Intimacy Is Not Always Sexual – Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Often still, sex is mistaken for intimacy. Sex is merely one form of intimacy and getting physically close to someone does not mean intimacy at all levels.


What is Intimacy?

While sex falls under physical intimacy, you can have sex without being emotionally intimate and be emotionally intimate without being sexual. What, then, is intimacy? Intimacy is a feeling of closeness between people in any kind of relationship. It is found with romantic interests, but also with friends and family members.

What may feel intimate to you, however, may not feel intimate to someone else and vice-versa. While intimacy may look different to different people, it generally is built over time and can take, at varying degrees, one or several of the following forms: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, experiential [1].

Intimacy in relationships is important, as not only it combats loneliness and makes us feel understood, but it can also have a positive impact on your health. Hugs for example are responsible for the release of oxytocin, hormone linked to the reducing of stress and better sleep. Strong social ties may even be the secret to longevity.

What Has Self-esteem Got to Do with Intimacy?

Self-esteem has been defined as the “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities” and “encompasses beliefs about oneself (for example, “I am loved”, “I am worthy”) as well as emotional states, such as triumph, despair, pride, and shame” [2].

To form healthy relationships, platonic or not, you must know your worth. Indeed, getting close to someone requires vulnerability, and only when you feel comfortable can you let yourself safely feel the full spectrum of emotions, be authentic, and stay true to yourself. Having a good self-esteem will help you set boundaries, ultimately make better choices for yourself, and help you maintain more genuine relationships – whether it be with friends, lovers, or family members.

How to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Following are some recommendations on how you can improve your self-esteem. Different things work for different people. If none of those suggestions resonate with you, a few more resources will be linked at the end of the article. 

Take Care of Your Body

Nourish yourself. Stay Hydrated. Move your body. Sleep enough. Living in a way that supports your body functions will automatically have a positive impact on how you feel about yourself. So, treat your body well, have nourishing meals, drink your water, and try to prioritize sleep. Find a way in which you like to move your body too. It can be practicing any kind of sport, but also going on walks, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and dancing in your living-room.

Take Care of Your Mind

Just like caring of your body, taking care of your mind is important as the two go hand in hand. Be nice to yourself, do not compare. Treat yourself like a friend. If you make mistakes, or have failures, acknowledge them and observe what you have learned, but do not beat yourself down. Know you are enough, set your boundaries. Consider therapy if you could benefit from it.

Challenge Yourself

Do new things, things you would never have thought you would do, because they looked too hard or because it simply never came to mind. It may look like running a race, joining a kickboxing studio, or cooking an intricate recipe, finishing a challenging book, or simply dare to say “yes” more, or “no” more! Step out of your comfort zone, so you can hear yourself say “I did it”. The more achievements you will celebrate, the more you will believe in yourself.

Detach Yourself from The Outcome

This next point may sound contradictory at first but bear with me. What I mean is: Try and do things because you want to, not because you are good at them. This is why being nice to yourself is so important. It helps in detaching yourself from external factors, as well as centering experiences on what you can learn and receive from them. You might not achieve everything you will set your mind to – but you will be able to focus on the positive to keep on trying.

Not Only Take but Spend Time with Yourself

If you can manage to take time for yourself, whether it be working out, baking, taking baths, or reading books you are doing great already. But why not take it a notch further by doing things alone you would otherwise do alone? It could be something like going to a nice restaurant, going to the cinema, reading at a café, signing up for a workshop or maybe going on a solo trip. The idea of experiencing something alone may make that experience seem more intimidating, but it is a great way to get to know yourself, what you like to do, and how you react to different environments, and the situations you run into. By doing more things on your own, you can build a sense of self-reliance, and chances are, the more you will have experienced on your own, the more confident you will get.

Remove Yourself from Hurtful Situations, If You Can

Sometimes self-esteem also means, when circumstances allow it, removing yourself from situations that hurt you – whether it be a simple altercation, a place, any kind of relationship, or even a job.

Essentially, intimacy is crucial to anyone who wants to experience genuine connections, and it does not have to involve sex. Sex is only one form of intimacy and does not guarantee emotional nor any other form of intimacy. Because intimacy brings vulnerability, a good self-esteem is crucial to maintain a good relationship with yourself, and others. Getting to know and taking care of yourself, as well as taking a step back from external expectations are ways to increase your sense of self-worth.


[1] Johnson, Maisha. „How to Understand and Build Intimacy in Every Relationship“. Healthline, 16. April 2019,

[2] Hewitt, John P. (2009). Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press. pp. 217–224. ISBN 978-0195187243.


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