Within moments of being born, the covering of our naked bodies begins.
Often, as young children, we try to resist. Who doesn’t have a picture of themselves naked and joyful in the back yard, clothes happily discarded, exposed to the wind and sun? Ah yes, the freedom of it! Remember?
But we are quickly ‘marshaled’ into our clothing once again, when the frolic is over.
We learn that it is not ‘proper’ to expose our nakedness.
We learn that there is something ‘wrong’ with nudity.
We learn to criticize our bodies, based on being visually fed the scantily clad physiques of so-called “beautiful people” in the media. No wonder our bodies should be covered!
We learn to think that clothing represents our ‘style’. We begin to believe that what we wear is part of what defines us, or how we express our personality—a comfortable justification for covering ourselves.
Sometimes we tell ourselves we wear clothes to keep us warm, which is perfectly reasonable when it is cold. Yet when it is warm enough to be naked, we seldom go garment-less, especially around others.
We learn to believe that nudity is a trigger of lust (as if sexual desire is something bad). Therefore being naked is ‘asking for it’, or perverted, or immoral, or even sinful.
And it all begins with that first piece of clothing placed upon us.
We are not taught all this by words alone. Much of it comes intuitively, from silent social cues. And as we get older we come to understand that we can even be thrown in jail for removing our clothes.
It is astonishing that more people do not practice nudity. That is, of all the millions of people worldwide who seek to shed life’s traumas and grow in self-awareness and confidence—to expand consciousness and connection—a very small percentage regularly get naked with others. We do arduous work on our ‘insides’, yet miss the very simple, yet deep, work we can do with our ‘outsides’.
Sometimes I think practicing nudists or naturists are a step ahead in ‘consciousness’. The stories of folks who have embraced ‘public’ nudity with like-minded others are invariably the same. Almost all talk about the initial fear and inhibitions they experienced as they doffed their clothes. Self-awareness and self-criticism can be excruciating at that moment. Not only is there anxiety about people looking at you, but also anxiety about ‘where’ and ‘how’ to look at others. Yet despite these initial discomforts, new nudists ALL talk about the experience as being wonderfully freeing. It does not take long to realize, and internalize, that others embrace your nakedness as being beautifully normal. Issues about body image eventually dissolve. New confidence flourishes.
Sexual shame and guilt begins with clothing. Which is why taking off our clothing in the presence of others is a critical step in healing self-limitations.
Here’s to all of you who have no problem doffing your clothes, no matter what your gender, age or shape, within any kind of group gathering. You have, no doubt, found the experience as freeing as I described above. We need to better communicate how this simple act is crucial to healthy self-awareness, confidence, joy, enlargement and wellbeing.
It is not surprising that most of society regards nudist/naturist camps or resorts as being sleazy, or even dangerous. Most think they are havens for immoral, hedonistic people. And it is true that some people even fetishize such places. But there are many well-run resorts that are filled with Average Jills and Joes. And while these can be great places to take this first step to healing sexual shame and guilt, there is nothing stopping you from doing it with any group of friends or acquaintances, as long as everyone participates by choice, with understanding of the framework and goal for doing so.
To grow we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable.
Imagine how easy this step to healing is. No process to study. No long term work to be done. No talking required. No evaluations to complete. Just two brave hands, unbuttoning buttons, unzipping zippers, unclasping clasps, sliding off material. It takes less than 30 seconds. All done!
Now relax and let the healing do its magic.
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Note: There is nothing wrong with clothes. Clothing does, of course, serve many purposes. But we are not taught to have a balanced view of why we cover ourselves. Instead, most of what we internalize about clothing limits us. If we experience anxiety about being naked in the presence of others we know we have a distorted perspective of clothing—and ourselves!