I’ve never been a particularly “vain” person but find myself considering this concept a lot. Sometimes, my patients arrive to the office to discuss marriage or libido and, going deeper, unveil a state of self-doubt, shame and even self-loathing.  By the time they reach their visit they often find themselves unattractive even to themself. So what makes a person sexy?

While not an expert on “attractiveness”, I have seen a lot of beautiful people appear totally unattractive and, conversely, some of the sexiest people I know are minimalists when it comes to hair, makeup, fashion, jewelry and all the external adornments that society would have us believe are required. And, as an expert in sexual health, physical attraction between partners is an essential element for great sex. While fantasy is common, encouraged and totally permissible, it’s always best to find your partner mind-blowingly attractive and to know that he feels the same about you. It’s not the only ingredient to a contented sex life but it sure helps!

So, to sit with this question is to seek understanding about what we are trying to achieve with our “sexiness” and whom we are trying to please. It truly doesn’t matter what your weight, your hair color (or lack thereof), the wrinkles you have worked hard to achieve or even the size of your breasts. If you don’t like your butt, work on it, but don’t let it derail your happiness while you cut calories, reduce sugar, hydrate more and increase workouts. By all means, get and stay healthy but in the interim, accept that who you are runs deeper than your double chin.

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Physical attraction is about how people feel when they are with you. It’s about energy and enthusiasm and excitement. Sexy literally means, “arousing desire” and it’s all about bringing out the best in other people by deeply connecting with them, creating a sensation inside another person that inspires them to walk away feeling lighter, refreshed and encouraged by your interaction; inciting a desire to be with you again and again. This doesn’t happen when we nag, ridicule, shame or otherwise discredit our partner. It means allowing the other person to see into your soul, not hiding behind embellishments that cover up your true essence. Some women feel completely at home in large, flashy pieces of jewelry, eyelash extensions and stilettos but it isn’t the item that creates the sex appeal, it’s the fact that they feel naturally gilded by those things and live and interact from a place of knowing themselves, believing in themselves and radiating self-confidence. Females of all species who primp and groom, usually feel better about what they display to the world, creating a sense of wellbeing that is apparent, but it’s in HOW they present themselves that draws real attention. Imagine Marilyn Munroe sitting hunched over in a corner at JFKs birthday? Or Cher deciding that sixty is too old for a black leotard? Like it or not, unapologetic women are sexy.

And we need to put one myth to rest immediately. Sexy isn’t about being young so the entire “anti-aging” movement that pushes botox injections, fillers and boob jobs is off target and not sustainable, unless this aesthetic-gymnastics is an honest desire to be a better person inside and out. Does it make us happy to remove fat from our hips and put it into our lips? If a person really needs these services to be genuinely passionate about life, then go for it! Some do, and I support any action that deepens self-love. But avoid a body-altering decision intended to please anyone outside of you. I find it sad that we are raising a generation of young women who feel damaged by their freckles, birth marks, breast size and laugh lines. When we bombard teens with an impossible benchmark for beauty, we induce them to feel broken even before they finish College. It is the societal norm that is marred, not our innocent and impressionable offspring.

Sometimes feeling sexy and radiating positive energy means letting go of toxicity, quitting a job that is life-sucking, ending a tumultuous relationship or reminding your family that you make your own decisions. Being gorgeous and ageless means letting go of what others think and dancing to your own drum, sometimes literally if dancing makes you feel sexy.

Empowered women are sexy. Fulfilled women are sexy. Independent and insightful women are sexy. Authentic women are sexy. Women who know themselves, believe in themselves and parade their unique imperfections into the world spreading love and kindness are sexy. Go ahead, show us YOUR sexy!