Dear Conflaters of "Feeling Sexy" with "Self-Confidence",

As America's waistlines expand further and further into previously uncharted, neigh, I dare say hitherto unimaginable territory, the Dove soaps and motivational speakers of the world keep reassuring us just how sexy we all are. It seems that we're all sexy; very sexy, whether our aging, bulbous bodies are actually sexually attractive or not.

I was drinking a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks this week when I overhead two women talking. They were talking about not feeling sexy. I could sympathize. They weren't.

"Men have it so easy!"

"I know! A man could be fat and bald and still walk around thinking he's the sexiest thing around!"

"It's totally unfair! Men never have self-esteem problems. They all think they're the best thing since sliced bread."

Giggle, giggle.

Giggle, giggle, giggle.

The women were wrong... but they were also wrong. On the other hand, however, they were kind of wrong. The fat bald man doesn't care about feeling sexy, and that's different from feeling sexy. Secondly, just because he isn't ashamed of his body doesn't mean he has self-confidence. He's probably horribly self-conscious about his low alcohol tolerance and bashful about his anime obsession. Thirdly, feeling sexy and having self-confidence are vastly different things.

The conflation seems to be widespread.

Four minutes on Twitter revealed countless individuals of every
 gender speaking from every possible motivation who are under the
impression that feeling sexy is somehow related to self-confidence.
Now maybe self-esteem does make you sexy, but if you're in the
self-esteem game for the sexiness, you don't have self-esteem.

Even many feminists, traditionally resistant to the sexualization of women, seem to think it's important for every woman to feel sexy. But "sexy" isn't part of the same positive emotional suite as "empowered," "independent," or "self-confident."

other people esteeming you is kind of not the same thing as esteeming yourself

Needing the people around you to find you desirable is the opposite of self-confidence. Note that the key component of self-confidence is "self." Unless the plan here is to stare into a mirror, masturbating furiously while lusting over your own body, feeling "sexy" means feeling like someone out there would like to have sex with you. It's a great feeling, admittedly, being desirable, but it's a feeling that requires actual or perceived affirmation from others. That's got nothing to do with self-esteem. In fact, it's kind of the opposite. Feeling sexy to get self-esteem (or the other way around) is like losing a few pounds to beat your anorexia.

We aren't all sexy. In fact, a lot of us are disgusting slobs. And that's OK. I mean, it'll place a tremendous financial strain on our healthcare system in the coming years, but we don't need to feel sexy to be emotionally complete. Dove doesn't love your daughter. They're trying to sell skin products. Learn a lesson from the fat bald man. When you stop giving a shit about being found sexually desirable by others; that's when you'll know you're on the road to having actual self-esteem.

And yes... as a secondary effect, more people will probably want to hump you when you stop caring if people want to hump you.

Sebastian Braff


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