'I look in the mirror and see my mother – it terrifies me'

Em Clarkson is here to solve all your problems.

Well, sort of.

As Metro’s agony aunt the influencer, author and content creator (busy much?) is primed and ready to be a sympathetic ear, an oracle of wisdom or, quite simply, a stand-in for that girl in the nightclub bathroom you share your thoughts and dreams with while waiting in line.

While she stresses she’s no alternative for therapy, Em is keen to talk through any quandary.

This week, she’s helping Metro readers navigate identity and family, tough conversations in the matters of sex with a partner, and how on earth one navigates imposter syndrome and anxiety.

Read on for this week’s musings…

I keep seeing my mum’s features when I look at myself in the mirror and I really struggle with it…

I don’t want to put words into your mouth or presume too much about your relationship with your mother, but generally speaking, I believe this is one of the toughest things for a woman to deal with for the simple reason that we have, by and large, spent our entire lives watching our mothers hate the way that they look. To then watch ourselves turn into them, is to feel that we have become something that must be hated too.

Diet culture has never had a tighter grip on a generation than it did our mums; the ones told they had to eat bowl after bowl of cabbage soup, the ones instructed What Not To Wear, the ones not allowed to ‘pinch an inch’.

This is generational trauma that has seeped down through generations and been exacerbated most recently by the diet and beauty industries and their relentless endeavours to have all women fearing two things: getting fat, and getting old.

So it’s not surprising therefore that you fear turning into a person who’s spent their whole lives telling themselves, and inadvertently, everyone else, that what they are is bad.

Ask Em – your questions answered

‘My boyfriend subscribed to Only Fans – how can I move past it?’

‘I’m 34 and I’ve lost all interest in sex…’

‘I’m scared my thinning boyfriend will give me the ick if he goes bald…’

‘Do I tell my new partner I’m a 30-year-old virgin?’

‘My fiancé is not attracted to me – how do I get past this?’

‘Do we settle down or go travelling?’

Practically I think the first thing to do is accept that the lens that you see your mother through is hers, and it’s not flattering. But that is not who she is, or how she really looks. And it’s also not who you are, or how you really look. You are the most extradentary creation, a miracle who has overcome every implausibility to be exactly who you are.

Those features are yours. Those features are you. And they are perfect.

I enjoy clit stimulation more than penis internal stimulation – how do I create this conversation with my partner?

That fact absolutely puts you in the majority. Did you know that as many as 90% of women are thought not to be able to reach orgasm through penetration alone? That’s a very good launching pad for this conversation. Porn has given us an entirely unrealistic portrayal of what sex looks like. Two hearty pumps from her fella and our busty blonde is left QUIVERING.

In reality that is not the case for a lot of women (or men really) and puts exhausting expectations on both parties to perform in one very specific way. We interviewed The Sex Doctor for our podcast (Should I Delete That?) and I’d defo recommend listening to that, as well as buying her book Mind The Gap, but something we talked about was how to have these conversations.

Rather than coming at it from the side of what you don’t enjoy, perhaps tell them what you do enjoy, and ask for more of that. Bringing a sex toy into the situation could defo help (if this is new to your relationship you might need to reassure your partner this isn’t about replacing him, it’s about complimenting him and making it more enjoyable for both of you).

Ultimately the person you love will want you to enjoy the sex that you’re having, and I think starting an honest conversation about that will be is a great start. From there you can get to work experimenting together, which I can’t imagine will be a hardship.

Dealing with imposter syndrome and help with networking when you have anxiety?

There’s a statistic that shows that when applying for a job, a man will apply for it despite being only 60% qualified, whereas a woman won’t unless she’s 90% qualified. I think about this a lot when I’m anxious at networking events. And let me tell you, I have BEEN anxious at networking events.

I have hidden in more event space bathrooms than I care to mention, feigned more phone calls and loitered on more than enough pavements. I don’t care much for the advice that you should imagine everyone naked (the blush would reach my hairline) but I DO think it’s important to humanise everyone there.

Confidence is a trick and I believe we are all just pulling it off to varying levels of success. I’m actually going to an event this afternoon and have been reminding myself of the following things all morning: no one thinks about me as much as I think about me, I deserve to be there, how other people respond to me is not my responsibility, not knowing anyone isn’t embarrassing, if that statistic is anything to go by, most the women in that room are feeling as anxious as I am, so what can I do to ease someone else’s suffering?

And if none of that works, I think ‘what would Alex do?’ Alex is my husband, and his workplace confidence is the one thing I would gift to all women everywhere if I could. Alex quite simply wouldn’t worry, so I try not to, either.

Want to ask Em Clarkson a question?

With nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram and a reputation as one of the more honest influencers out there, Em is often asked for advice in her DMs. Now, she wants to do the same in Metro, as our newest columnist.

No topic is off limits. So if you’ve a question for her agony aunt series, email [email protected].

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