I hear that word in my office all of the time. “Performance.” We’ve all heard it forever. At work, at school, while on sports teams, or even playing board games…the thought that we “must” perform (as if there is an ultimate or universal standard) applies. While judging performance may be useful in a work or school setting, what happens when you feel judged or judge yourself in the bedroom?
How do you know what good enough, great, or stellar looks like for yourself and/or your partner? What if you begin to doubt yourself or your competence as a sexual being? What if you think or have been told that you don’t perform well in the relationship…or in bed? In many instances, erectile dysfunction or trouble achieving orgasm (in men and women) can occur as a result of experiencing ongoing worry, stress, or anxiety over sexual performance.
Sometimes, despite having great communication with our current partner(s) around sexuality, old experiences creep in. Maybe you once heard something negative, or that a man or woman should perform sexually in a specific way, or that something didn’t look good or wasn’t “the right size.” Or…be willing to engage in sexual behavior that is inauthentic to who you are or what you believe is right for yourself.
Maybe the notion of being a good “performer” starts when we’re young. We look at the most popular or successful seeming people around us and copy his or her actions in hopes of replicating a desired result. The problem with thinking about sexual prowess or performance from a social learning perspective is that there are many examples of sexual standards for men and women that are either out of left field, or blatantly inaccurate, but…set a high bar for what we expect from ourselves. Learning to be authentic and have expectations be preferable and realistic is a constant, intentional process. With a little work, we can see ourselves as rock stars in our relationships (or in our own sexuality). Learning how to be authentic and honest with ourselves is key.