My name is Logan Levkoff. I have been educating people about sexuality since the age of 15, when it was becoming quite clear that, although sexuality was a very important part of the human existence, not many people wanted to talk about it. I have never believed that it is a subject we should shy away from; rather, the more we speak about it openly, the healthier (emotionally and physically) we can be.
Self-love and self-care are important in feeling comfortable with sexuality, and they are also subjects we do talk about frequently today. I believe the reason is that we recognize it is nearly impossible to engage in a meaningful and healthy relationship (not just romantic – friendships, too!) without a good dose of confidence and care for yourself. Basically, what I’m saying is that a positive body image and self-esteem are essential to good sexual and relationship health. If we don’t feel good about who we are, we may be less likely to speak up for ourselves, less likely to have – or ask for – pleasure, and less likely to have equal, balanced relationships.
It can be hard to feel good about yourself, regardless of what challenges you may be facing. A lack of self-love is definitely not something that’s limited to people who have chronic medical conditions, but I understand that it can feel totally overwhelming to have a body that doesn’t always cooperate with you.
In general, lack of self-love has many sources. It may even begin with poor messaging growing up. For example, if you have never been told that confidence and a positive body image are central to healthy sexuality (and in turn, healthy relationships), you may not know how to advocate for yourself. You may choose not to use your voice. Poor self-love may also come from a lack of public representation. If you (or someone like you) isn’t “present” in mass media, it can be challenging to see your experiences and your body as normal – even though they are. There is no one way to “be,” and we do a huge disservice to people at large when diversity of all kinds is missing from what we see and/or consume.
"If we don't feel good about who we are, we are less likely to speak up for ourselves, less likely to have — or ask for — pleasure, and less likely to have equal, balanced relationships."
However, I would be remiss to ignore the idea that arthritis – and in particular rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – can uniquely impact self-love and your perception of self. If you feel like you are fighting your body, it isn’t a surprise that body image and self-esteem might be lacking or be a source of struggle and frustration.
But we only have one body, and we need to come up with strategies for navigating these complicated times. Think about what makes you feel good. When do you feel most beautiful? Most confident? Sexiest? We need to capitalize on those times and think about what those experiences have in common. Sure, feeling good may not be something we can access spontaneously, but we can think about context and environment. What could make you feel better about yourself? Is it music? It is a smell? It is a particular texture? A word? Can we commit to finding a few moments in each day to breathe and shift our focus from frustration to positivity?
Life isn’t perfect, but if we give ourselves the freedom to love the skin we have, we are far better off in almost all areas, and in my experience – sexuality is no exception.