Sex: don't invite performance anxiety to bed
Sexologist Myriam Daguzan Bernier popularizes certain sexual questions with “La tête dans le cul”.
We hear a lot about performance anxiety at work or school, but did you know that it can be experienced under the duvet?
Stress or anxiety performance?
First, there is stress and many of us already know very well what it is. In short, it is a state that arises when one encounters an obstacle, a threat, a difficulty. It can be real or imagined. For example, one can feel stress before a (real) medical examination, but also because one takes the plane and imagines that the machine will inevitably collapse on the ground (imagined). In either case, the body reacts: tense muscles, sweating, shortness of breath, etc. These are normal reactions to protect yourself.
Performance anxiety is when you go beyond normal stress and enter into apprehension, fear, and this, in an excessive way, as explained by psychologist Mélanie Thibault. This can lead the person to feel incompetent, to belittle themselves, to be afraid to act and express themselves, etc. Unsurprisingly, we can see significant impacts on sexuality, which requires a certain amount of letting go. Which rarely goes hand in hand with anxiety. Your sex life may feel the effects.
To have performance anxiety is to be afraid of failure. We therefore become hyper-critical of everything we do. Is my body enough of this or too much of that? Does my partner really like what I do? Should I do more this or more that? Will I make him cum? What if I don't succeed? In short, we lose contact with the body and we are only in our head wondering where the crucial error will come from which will confirm to us that we are not up to it. We can also speak of self-sabotage; without wanting to, we do everything to miss our target, for fear… of missing our target.
Since we are in our head analyzing everything, it is not easy to stop to discuss what we like or what we love less. Sexual relations can then be marked by anxiety and moments during which one is not listening, neither to oneself nor to the other (or others). Result? Not enough communication, so everyone stays in their bubble wondering what the other thinks/wants.
Inevitably, this also leads to a lack of naturalness. It's not easy to be spontaneous if you spend your time doubting your sexual skills. Same thing if you are too much in your head trying to find the best way to be an unforgettable lover. There is a strong risk of missing out on the pleasure and leaving it disappointed.
Get to let go
Sometimes, the anxiety is so great that we can even come to think: “Coudonce, is it me who just doesn’t like sex?” While some people may discover themselves to be less “sexual” than they thought (e.g. a demisexual person who realizes that they need a strong affective/romantic bond to want sexuality), the fact remains that sex is not necessarily the problem. It is rather the fact of putting oneself in “performance” mode that is detrimental to pleasure. Do you want to let go if you feel that your sexuality is going through a school exam? Probably not.
A few tips to reduce performance anxiety:
- Understand why this creates so much stress for you: lack of self-confidence? Discomfort with partner? Body image issues? Identifying where the anxiety comes from will greatly help to install strategies to get out of it or, at least, reduce it;
- Communicate ! It is said that we feel stress and worry. Opening this conversation can't be worse than going through a sexual relationship under the stress and anxiety of not being competent.e;
- Do yoga and/or meditation to learn how to come back into your body and let thoughts emerge, without dwelling on them too much;
- Take the time to do breathing exercises in order to regain some calm and be able to concentrate on physical sensations and pleasure.
And, a little reminder: no one is perfect! Being vulnerable can lead to beautiful exchanges and, above all, a more real and felt connection with the other (or others).