Lacking Confidence

A follow up from a previous letter about how to gain more confidence in relationships.

This letter is a follow up from the column "Self-Conscience About Experience".

I suppose the reason for the inexperience is kind of important though. I can't say, like you, that mine resulted from lack of interest on my part - at least not usually. It feels like it has been a Sisyphean repetition of failure. The causes are not fully clear to me - some but probably not all of it can be blamed on my upbringing. Which brings me to the further question, if I may - how do I find a healthy level of confidence in the face of all this?
I try to fit in some brief but intense exercise daily, though my discipline in doing so is not always consistent. I do have a sense of humour but it kind of spends a lot of time in hibernation and thus I often can't think of witty or playful things to say when those are perhaps needed.
Part of the logic that led me towards non-monogamy was actually about confidence: it seems both much more attainable and ethical to build towards a place where I can be confident in just my own desirability rather than in every alternative person's relative lack thereof. But at this point even that more modest goal seems elusive. 
I have previously felt confident when people showed interest in me but that has so often proved to be an illusory basis for hope that I don't wholly trust that feeling anymore. I like the idea of being confident in something independent of external validation, but think that a basis for confidence needs to be rooted in reality in order to be healthy.
Would be interested to know if you have any thoughts.

The thing that kind of underlies your entire thinking is that sex and partnership is some sort of game you can “win” by playing the right cards. You can tell that in the way you consider yourself a “failure” because you haven’t had sex when the decision to have sex with someone is complex and very personal.

You showed me pictures of yourself and say you exercise as if there aren’t thousands of fat people who have random casual sex every day. You cite your sense of humor and your inability to say witty or playful things as if there aren't people who lack wit or humour that find people to have sex with.

It makes sense that your brain does this. It’s a lot simpler of a solution to believe that there is something inherently wrong with you that you can “fix” in order to solve this problem. It’s a lot more hopeful than facing the reality that sometimes things just don’t pan out and you truly have little to no control over the situation.

A lot of children in traumatic households end up with this thought process because it gives them hope as children. If we believe our parents will love us better if we don't spill our milk again, it's easier for us to face the reality of their abandonment than facing the reality that they aren't meeting our needs and we can't just walk away. Children need deep connection and when they don't get it, their brains have to find a way to make them believe they somehow can.

To top it off, if you came from a hyper religious background that has reinforced the idea that there is something inherently wrong with you (sin) that can be absolved by salvation through a saviour… you’re still looking for a saviour in a way and you may find that this thought process is still very well embedded in your psychological coping mechanisms.

Confidence is a fickle thing. A lot of people feel confident when they have nothing to back it up. A lot of people have constant imposter syndrome despite their clear talent. It seems like you’re almost wanting to use non-monogamy as a saviour for you in finding your confidence. But non-monogamy isn’t therapy. It isn’t a baptism of fire that you can put yourself through in order to become a better person. It’s just a way of doing relationships. And truthfully, non-monogamy statistically will lead you to more and more experiences of rejection that could very well impact your confidence simply because you may have more opportunities to go out and date.

My suggestion is for you to speak with a therapist about not only your confidence and where to find it but also to reconsider your entire thought processes behind this. I see a strong sense of your religious upbringing, even though you’ve recanted, underlying the way you perceive and are going about this. It will never be as simple as being confident or not confident in any given moment. Life isn't a process of going from not confident to confident. It has its ebbs and flows. We all lack confidence when trying something for the first time in many cases and such a thing is normal. Perhaps you are holding yourself up to some form of perfection, sinlessness, that you can’t attain.

Finding a sexual or romantic partner is never going to be a game you can win by moving the right pieces, by saying the right blessings, or looking the right way. While I won’t deny we have social standards of attractiveness which influence our ability to get people’s attention in certain environments, at the end of the day what people are attracted to can be very individual. I know I don’t speak for everyone but I have met genuinely kind and lovely people whom I have zero sexual attraction to and it’s not because they didn’t say something witty or exercise enough.

If you purely just want physical sexual experience, I’d consider doing as much self-education about sexual health as possible as well as seeking the services of a sex worker where you’re permitted to do so who could help build your actual physical experience and calm your nerves a little bit.

I used to have a big self-blocker in terms of internalised biphobia and working with a sex worker helped me unblock some of that. Sometimes experiences with a professional can take the pressure off the situation and many sex workers will likely have experience in providing emotional support and encouragement in a hands-on way that a therapist wouldn't be able to do ethically.

But, overall, try to change your framework in the way you look at this. Because just physical experience of sex I think wouldn't necessarily change your framework of how you view this. Even "success" would not do that.

It would do you very well to stop assuming that someone’s decision to have sex with you has to do with you completely when actually whether or not they are attracted to you is not only something you have little control over but it may even be something that doesn't actually have anything to do with you.

Attraction is complex, just as humans are. Seeing it as less of a game will relieve yourself of the responsibility to "control" whether or not people are attracted to you and you may find it easier to both be more confident and cope with rejection when it happens.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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