Being Naked: Women and Body Issues

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It was my first semester at graduate school in San Francisco. The artsy-fartsy professor decided we needed to do a little de-stressing. He instructed the class to get into groups of three and do a two-people massaging one-person exercise. In the time it took for me to turn to the two people sitting closest and ask them to be in my group, I looked back at the front and there was my professor stark naked.

To say the least, I was shocked. However, not so shocked as when all my classmates followed suit and took off their clothes. Out of my embarrassment at being the only person left with clothes on, I managed to take off my shirt, but kept my bra on.

It was, to say the least, an extremely impactful moment. I spent many hours after navel gazing, trying to understand and find reason for why the average gal has such profound body issues.

With fresh eyes, I read magazine articles with titles like, “10 Tricks to Hide Your Bulges.”  I watched Atkins and WeightWatchers commercials advocating losing weight before bikini season. I walked by cosmetic counters with miracle cures to eliminate unsightly cellulite. It became apparent that everyone and everything was screaming at every woman every minute of the day as to just how unattractive her body is to look at.

My Next Naked Moment
Three years later, I was back at school taking an advanced course in sex therapy. With seven-foot mirrors to our front and to our back, every individual in the class was to strip down naked and describe from head to toe what they liked and disliked about their body.

So there I was taking off my clothes in front of my class. As tears streamed down my face and my whole body shook, I realized society’s perfectionist values still had a stronghold on me. I kept thinking how ludicrous my emotional outbreak was because I did the exact same drill everyday in the gym locker room.

Interestingly enough, none of the women in this class could get completely naked: we only stripped down to our bras and panties. And none of us could say a lot of things we liked about our bodies. The men, on the other hand, were pretty nonchalant about being naked and were happy to talk about their less-than-perfect figures as absolutely divine. The difference in the men’s and women’s naked attitudes made me furious.

In that moment, something in me snapped and my mind made a fundamental shift. For many days after the exercise, I stomped around San Francisco absolutely f-u-r-i-o-u-s.

Angry at all the wasted years of my life spent feeling inadequate about my body. Angry at how much of my sexuality was stifled because I could not accept my imperfections as unique. Angry that I could not let people get close because my body insecurities pushed them away.

After the naked-perfectionist anger came the naked-reality calm. I would be lying if I said I always feel 100% great about my body, because I do not. However, when I look in the mirror, I no longer home in on all my imperfections.

In accepting my body, my sexuality is able to ooze out of every pore.

Your Turn to Be Naked
So although it may seem a little too weird and artsy-fartsy, why don’t you try doing the same exercise. Look in a full length mirror—that hasn’t been fogged by the shower—and go from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet and do body inventory.

And really appreciate the way your body looks…because in twenty years it’s only going to get worse.

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