Do You Feel Sexy on the Inside?

The emphasis on physical perfection outside has harmful effects on the inside.

Posted Mar 23, 2015

I smiled as I sat with Barry, a slim attractive client who was beginning a new relationship and felt self-conscious about his body.  Many men his age would love to look like he does, but he just isn’t at the place where he wants to be.

He ran through his list of imperfections in an embarrassed tone, and topped it off with, “I haven’t been to the gym in months, and I have gained about four pounds.”  Okay, it’s undeniable, not exercising and eating less carefully can result in a weight gain.  Most people feel self-conscious when this happens.  But this client’s harshness about his supposed flaws was very pronounced; his self-loathing was palpable.

My next question arose spontaneously: “Do you feel sexy on the inside?” 

He looked at me as if I had three heads, and assured me that he did not “feel sexy on the inside,” not at all. Right then, I realized that this question was not something he was not used to thinking about. What you look like is what you feel like, right? The world deems you attractive, you feel attractive, and that’s it. Anointed – or not.

Despite Barry’s response, I decided to try out the "sexy on the inside" concept with my gay men’s group later that day.  While discussing dating and sex, I spoke about this having come up in a session. They were all amused and understood my point. However, when I asked them about moments in which they felt sexy on the inside, their responses were no more positive than that of my client. They recited their shortcomings, the things that made them feel self-conscious, rather than the attributes that made them feel proud and secure.  This surprised me given the discussion we had just had!

Do most gay men buy into cultural norms of perfection? Does everyone?

Perhaps I am idealistic, but I think it benefits all of us if we don’t passively accept advertising’s images as the measure of attractiveness. I, for one, rebel against the status quo.  It’s good for my health, good for the soul. And on some level we know that the feeling of confidence and certainty is a feeling that shines. Ah, sexy from the inside out rather than the other way around. A whole industry is built on my buying in to the outside-in formula, but mine is more effective and enduring, and it’s free – sexy from the inside out!

What if rather than focusing on the aspects of yourself that don’t compare favorably with the standard faces smiling out from glossy magazines, you begin to consciously pay attention what you know are strengths – specific physical or intellectual or personality attributes. Perhaps you have been told you have a great sense of humor or a great way of describing things, have beautiful eyes, a strong jaw or wonderful skin; perhaps you play piano, speak three languages or cook a mean pasta sauce.

If you struggle with what makes you sexy, remember what others have noticed about you. Throughout your life, others have mentioned all sorts of qualities. Ask friends to describe your positive characteristics. Ask them to repeat them until they sink in! Allow yourself an appreciative moment to take stock of what has been said. See it is a matter of respect to absorb their perspective.

Feeling sexy on the inside isn’t about pleasing other people.  It is about building confidence within and establishing a positive self-reference point for yourself.  Not only will you feel good about your attributes and project them outwardly, your confidence will be apparent. Feeling sexy on the inside can mean appearing sexy on the outside.

Try this:

Close your eyes and enjoy the feeling of knowing that you possess a certain charisma or quality that is noticeable or enjoyed by others.  Allow yourself to take delight in this.  Allow yourself to feel content about who you are and what you feel good about in yourself. Allow yourself to experience this as a sensation inside of your body. Focus on your strengths instead of comparing yourself to others from a position of weakness. 

Allow yourself to imagine what you bring to others, a certain kind of desirability that stems from both certain external qualities in alignment with the more important internal ones -- your personality and your heart. 

How do you experience pride as you practice this?  Focus on this experience, and explore the feeling of being sexy on the inside. Imagine it glows from within.