Have you ever found yourself lowering your voice when speaking about sex? Even when it was in the privacy of your own home, with your partner or a close friend?

Many of us have a tendency to do so. I used to as well. I noticed one day that the emotion that was lingering behind my behavior was no other than: shame!

Brené Brown, worldly renowned shame & vulnerability researcher, defines shame as: “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”. I realize today that sexual shame had been brewing in my heart for many, many years.

It is not uncommon for us women to experience sexual shame. The range of contradicting messages we receive in our early teenage years are only the beginning of this cycle.

From magazines to Hollywood movies, we are told that sex is an incredibly enjoyable experience. A pleasure which is easily obtainable, by simply engaging in that depicted sexual behavior.

Yet, at the same time, expressing our sexual identity (whether in the form of clothes, make up or openly discussing our sexual preferences), was usually frowned upon or questioned. Many of us remember that first look from our father, mother or trusted friend, when we wore a slightly more sensual outfit.

Of course, I know now that neither my parents or friends were actively trying to make me feel ashamed of myself. They were simply replicating a behavior that they had observed in their societal interactions. Yet, the disapproving looks, comments or behaviors begin to make a mark in how we relate to our sexual selves.

Further down the line, in our late teenage years, we believe that being sexually active is a must. Not engaging in this behavior, and not viewing it as enjoyable, automatically alienates you from your peers. A lingering feeling that you are flawed or unworthy begins to cripple inside of you.

The objectification and aggression we experience as women, regardless of age, is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. As the recent #metoo movement revealed, unwanted commentaries, touching, molestation and rape (or attempts of all the latter) are still commonplace in our society.

I battled with this sexual shame well into my mid twenties. I could not figure out how my sexual self looked like: whether she actually enjoyed a tight skirt or she was simply tagging along to cultural norms. Whether she was having “good enough” sex, or there was better, more enjoyable sex available. Whether self-pleasuring was natural, playful and healthy or an act to hide from others.

My way of moving through these feelings was with immense curiosity and compassion. Both have been my antidote to sexual shame.

At the core, I view curiosity as the emotion that helps us expand our understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live in (i.e. curiosity to live abroad, to try new foods, to learn a new language, to meet new people).

As children, we have an innate curiosity about life that we surely lose as we move into adulthood. The beauty of curiosity is that it continuously informs our next step forward. Once we’ve experienced that situation or behavior, we can consciously choose whether to repeat it or not.

Compassion is the voice of your best friend, who whispers “you are enough” at every turn.

As you move through your sexual shame, whether it surfaces when expressing your sexual needs to your partner, talking to your friend about self-pleasuring, or wearing a piece of clothing that makes you feel good in your own skin, remember to always connect to both.

When all is said and done, moving into uncharted waters will only inform our paths, and no matter the outcome, we are ALWAYS enough as we already are.

Originally published at medium.com