Esther Perel is a world-renowned sex and relationships expert and the best-selling author of Mating in Captivity. Her exclusive mbg class, The Essential Guide to Sparking Your Erotic Intelligence, will help you create the relationship you’ve always wanted and take your sex life to a whole new level.

Being attractive is not about getting a manicure, using moisturizer, or buying expensive clothing—just to name a few of the things that women are pressured to do in the pursuit of beauty. While personal grooming can be an important way to express yourself and feel good as you walk down the street, here are some other ways attractiveness can be cultivated in yourself and your partner:

1. Cultivate confidence.

The biggest turn-on is confidence: a kind of inner radiance. That doesn’t mean you have to be fearless: Confidence is the ability to acknowledge your fears. To cultivate confidence, surround yourself with people who believe in you. Prioritize nurturing yourself and spending time doing activities that you enjoy and that allow you to shine.

When you are critical of yourself, you are essentially saying to others, "Don’t like me."
 

Make a list of all your strengths. Whether it’s your sense of humor, the way you play banjo, your Scrabble mastery, your excellent hosting skills, or your ability to be an attentive listener—anything you do well can be a powerful attractor. Everyone in your world will benefit because the more you accept you, the more tolerant you are of others.

2. Be independent.

Many people describe the moment they met their partner this way: "Our eyes met across a room while he was entertaining a group of people with a story," or "She was expertly fixing the projector in a meeting." Your partner was in their element, they were separate from you, independent. This is when we are at our most attractive—whether that’s onstage, on a horse, or on a run.

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So cultivate qualities and skills in which you feel confident and self-sufficient. There is nothing more powerful and sexy than someone who is independent, who doesn’t need you to take care of them.

3. Take risks.

Couples who engage in thrill-seeking activities have more pleasurable experiences and more satisfaction in their relationship. This might mean skiing, rock-climbing, or bungee jumping—all experiences that include surprise or excitement. But what if you are terrified of heights or have an aversion to the elements? You don’t need to jump out of a plane to take risks.

Confidence is the ability to acknowledge your fears.
 

Sex can be a thrill too. Introducing play can open up fantasy and intensify desire in your relationship.

4. Learn how to be in your body.

Being comfortable in your body isn't about inching ever-closer to Barbie proportions. The Cubans—free from advertising for 60 years—know this all too well. They have developed an internal sense of what they call sabrosura—a kind of inner joy that is visible in their stride as they walk down the street and the way they move their hips.

They walk with this feeling regardless of the size of their backside. If you need a bit of a warm-up, dancing can be a great way to ease into fully inhabiting your body—to start feeling attractive. I believe we should all dance more.

5. Drop self-critique.

When you are critical of yourself, you are essentially saying to others: Don’t like me. It’s one of the biggest turn-offs for men when women are critical of themselves. Also, when someone gives you a compliment, take it. It’s difficult to experience pleasure with someone who distorts the meaning of it. So when someone says you look beautiful, don’t say, "You must not be wearing your glasses today." Accept the compliment—it makes the other person feel good when you receive what they are saying.