail and risk losing the validation I so desperately wanted, than put myself through another day of that pain. I broke out of the trap.

You’ll note the common cure here: finding validation in yourself. You need to do whatever you can to teach yourself self-approval. You also need to recognize the imperfections in your sex god (even though you really don’t want to see them, of course!). You need to trade adoration in for admiration or respect.

And recognize also that all the wonderful qualities you see in your sex god are simply things that you yourself really treasure. He may or may not truly possess them, but there’s nothing wrong with your imagining he does for the sake of getting to enjoy and appreciate them. Your love of those qualities is part of what defines the particular person you are, so when you admire them, in a way you are admiring something about yourself.

This is, as I mentioned, a topic worthy of a book. Some of these subjects are touched upon in my book Living Beyond Reality: A Jungian Primer for Enhancing Your Life. And I’d be happy to post further if any readers have questions.

In the meantime, I’ll add one final thought in my guise as erotic advisor: If you can free yourself from being enslaved to your sex god, you can still enjoy the benefits of his erotic power (perhaps somewhat diminished but also less pain-provoking). Make him the star of your fantasies, all the while knowing that it is YOU, not him, pulling the strings. It works.


Erica said...

OMG you know I LOVE this post and all of the tidbits of wonderful information within it. You are an amazing woman Diana, so intelligent, knowledgeable, direct, seemingly calm, and understanding. I am in awe.

Once again you made my day with a post like this. I was feeling on the chunky side today, thinking... wow if I ran into HC today, he wouldn't look twice. I kept thinking... he's so hot, so thin, so sexy, and well, I'm just not. And then, I see this, and now I feel better. Thank you.

And I want to say I couldn't agree more with you about doing things to please your sex god. I do this all of the time. Heck, it's the primary reason I resist chocolate as often as I do and workout as much as I do. I want to be the perfect fit for him, regardless of whether or not I ever encounter him, which the chances of my doing are slim to none, but I digress.

Anyway thanks, and have a great weekend :)

Diana Laurence said...

Aw, Erica, you're so sweet! I'm really glad the post was helpful to you.

It's good when your "sex god" inspires you, motivates you, encourages you to be the best you can be. Meanwhile, psychologist Carl Jung also warned of the psychological danger of letting yourself fall prey to hearing the voice of the "sex god" as critical and judgmental. Sometimes our doubts about ourselves speak through his voice, and that, I'm afraid, is not the true, honest voice of inspiration. If you feel that "I'm sick of myself" feeling, it's time to step back and wake yourself up to all the things that are wonderful about you. After all, I'll bet there are some things you can do and some qualities you have that HC wishes he had! :-)

But I do know well the experience of resisting chocolate and such like because that very important person would want me to be strong. It can help a lot to augment a person's own strength!