I have been teaching people about sexuality for two decades. Consistently, when I ask people what they think they need in order to feel sexually empowered, without reservation, the #1 answer I get is “I want more confidence.” Insecurity isn’t sexy. Helping people build confidence is a huge part of my work. Confidence, sexual and otherwise, is a huge result of the work we do.

So, why do most people seem to lack sexual confidence? Why is this crucial element of sexual currency hard to develop and hang on to?

Here are my proven strategies for building true, lasting self-confidence in + out of the bedroom.

1. Do some sex research.

Sexual ignorance contributes greatly to people’s lack of self-assurance. How do you build confidence in anything? In large part, by getting good at it. That happens through practice. When you develop skills to do something well, your confidence grows. So, you’ve got to find some version of adult sex education that’s right for you, and work on the skills you want. Maybe you need to learn more about touch, flirtation, communication, or asking for what you want. Maybe you need to learn more about your body and how to have mind-blowing orgasms. Whatever it is you need to learn, it’s a process almost completely controlled by you. That’s great news.

2. Dont compare yourself to anyone but you.

As much as I discourage people from comparing themselves to others, we are naturally inclined to make comparisons as a means of learning about ourselves. It’s not until you go to someone else’s house that you realize that yelling all the time isn’t necessarily normal. It’s not until you see that drawing or singing doesn’t come naturally to everyone else that you realize you have a gift.

With sex, there is no reality-based comparison for how you have sex. Porn is not real. Reality TV isn’t real. Soap operas aren’t real. The questions in many magazines can be trite. So there’s always a question mark about how you’re “doing sex” and whether it’s right. This leads to perpetual insecurity in nearly everyone about one of life’s most important things.

3. Realize mass media is designed to make you sexually insecure.

When you do compare yourself, it’s bound to be to an unattainable ideal if it’s based on mainstream media.

We can’t all be Brad, George, Angelina, or whomever the sexy flavor of the moment is. Our imaginations run wild about how sexually superior sexy stars must be because the camera is designed to make them look good at sex and seduction, even if they are totally awkward in real life. They always have the perfect line, perfect outfit, perfect body, or perfect flirty comeback. Add all the products you think you need in order to be desirable and it’s a constant uphill battle.

4. Be honest: Its time to discuss sex + openly air out issues.

When you talk about something that is eating away at you, you get clarity about where the other person is, and you can let things go, choosing to focus on what really matters. Talking about issues in relationships can reboot or help build confidence because you know where you stand with your partner.

When you remain silent about your difficulties, particularly sexual ones, you stay in a place of shame or insecurity because you have no feedback or information to reframe the stories in your head and help you improve the situation. This can be death to a relationship. I know, because as a sexual empowerment coach, I talk to people who tell me things they don’t even tell their partners—simply because they don’t know how to talk about them. If you know what the problem or issue is, you can work on it.

Learning to have adult sexual conversations is a total confidence builder.

5. Ask for what you want.

Asking directly for what you want without explanations and caveats is an expression of confidence.

It’s hard for most people to ask for what they want, and it requires you to have an intimacy with your own desire.

When you have that inner knowing and familiarity with your true desire, it makes it a lot easier to ask for it and get it. Of course, when you are in a relationship with someone who is insecure and you confidently ask for what you really want, they might be intimidated into going along with your version of things because they don’t know what else to ask for. It can be easy to miss each other altogether, create a poor power dynamic, or have needs go unmet.

The more you go for what you want and get it, the more you build the confidence to keep going for it.

So, how do we fix it? Most of us have some work to do in this area. It’s very hard, if not impossible, to create the relationships and sex of your dreams from a place of insecurity. You might be feeling sexually frustrated, not having orgasms, not feeling like you get as much from sex as your partners do, or unable to ask for what you need sexually. Many people who are powerful in other areas of their lives (particularly women) lack the ability to get their needs met in the bedroom and often feel really small and dissatisfied there.

Confidence is often talked about like a pill you can take or something you just have all of a sudden. But it’s not, it’s something you practice. 

We don’t all operate with the same brand of confidence we have varying strengths and vulnerabilities. It’s essential to build on your unique strengths as you develop your sexual confidence.