Saira Khan: I’ve stripped away my hang-ups and I love being sexy on Instragram

When I was asked to take part in a campaign asking women “What does sexy mean to you?” I had to have a good think about it.

That word “sexy” is not something I associate with myself. But why do I have such a hang-up?

Being molested at the age of 13 by a family member obviously hasn’t helped. It means I regard the word “sexy” as an invitation for unwanted attention from men.

I have also ­always struggled with the mainstream view of what a woman is supposed to wear and look like in order to be called sexy.

Women’s magazines are full of red lips, smoky eyes, short skirts, high boots and little else.

So growing up in a body that was the complete opposite of the long-legged, big-boobed, tiny-waisted ideal, I never thought I could ever be considered sexy.

In any case, for many women of my generation, to want to be sexy was frowned upon. A “sexy” woman was seen as cheap, loose and not very intelligent.

But as I have matured and ­become more comfortable in my own skin, I have started to feel more sexy. I now realise it’s not about what you wear.

Being sexy is about your confidence, your self-esteem, your talents, your life experiences and your achievements.

And it’s about your ability to love who you are.

Once you feel sexy, you are sexy, whether you’re wearing the most beautiful lingerie or the scruffiest jeans.

Feeling sexy, wanting to be sexy and being sexy is normal – it’s how a woman connects with her femininity.

But many of us in our 50s and beyond, whose bodies have changed through pregnancy and menopause, don’t feel sexy at all. We just feel embarrassed, ­invisible and overlooked.

I felt like that until this week – when I fully embraced what sexy means to me.

With the help of my nine-year-old daughter, who filmed me every day, I have been putting myself out there on social media.

A menopausal mum of 50, in beautiful underwear from lingerie firm Figleaves, sending the ­message that regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, you are beautiful and sexy if you allow yourself to be.

I expected lewd and gross comments.

But I received hundreds of positive messages from women.

Seeing me in my far-from-perfect body saying I feel sexy was the kick up the butt they needed to focus on themselves.

I loved doing my sexy week on Instagram. It was so empowering.

And it’s given me a whole new attitude: This is me, this is how I do it and I’m not for changing.

Being sexy? I’m absolutely loving it.