How often do you break the promises that you make to yourself? Most of the womxn in my sex coaching & couples’ counseling practice share they wish they prioritized themselves more. Self-described “people pleasers,” they know that constantly showing up for others pulls them away from their priorities or goals, stops them from feeling as positive about themselves as they could, and holds them back from finding freedom in pleasure in their lives and relationships.
Becoming more confident is a process—there’s no single right way to start feelin’ yourself more. Instead, it’s about taking tiny steps daily, a process called building your “self-efficacy.” According to the American Psychological Association, self-efficacy is “an individual’s belief in [their] capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments.”
There are many ways to build your self-efficacy and therefore, your confidence. Using checklists, when done well, is one way to do just that. I checked out Alexandra Franzen’s new book, The Checklist Book to understand more of how this is possible.
How Checklists Help You Feel Sexually Confident
In short, checklists help you create the ideal context for intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex. Here’s how.
Franzen has developed her own unique method for creating and using checklists. As she writes, “It’s not just ‘writing down a bunch of stuff I need to do.” The book walks you through her exact method—which is informed by her experiences practicing yoga, training in the arts, becoming a helicopter pilot, conversations with experts, and good old experimentation—for a variety of different checklists including daily, seasonal, loose ends, and more. Each of these has a role to play in helping you build up your sexual confidence.
In the foreword of the book, psychologist Sasha Heinz writes, “There’s a direct connection between your level of personal integrity (promises kept, boxes checked, intentions fulfilled) and your self-esteem, happiness, and well-being.” By building your self-esteem, checklists help you feel more confident—in the bedroom and out.
Checklists also help you reduce stress. “Making a checklist is like creating an extra storage tank for your brain,” Franzen writes. This, in turn, “creates a feeling of emotional relief […that] feels soothing, which can help reduce the levels of cortisol (a hormone associated with panic, threat, and stress) throughout your whole body.” Less cortisol means less stress and more openness to exploration, fun, and pleasure.
Furthermore, checklists reduce what’s known as “decision fatigue,” a mentally exhausted state that results from making lots of decisions. Being in a state of decision fatigue makes it harder to live in your integrity—think grocery shopping when you’re hungry! Just as living in your integrity is directly related to your confidence, so can living out of it reduce self-esteem, making it harder to get out of your head and enjoy the moment.
Lastly, checking items off of your list gives you a hit of dopamine, the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that gets you to repeat pleasurable activities. Usually, we talk about dopamine in a negative light—it’s the brain chemical thought to be activated in addiction. However, you can also get dopamine from nourishing experiences as well, whether that’s a yoga class, an orgasm, or, indeed, putting a checkmark next to an item on your list. In this case, it can be a benevolent, rather than vicious, cycle.