The Imperfect Sub: Confronting Feelings of Imperfection and Insecurity in Kink

Anna R.
April 17, 2024

So I recently partially sponsored International Miss Leather & Bootblack (IMsLBB), and honestly, it brought up some of the most sadistic feelings I wasn’t planning to experience. Unfortunately for me, they weren’t the hot kind of sadistic feelings, but rather my own disgustingly internalized feelings of imposter syndrome, combined with perfectionism, and some intimacy wounds. Candidly, I didn’t think I had any right to sponsor this event. Like, who am I? What have I done? Why do I deserve visibility? And trust me, I know part of this stems from my mommy issues, and once again, not the hot kind.

Embarrassingly enough, I feel like a giant fucking fraud in every avenue of my life. My career, my relationships, my writing, and subsequently my kink life. Feeling both deeply inadequate in the ways that matter, and too exaggerated in the areas that are seen as “bad”. More days than not, I find myself wondering what right I have to speak on something. What gives me the fucking right to create a website and write my thoughts? What gives me the authority to put this into the world? What do I know? Who am I? With a lot of those thoughts comes, what I am learning to see, some minimization of my work, skill, and own competency level. There is a part of me that also expects myself to be absolutely perfect before showing up to anything I do. And with that comes execution at the highest level. I can’t just be good at something, I have to be amazing at it, exceptional even. Toxically, for me, the only way I have found acceptance of myself is through exceptionalism. Something I’m working to get out of.

For me, kink has always been a part of my life, an emotionally significant part, but not the entirety of my life. With COVID, I took a major step back from playing with others outside of my immediate relationships. I don’t think that experience is particularly unique to me, but it’s something I feel some embarrassment about, and perhaps some feelings of inadequacy. I can often fluctuate between worrying deeply about what others will think of me and not caring. I fear that others in the scene will see me as a fraud. Initially, I had this huge fear that people wouldn’t understand why a website I ran was sponsoring an event, or perhaps worse, that I had no right to do so as someone who has stepped away from the scene in recent years. And if I’m being fully honest, there’s a lot of fear of being rejected or seen as a lesser sub because of my bratty attitude. I guess you could say it’s one (of many) intimacy wounds I’m working on.

Photo: Brittany Sowacke

I have always had some level of insecurity around my bratting, but never anything I would say is beyond the standard nervousness, mostly manageable and quickly fleeting. But in the last two years, it’s become much worse, only to be exacerbated by a bad breakup. I don’t think I truly realized the full impact that relationship had on me until this past weekend (the weekend of IMsLBB for those reading this in the future). I was so mad at myself, and still am, for letting someone have that power over me. I’m not mad that I gave them power in the bedroom and they completely disregarded it; I’m mad that I let them have power over my own identity. I’m mad that I allowed their own insecurities to project onto me and the forms of play I find healing. I’m mad that they still get to navigate play spaces without this nagging weight and new level of insecurity. But mostly I’m mad that I gave them the power to dictate so much of my own perception of myself.

There was a point in that relationship and directly after it where I hit this level of shame with my own pleasures and desires. There were moments when that dynamic started to make me feel like a bad sub because of my joy for bratting and my refusal to give instant submission. But the reality is, my submission requires that my partner be really good at communicating, negotiating, and the right amount of creativity. As I parted from that relationship, I was left with some particularly harsh words. Words that have brought a new fear of rejection and intimacy to the surface. Another fun little complex! I have had a difficult time trusting people when they say they love brats because unfortunately, I’ve been made to feel by some people that that part of my identity is loved in theory but not in practice.

Those moments remind me of the true extent of power dynamics. Like, hello, obviously, the point of BDSM is to play with power dynamics. But sometimes I think it’s possible to downplay the magnitude in which those power dynamics can impact things outside of scenes. Dynamics don’t exist in a vacuum; there’s a responsibility that comes with them, from both sides. It may seem obvious, but I think it bears repeating.

As uncomfortable as I am being back in kink spaces, I know that the only way to get over that discomfort is by running directly into it. To force myself to keep showing up, to keep having conversations, and to keep working on my own issues. While I am still hurt by what happened in that relationship, to some extent I’m thankful for it forcing me to look closer at this part of my life. In that examination, some other things have come up, mostly around how I present online and in play spaces.

I sometimes feel like I don’t always fit in because my kink isn’t what’s trending right now. And yeah, I do think certain forms of play trend. And sometimes, in certain spaces, it can feel like if you aren’t engaging in that, then you're somehow less kinky, or at least that’s how I feel sometimes. Well, at least that’s how the irrational side of my brain feels. The rational side of my brain knows that no one thinks that way of me, and if they do, they're losers. Anyone who intentionally tries to make someone feel lesser in any sort of way is generally deeply insecure, at least in my opinion.

Photo: Matt Blum

In more recent months, to try to combat some of my own imposter syndrome and insecurity, I’ve taken to gaslighting myself, and by gaslighting, I mean reframing. Listen, I never said I was perfect; it’s just how I cope, but don’t worry, I go to therapy too. At any rate, how egotistical is it of me to assume anyone actually is taking time out of their day to think about my experience level, competency, or ability to perform? At least that’s what I keep telling myself, and it kinda sorta works.  In the words of Jemima Kirke, “I think you guys might be thinking about yourself too much.” The fact that I’m spending so much time thinking about how other people think of me based on one person deeply disregarding my trust is absolutely absurd, and quite frankly, a waste of my time. 

While obviously, I’m enjoying playing, I’m also working on being slightly nicer to myself. Only slightly, because I’m not a soft little bitch. I’m happy to have the time to reflect and the ability to be mindful of what situations I go into. I’m also saving most of my edge play for the confines of the medspa, focusing instead on exploring new PCA peels and types of injections, because honestly, that’s the extent of my med fetish. Sorry, babe, the only needles going into me are filled with Botox and Restylane. Now maybe if one of these freaks could give injections… then I’ll bite. But until then I’m just exploring being a regular hot bitch. 

As always, take what resonates, and leave what doesn’t.