You’d think with so much oversharing, taking it off wouldn’t be such a big deal. Jessica Matlin explores what’s behind our naked anxiety.
I dreaded high school PE. It wasn’t so much the physical activity but, rather, changing for it. Inside the steamy, tiled locker room, slender, sporty girls were getting into their gym gear, gossiping, and comparing their new VS bras. Meanwhile, I rustled inside an XL tee shirt — my own mini-cabana. I didn’t want anyone to see my chunky thighs or grandma bra (by age 14, I was a solid D).
Even as an adult, I felt anxious. After work, I loved to shop at Loehmann’s (the famed and, now, sadly shuttered designer outlet), but their communal dressing room left nothing to hide. I changed so close to the mirror, I fogged it up with my breath.
It wasn’t just my own naked body that made me uncomfortable. Once while vacationing with my best bud, I looked up from washing my face and almost dropped dead: As she was telling me a story, my pal was flinging off her clothes, drawing herself a bath. I was stunned, then jealous. Who the hell did she think she was? Lena Dunham?
Clearly, there are two kinds of girls in the world: those who wouldn’t think twice about changing in front of others and those who find it slightly mortifying. I fell into camp two. And while this issue never inhibited me in my relationships — my boyfriends always made me feel supersexy (that’s why I was with them!) — something about being naked (or nearly naked) with other women just made me feel awkward … even vulnerable.
“Body image is often shaped by early experiences — times when we felt particularly self-conscious,”Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D.
Frankly, I thought I’d have grown out of this feeling by now. (Since those PE days, I have slimmed down and had a breast reduction.) Plus, wasn’t body acceptance something that just came naturally with age, a byproduct of increased confidence and self-worth? Not so much, says Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., a psychologist in Cincinnati who specializes in women’s issues.
“Body image is often shaped by early experiences — times when we felt particularly self-conscious,” says Kearney-Cooke. “We internalize those feelings into adulthood and view ourselves through an old lens.”
Original publication 18 October, 2014
Posted on NatCorn 1st July 2020
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