How to feel better naked? Being naked longer helps with acceptance


When Carolyn Hawkins went to her first nude resort four decades ago, she was 37 years old and determined not to take her clothes off.

“I said, ‘I will, but I won’t take my clothes off,'” said Hawkins, who was visiting the resort with her second husband. But surrounded by a kaleidoscope of imperfect bodies enjoying the Florida sun, she did what she said she wouldn’t do. “I liked it right away,” said Hawkins, who is now 79 and is director of club and member relations for the American Naked Recreation Association.

Not everyone is equally comfortable being naked. For many of us, nudity — or the mere prospect of putting our bodies on display — can trigger anxiety.

“Even being naked alone can leave us vulnerable to the critical voice in the mind,” said Renee Engeln, a professor of instruction in psychology and director of the Body and Mind Lab at Northwestern University, which researches female body image issues.

The goal of feeling good in the nude tends to clash with cultural standards of beauty that few of us meet, she said. But therapists, body image activists and nudists say there are compelling reasons for people to seek to create a more joyful relationship with their own naked bodies, or at the very least a neutral relationship.

Research indicates, for example, that women’s perceptions of how attractive they are can influence their sexual desire. Feeling relatively comfortable with your appearance is linked to higher self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

“To me, this is similar to the bikini-wearing discussion,” said Virgie Tovar, body image activist and author of “The Body Positive Journal.” She recalled the first time she wore a bikini in public, being a plus size woman.

“I was shocked to see how amazing it is to feel the sun on my skin, to feel the wind on my body – a part of my body that has never been exposed anywhere outside of my home before,” Tovar said. “It was a stronger experience than I could have imagined.”

The four strategies outlined below were suggested by several experts who spend time reflecting on nudity and body image. They won’t necessarily transform the relationship you have with your body as you find more opportunities to expose more skin, but they are a starting point.

spend more time naked

Learning to feel good about your body can be a long and arduous process, and many of the obstacles to doing so are still social. Still, Engeln says that for some people, the key to feeling better naked “is simply spending more time in the nude.”

Erich Schuttauf, executive director of the American Naked Recreation Association, agrees that simply doing ordinary things without clothes has a cathartic effect. You can wash your clothes naked, he suggested, or, if you have a backyard that isn’t exposed to outside eyes, you can take a 20-minute soak in the sun without clothes on, enjoying the heat and the breeze on your naked body.

“Get used to the freedom of not having to wear clothes,” Schuttauf recommended. For him, virtually all household chores are more fun when done naturally.

Stephanie Yeboah, body image activist and author of “Fattily Ever After: A Black Fat Girl’s Guide to Living Life Unapologetically,” said spending an hour or two in the nude several days a week was a crucial step in the beginning of her own journey of body acceptance. She took off her clothes to read, watch TV or tidy up her house.

But it’s important to make sure you’re in a space where you feel safe, whether it’s in the privacy of your room or in a more public setting, like a beach or nudist resort.

“It’s not enough self-love for you to escape an oppressive system,” Yeboah said, saying she was called “fat” or insulted as soon as she stepped out of her house.

Focus on what your body feels

Tovar doesn’t think striving to feel more comfortable in the nude is a necessary step toward achieving greater acceptance of one’s body. But she encourages anyone who has trouble being naked to imagine what it would be like to feel at peace with her body when she needs to be naked, like in the shower, for example.

To get to that point, she recommends using mindfulness strategies to shift your focus away from your body’s appearance and onto your sensations. The shower is a good starting point.

“Focus on the sensations,” Tovar said. “How does your skin feel when you get in the shower? How is the water temperature? What is the effect on your body?”

Focusing on the senses can help people link brain and body.

Yeboah turned the shower into a daily meditation. She uses pleasant lotions and oils and takes the time to apply the products slowly, noting the scent and feel of the products on her skin.

“This was something I started doing on my journey to self-love, to conforming to my body and relearning to like it,” she explained.

Am I avoiding being naked?

Zoë Bisbing is a clinical social worker and founding director of Body-Positive Therapy NYC. She frequently sees patients who are in what she describes as “a state of avoiding one’s own body”. They make a point of covering certain body parts and rarely if ever really look at each other. In many cases, they avoid activities such as going to the beach, leaving the house on hot days, or having sex.

Bisbing recommends that people carefully observe, over a day or two, times when they are avoiding looking at their naked body (or certain parts of it). If this occurs, it may be helpful to try a kind of home exposure therapy — a well-known cognitive intervention aimed at desensitizing people to their fears.

“Let’s say you’re really embarrassed about leaving your arms exposed, even when you’re alone,” Bisbing said. “Start with a minute a day wearing a short-sleeved or sleeveless outfit.” So you increase that to two minutes. After a while, try being like this in the presence of other people.

It can also be helpful, she says, to look at your body in the mirror for short periods of time and train your brain to describe your body using simple, nonjudgmental language.

But, Bisbing said, for anyone with issues like body dysmorphia or eating disorders, it’s essential to seek help from a therapist. So be on the lookout for potential signs of a more serious mental health issue, including distorted body image or feelings of shame about what you eat.

See images of different body types

For Tovar, popular culture and social media have conditioned us to see “slender, young and fit bodies” as the most valid pattern and model. “But that just doesn’t correspond to reality.” For that very reason, she encourages everyone to surround themselves with images of different body types.

“Print out 20 photos of bodies that are more similar to yours and larger bodies,” Tovar recommended. Save the images to your phone or paste them around your mirror so you can see them often.

Control the content you follow on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok. While the link between social media and negative body image is not as sharp and clear as is sometimes assumed — and the body positivity movement has faced some criticism — research reveals that spending time looking at body positivity content online can improve our state of being. of spirit.

“It’s worth remembering that almost all adult nude bodies sway or are flaccid, have hair, cellulite, scars, bear the marks of life,” Engeln said. “It’s easy to forget that if you’re stuck in a media world that only includes photoshopped images of thin, young people.”

Translation by Clara Allain

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