As a body and sex-positive advocate, I often encounter people who assume I was born this confident and comfortable with my body. On the contrary; my journey to embracing myself as a sexual being was one fraught with societal shame, body-bashing and bad advice.

I tell you this because I truly believe that if I can get to this point of acceptance, so can anyone. The key is to focus on the things that give you permission to love yourself, not the things that tear you down.

While everyone’s life path is different, I thought I’d share the seven events that most positively influenced me on my path to embracing my sexuality. I hope you find some inspiration in them as well.

Ballet and Yoga

While it really sucked to be constantly fat-shamed in ballet class as a kid, the experience taught me to hold my head high, literally and psychologically. I may not be the most graceful person, but I did learn a lot about poise, posture and perseverance at an early age, three important components of walking through life with confidence.

Now, through my (almost) daily yoga and meditation practice, I am continually learning about how my body moves, stretching out the kinks from stress, and grounding myself in who I am and what I am about.

Plus, I can put my feet behind my neck and do the splits.

Courtney Trouble’s "Live Sex Show"

Feminist and queer porn has given me the opportunity to see people who look, act and love like I do, and I’ve written many essays espousing the benefits this erotic art form has had for my self esteem. However, nothing has impacted me nearly as much as being in the audience for Courtney Trouble’s "Live Sex Show."

Seeing porn stars that I admire being goofy and nervous before, during and after scenes made me feel so much more confident about my own dorky ways. Learning that there are no smooth transitions during sex, even between professionals, also helped me relax and let go of my performance anxiety.

"Sexual Intelligence" by Dr. Marty Klein

In his introduction, Dr. Klein asks his readers the question he first asks all of his therapy patients: What are you trying to fix through sex? For me, that list was a long one, consisting of things like my self-esteem, my relationship and my career. By answering that question honestly and openly, I was able to let go of baggage I brought into the bedroom and enjoy sex for what it is.
Lovehoney.com The Sexual Happiness People

Fat Bloggers

Seeing "fat" as an adjective, not an insult, was a substantial step on the path to loving myself, and the amazing body-positive bloggers on the Internet have helped me with that, most especially Jenn Leyva, Kyla the Great, Margitte, Jervae, Marianne Kirby, Lesley Kinzel, The Fat Nutritionist, and everyone in the Health at Every Size movement. (Get more body-positive tips in Worried About Weight? How to Have Spectacular Sex Anyway.)

Red Lipstick

It’s amazing what throwing on some red lipstick, or maybe my favorite pair of underwear (bought during a shopping trip with my partner), can do for my psyche when I’m feeling unsexy.

Finding and embracing my style as a femme has played a significant role in my confidence and comfort within my body. Growing up, it was hard to find clothing that worked for my size, but now with stores like Forever 21, Asos, Modcloth and Cacique for lingerie, and with plus-size fashion bloggers giving me fashion tips fit for my body, I’m able to feel stylish and comfortable, both of which are important for me to feel sexy.

Cheryl Strayed, Steve Almond & Lidia Yuknavitch

Every October, Wordstock is held in Portland, Oregon, and it features some of the best authors in the country. In 2010, I attended a panel about sex writing featuring authors Cheryl Strayed, Steve Almond and Lidia Yuknavitch. Seeing these successful and talented authors speak of the profound power of sex writing gave me the professional and personal permission to continue down this path as an author myself.

Most especially, Steve Almond’s reading of his "How to Write Sex Scenes: A 12-Step Program" gave me a basis to which I return for advice when feeling stuck as a writer.

Alex

For the first time ever, I’m in a relationship where neither of us is trying to significantly change the other. Letting go of trying to "fix" myself or my partner has enabled me to feel sexy, comfortable, grounded and loved in all of my relationships, not just my romantic one.

Knowing that Alex loves my body, mind and soul helps me love myself as well, and on the bad days, she’s there to remind me of who I am: a confident, sexy, sensual being who has come a long way on the path to self-acceptance.

So now that you know seven things that changed my sexual self for the better, what are some of the things that helped you feel better about your sexuality? Share them in the comments. I’d love to learn and grow from your resources as well.