Last weekend, my girlfriends threw me one heck of a steamy bachelorette party! Let’s just say that I was wearing a costume cat tail, and a pole and a whip were involved.They called it a “pamper and pole party” and I was like a kid in a candy shop…or more accurately, a voyeur in a sex-toy shop. Only in my wildest fantasies am I a provocative pole dancer. Only in my dreams do I own my full sexual self.In my mind, I imagine a much cooler, ideal version of me that is a free spirit, a bohemian goddess with extreme sexual prowess. She is game for anything. “Orgies, sure. Whips and chains? Bring ’em. Run naked through sunflower fields? Definitely.”The actual me? Not so much.The fact is, most of us have an “ideal self,” which is the embodiment of our aspirations and fantasies. Your ideal self represents who you want to be and what you want to accomplish. The trick is finding the right key to unlock those parts of yourself and set them free.At my bachelorette party, I watched the profound effect of opening up your real life to embrace aspects of your ideal life, and how easily you can make your fantasy—sexual or otherwise—your reality.Opening UpI’ve been a bit afraid and ashamed to explore my sexuality fully. While I consider myself a fairly sexual person—I own a Jack Rabbit and have slept with a woman—there are still levels of kink that I’ve only imagined. Lately, though, I’ve been dying for a little more kink in my life. I bought a leather bustier. I asked a friend about buying whips and chains. And when I heard about BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism) parties, I talked to my fiancé about attending one with me. Yet, I still haven’t dared to actualize my fantasies.Until last weekend. On Saturday night, my actual self became much closer to my ideal self. I played with a whip. I danced around that pole like I owned it. I let myself be totally, completely, 100 percent uninhibited. At my bachelorette party I acknowledged hidden parts of myself. My friends knew that I yearned to break free, and they empowered my liberation. Now, I feel radiant, alive and completely open.Before you judge me as a pervert, be honest with yourself. What parts of your true self have you kept hidden? What fantasies have you been too ashamed to admit? Let’s face it: What else but unfulfilled desires made “50 Shades of Grey” so popular? In one of my women’s group recently, several women admitted that they have always been ashamed of the fact that they masturbate because their religion told them it was wrong.And if not sexual desires, then what other aspects of your true self have you suppressed? Parts of your personality, like my client who dyed her hair blue to embrace the free spirited wild woman inside? Or perhaps you’re suppressing dreams of following your passion and finally having the career you so badly want?MORE: Why You Should Talk About Sex More OftenThe Ideal Path to Your Ideal SelfWhen your ideal is motivated externally—for instance, your dad’s insistence that you become a lawyer—or your dream is based on a societal ideal, such as becoming the size of a Vogue model, your “ideal” will likely cause distress. However, when your ideal is what you really want and who you really are deep down inside, then your ideal self will motivate you.According to researchers Richard Boyatzis and Kleio Adrivou of Case Western Reserve University, the vision of your ideal self drives intentional change. Fueled by hope, optimism and self-efficacy, your ideal self is stimulating. Perhaps this is why so many people swear by vision boards to “manifest” their future desires.The key to realizing your ideal self lies in whatever has kept these ideal aspects hidden. Perhaps you are ashamed, like I was. Perhaps you are afraid to admit that you want to live alone or leave your job. Perhaps you simply can’t yet afford your dream home.Whether real or perceived, the obstacles holding you back are creating incongruence between your “actual” self and your “ideal” self. Your actual self is your public self. It isn’t necessarily your truth, but rather is how you behave in front of most other people. If your actual and ideal selves are very different, the incongruence can lead to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Indeed, I hated myself during the years that I stayed in corporate America despite my dreams of becoming a women’s empowerment coach. Fortunately, my vision of inspiring others became so strong that it began to motivate me. I realized that my dream was possible, I believed that I could make it, and I took action to make it a reality.When you embrace more of your true self, you become authentic. And when you live authentically, research indicates that you will experience greater self-esteem and be happier.You too can embrace your true self and move toward your ideal. Here are five simple steps:

  1. Make four columns on a sheet of paper (handwritten or on the computer).
  2. Get very clear on your ideal self. Not the ideal that others want for you, but your ideal. Envision your ideal self with your entire body: Feel the emotions, hear the sounds and see the people who will be around you when you actualize your ideal. In bullet points, write out each aspect of your ideal self in the third column.
  3. In the first column, identify your actual (or present) self as it relates to each ideal aspect. For instance, if your ideal self is active and you don’t yet exercise, then note that to the far left.
  4. Look at each aspect of your ideal self that you are suppressing or not yet embracing and and ask yourself why you are doing so. Note this in the second column (between actual and ideal). Be truthful and write out every fear and all of your shame.
  5. Now look at that middle column that you just filled in and ask yourself, am I ready to move toward my ideal? If so, then identify one thing you can do this week to break free of the obstacle and move toward your ideal and write it in the far right column. That fourth column now becomes your action plan this week, and the foundation of your path to your ideal life.

Every goal begins with one step forward. Good luck and enjoy!