Allowing Yourself To Be Sexy
(Or Rewriting Your Book Of Limitations)

by Melissa Balmer

What makes people Sexy?
So What Turns You On?

I'll be honest, I don't have a complete handle on "How To Be Sexy" yet, but I've got a pretty darn good one. What makes people sexy has been a sort of hobby of mine since I was a teen-ager, when I wanted to be a model, and I danced and was obsessed with fashion.

In the past almost two years or so, (ever since my ex-husband and I separated, and I found myself single again for the first time in a decade) I've decided to dust off this hobby of mine and seriously study what being sexy is all about, just who's sexy and why, and how I can apply it to my own life. This article is the first in a series I plan to bring you on what I'm discovering.

One of the things I learned a long time ago about success in general is that successful people aren't the most beautiful, the most talented, or the most intelligent--successful people (in any area of life) are the ones who decide they're worth going for what they want, and don't stop until they've achieved their goal.

It's no different in regards to being sexy. Being successful at being sexy is a decision, a choice--regardless of your age, your size, your ethnic background, your educational background, or current economic situation. Regardless of media trends (and trend is the key word here) there is no one absolute standard for what is sexy either--who each of us finds sexy is a matter of personal taste. While there are some people a lot of us find quite sexy, no one person is going to be sexy to everyone, not even Pamela Lee or Cindy Crawford or Leonardo Di Caprio.

The important kind of "being sexy"--the one that can't be destroyed by a bad hair day (or haircut), a blemish, or not being at your ideal weight--is the kind you feel within yourself, because you like who you are, and you're happy to share it with others (most especially your lover). Being truly sexy means you accept yourself.

Easier said than done! Allowing yourself to be truly sexy from the inside out is no small feat--it's a lot of work, the most of which isn't cosmetic--it's reprogramming how you think and feel about yourself. Time and time again, year after year, I read of how people have had plastic surgery to fix some perceived flaw in their facial features only to see no change afterward--why? Because they haven't changed how they essentially feel about themselves, because the changes, though expensive and painful to go through, were only skin deep.

Yes, a great new hairstyle, loosing weight, getting into better shape, and buying stylish new clothes, will all make you feel better and sexier--but if you only make those changes on the outside, and don't combine it with a change in attitude about yourself on the inside, you'll quickly go back to your old ways. Think about it, haven't you set a goal to improve your appearance, or loose weight, for a high school reunion, or a special event? Chances are you reached your goal, and looked great, and got lots of compliments, but after the big "to do" wasn't there a bit of a let down when you went back to your same every day life? And didn't you slip back into your old habits rather quickly?

Another point I want you to think about is this--if you don't start with the inside, chances are you won't make the best decisions about how to really be "the best sexiest you" on the outside--you'll be easily swayed by the opinions and ideas of others regarding what makes the "sexiest you". You'll take the advice of whoever has the loudest good intentions. We've all made that mistake before haven't we? Only to get home from the mall and wonder, "what in the world was I thinking?"

Sure we all need help in this department from time to time, we all need advice. But here's the rub--only when we're secure with who we are, and who we'd really like to present to the world, can we listen objectively and find those to give us advice and guidance who really know what they're talking about, and really know how to help bring out our individual best.

I'm not advocating elaborate make-up and hair routines as a way to being sexy either, but I am advocating taking the time to look at yourself from a bunch of different angles, in a bunch of different ways, now and then, to make sure the "you" you've put together on the outside is the "you" that you are happy to be, and to present to the world.

Most of us don't do this. The "you" that most of us have put together on the outside is in reaction to our internal "Book Of Limitations". This is my term for all of those negative labels we either gave to ourselves, or others gave to us (parents, peers, teachers etc.) when we were young, that sadly, most of us still carry around. It often makes for a very strange jumble of rules and boundaries within which we believe we must conduct ourselves in order to be acceptable. For this article we're just going to be focusing on how these limitations affect our ability to feel and be sexy, but of course this "Book of Limitations" affects every aspect of our lives.

The reason we need to honestly look at and question these old negative labels is that most of them simply aren't true--or even if they held some truth at one time, they were probably only true in that moment. Think about it, what negative labels do you carry around in your head? Say them out loud, and write them down. Mine are things like lazy, irresponsible, head-in- the clouds, ugly, weird, not talented enough, negative. The list goes on and on. I'm sure yours does too.

Now that you've got them there in front of you, think back to when you first remember who labelled you that way. In my case many of the labels came from my parents, if not directly, then they were things I labelled myself as assumptions to the way they behaved towards me. When I really started to look at these labels carefully I realized they didn't hold up. The monster under the bed, or in back of my brain, wasn't real--it wasn't me.

In regards to coming of age, and my appearance, I picked up very mixed messages. I grew from being a skinny, little 90 lbs. 5'2" girl, to a 5'7" 120 lbs. girl with a woman's body. It seemed to happen overnight--somewhere between 8th and 9th grade. What I remember are a lot of leg cramps and my breasts growing so quickly the stretch marks on them were purple. It was a transformation I was not at all equipped for.

Suddenly I wasn't being mistaken for a boy anymore, and I was being mistaken for being much older than I was. Without realizing that she was doing it, my Mom labelled me the one with the great body, and my sister the one with the beautiful face. From my point of view it seemed the sort of attention my sister received for her appearance was the good kind, and mine was not--especially since the attention could be very overt--focused straight at my rather new C cups and newly round rear end.

I felt between a rock and a hard place. I wanted very much to be attractive, especially to the opposite sex, but I never felt pretty, or beautiful. Objectively I knew my standards I was judging myself against were higher than most, but that didn't help emotionally. My parents were strikingly good looking people, younger, cooler, and better dressed than anyone else's parents. Friends had crushes on them. From the age of 15 on my father was never ever considered anything but my boyfriend or my brother unless someone already knew he was my father--ever.

I don't want to infer that adolescence for me was sheer hell. I did have a lot of fun too. There was a lot about high school that I enjoyed. I had a lot of friends, and quite a number of crushes and beaus, but even though I could be a wicked flirt and learned the art of double entendres to drive the boys crazy, I had no sense of being sexy for myself from the inside. Growing up the message I got about being sexy was that it was about power, the power of being a desired object, not about personal expression and enjoyment. My parents might look hip and cool but talking openly and pro actively to their children about sex wasn't one of them. We got the message not to come home pregnant, but that was about it.

Now I'm taking the time to figure out what's authentically me--and funny thing, when I started joining dating websites and getting out and about again I found out that some men still react to me in a very overtly sexual manner. It was tough. I felt just as angry and embarrassed as I did in High School, but this time I realized that it's their problem not mine. This time I'm accepting and celebrating the body I was given (and have done a good job of keeping in shape), and learning that my sexiness comes from within and isn't something projected onto me because I fit a particular stereotype.

Now I'm accepting that I'm a work in progress and that not only do others often project an image onto me that isn't real, I've projected an image onto myself that isn't, and it's time to let go of it. I invite you to take the time to do the same. No matter how busy your life is, no matter how many bills you've got to pay, or responsibilities you've got to handle, set aside time to make sure you're on the path to allowing yourself to be who you want to be--mentally and physically.

For myself personally I'm accepting that it's okay for me to be as dress as sexy as I want when I'm in the mood for that, and no, there isn't that huge of a difference between me with make-up and me without after all. I still need to work on my sexuality from the inside and really accepting that it's about my own enjoyment too, and not just about giving. I don't need to always be in control either--scary but true!

So how about doing it yourself? How about taking the time to question those negative labels of your own--if you haven't done it yet, I hope you'll start to now. Baby steps are just fine, whatever you can handle. But I guarantee once you start to really look chances are those negative labels aren't even true. Recently a new email buddy reminded me of a quote that goes something like this "insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results".

Alas, we're all guilty of it though, aren't we? Being so use to our familiar old ways and our familiar old pains, and hoping that somehow, some way, a miracle will happen and Cinderella will loan us her fairy Godmother to come down and wave her magic wand and make things better...because well, taking charge ourselves is really scary and doing something different and new could possibly mean, gosh, all kinds of new pain could come into our lives!

Yes it could...but do you want to die living your life the way you are right now? Not to be morbid, but sometimes we need to shake ourselves up a bit and get a new grip. Chances are if you're reading this you'd like to have some things change in your love life. There's really no such thing as treading water in life--it may seem like things are staying the same as we follow our daily routine, but things are either growing or dying. We're either building muscles or letting them get a little slacker.

Same goes for being sexy. Last time we talked about the "Book Of Limitations" we've all got. I hope it got you thinking and questioning mental assumptions about yourself. Now it's time to start looking in the mirror. Spring is here, but before our hearts can really go out dancing it's time to check in and find out where we're really at on this subject already. As Phillip C. McGraw states in his huge bestseller "Life Strategies" you can't change what you don't acknowledge.

It's time to stop burying our heads in the sand when it comes to being sexy. It's time to start taking responsibility for it, and in order to do so; we need to take the time to realize just what turns us on as a starting point.

As with most things this is easier said than done. Chances are you may have chatted about "whom" you find sexy with your friends in college, or perhaps, you mull it over a bit every time People magazine comes out with their "Sexiest Man" issue. But when is the last time you really thought about what sort of things and experiences you actually find sexy, and sat down to figure out why? (we'll get to who we find sexy in the next chapter, don't worry)

It's all a matter of taste. What's yours? What sort of music gets you into the mood? What film has scenes that make your pulse race? How about places, or types of cuisine, or a particular style of decor? And which of your senses affects you the most? Are you the sort of person a particular piece of music, say an aria from Verde, puts into a sexy frame of mind? Are you the sort that gets turned on by shapely legs in elegant heels, or a man in a well cut Italian suit? What colours and fragrances thrill you? How about the written word? Can a particular poem or a particular story thrill you?

Society has particular "ideals" of sensuous, but they may not be yours. A luxurious bath by candlelight, a massage, and sexy lingerie put many of us in the mood, but this might not be you--you might find a walk along the beach, or dancing the night away at your favourite club to your favourite music is actually what makes you feel really tuned into yourself and sexy. What's important is that you take the time to really figure out what you like, in all categories--sight, sound, scent, touch, taste. Be really specific, and don't just stop at one or two things, write as much down as occurs to you, keep adding whenever you think of something new. It may be tough in the beginning, if it's difficult to figure out what makes you feel turned on, how about just writing down what sorts of things make you feel good? Baby steps are A-okay.

This is an exercise in allowing yourself to acknowledge and discover your taste. Why do the things you've written down put you in a great place? What do they make you feel? Free? Alive? Connected with your body in a way you usually aren't? Write it all down. Afraid someone's going to read it and laugh? Okay, that's possible--if you need to hide it. Make this list a safe place for you to know what you like. It's just for you, it's not for anyone else. But you will find the more tuned in with what you really like, what things and activities make you feel sexy, the easier it will be for you to share yourself with others, and to connect with those who have similar tastes.

Now it's time to give yourself a pat on the back for how many of those things you're already incorporating into your life. Okay, it may not be many of them, and it may not be nearly often enough, but this is the baby steps plan, and it always starts with gratitude for what you've already accomplished. The more you appreciate yourself and your accomplishments the more you're going to allow yourself to try new things and experiences you think you might like.

So you've got this list of things, you're okay with what you've already allowed yourself, but you'd like to allow more--now what? Take out your calendar and work some of them into your schedule. Don't bite off more than you can chew, you'll only overwhelm yourself and your budget. Be realistic. Small steps taken gradually are the way to go. Maybe you actually own some very nice pieces of lingerie, or some great sexy pieces of clothing that you've been saving for special occasions. Don't save them! Start wearing them just because you're worth it right here right now. If you don't think it's okay to be sexy just for yourself you're going to find it nearly impossible to be sexy for someone else. Being sexy is about being comfortable in your own skin, liking yourself, thinking you're worth the things you like and make you feel good.

Again this isn't about running out and spending a lot of money, it's about investing time, effort and interest in yourself. It's about appreciating what you have, including yourself, and taking great care with it. Do you really need new shoes to feel great, or do you just need to polish the ones you have? If you drive a lot, maybe it's something as simple as making sure the sort of music that makes you feel great is in your car and not in the CD or cassette rack by the stereo. Maybe a particular fragrance really does it for you--does it come as a soap? Couldn't you buy a few bars of it, cut it up, put it in cotton handkerchiefs or those old scarves you never wear, and put it in all your underwear drawers? Hey, why can't guys do this too? Women love it when guys smell great.

We all have that favourite outfit that we always get compliments on. What is it about that outfit that makes us feel and look great? Why can't all of our clothes make us feel and look that way? No, most of us can't afford to run out and buy a brand new wardrobe, but we can keep this in mind when we are ready to go buy something new. The next time you go shopping think of it as an investment in yourself and not just an outing to relieve stress, or to feel better about yourself by buying the latest hip thing. Set aside "x" amount of your clothing budget just for items that really make you feel sexy. Buy the very best, sexiest underwear you can afford--and feel comfortable in. This goes for men and women. So what if you can only afford one piece at a time? One piece a month adds up quickly and sooner than you know it you're wearing sexy seven days a week. So what if you have to hand wash some of it. Aren't you worth it? Nothing says I really like myself, and damn I'm sexy more than great underwear and lingerie--and remember, invest in the stuff you like, that flatters your figure that you feel good in.

In closing I want to talk briefly about food. Too many of us don't deal well with food. We live in a very feast or famine culture. Often we're dieting or binging. Food is necessary for our health and well-being. Take a good look at how you handle food. Do you eat well? Do you eat a balanced diet? This has been a huge challenge for me as I'm a social eater. I love to cook--for others, when I'm by myself I want only the easiest and quickest things possible. Trust me, I've tried to exist on a yoghurt diet when I'm by myself out of sheer laziness--but it didn't keep me healthy, or give me energy to do much! Gradually I've learned not to just buy enough for a couple of days to keep me running, but to start thinking instead about having a well stocked pantry--just for me.

Truly sexy people are healthy people, and healthy people have a balanced diet. They eat fruits and vegetables, they care about themselves enough to keep their larders stocked--which also makes others feel welcome in their home. It's wonderful to be able to offer a friend or a lover something wonderful to eat isn't it? Guys let me tell you, a man who can cook, even if it's just a few specialties is pretty damn sexy. A man who cares enough about his own well being and my well being to have yummy food in his fridge is even sexier. This last year or so I've had guys barbecue the perfect steak for me (and he picked it out at the grocery story and made the marinade), make me humus from scratch, and show me how to make the perfect roast chicken. I was quite impressed and they're very happy memories. You may not have time, or even like to cook much. That's okay. You can still buy all kinds of convenient foods at the grocery and speciality stores these days that tastes great, takes only minutes to make into a great meal, and are higher in nutritional value and lower on calories and fat than fast food.

So how about it?
What do you like?
What turns you on?
There's a world of possibilities,
it's just up to you to figure it out.


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