There’s no doubt that spending more time naked can help make you more comfortable with your body. Seeing and accepting what you’d once considered flaws or imperfections. Feeling like a holistic human rather than a collection of body parts. Embracing your physical self in all its strangeness and complexities. Accepting your body as it is in this particular moment in time. Naturism can act as a powerful antidote to internalized fatphobia and shame, as well as quell body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria. But is there a point where it can go too far? Can you perhaps become too comfortable with your body?
I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure there even is one. Body acceptance isn’t a monolith and there exist spectrums of comfort for each unique individual. But like any feelings and emotion, it’s worth analyzing whether our shame and discomfort is an externally imposed message, or something our body is trying to express. Naturism is an effective tool to counteract external messages about our bodies, but we still need to listen to what our bodies themselves are saying.
I began to think about this when I’d climbed the seven flights of stairs to my apartment a while ago and had to stop to catch my breath. “Out of shape” isn’t the right set of words because there is no uniform “shape” that bodies should have. Even “healthy” looks different for everyone. All I knew was that my body wasn’t performing as it used to. It was a gradual journey to this point. The closer I approached 30, the less physical exercise I did. And my body began to reflect that. I happily embraced the new rolls and jiggly parts, hardly even thinking about them. I spent just as much time naked, both alone and socially, and still loved and accepted my body. But after losing my breath on the stairs I began to wonder: if I wasn’t so comfortable with how I looked and felt naked, would I already have begun exercising to express a different ideal of “health” and “acceptance”?
That question hit even deeper than physical activity. I have a long and conflicted relationship with our culture’s gender binary and my place within it, going back as far as I can remember. I discovered naturism at one of the many initial peaks of gender dysphoria and it acted as an incredibly strong antidote against those feelings. The main manifestation of my dysphoria was in fashion, as I felt jealous of women’s clothing and makeup. But in naturist settings, that was silenced as everyone – men, women and everyone in between – was wearing the same thing. We were all naked, we were all human. And spending more time naked on my own, I quickly accepted my body and all the parts I’d wondered were wrong. I liked my body, I just didn’t like the gendered ways in which society dictated I should cover it. But what if I hadn’t discovered naturism? Would I have instead changed my body to address those feelings of dysphoria?
Our bodies are powerful. Stress and emotions can physically manifest, and often our bodies try to send us a message before our brains even notice. I don’t mean to perpetuate a mind/body dualism, but there are certainly ways in which messages within ourselves are lost or mistranslated. Climbing the stairs, my body was expressing something: “You’ve accepted me, but you haven’t been taking care of me accordingly.” Every body is different, with its own specific needs. And I was neglecting one of my body’s needs, sometimes in the name of “body positivity.” But being comfortable naked doesn’t have to be a passive feeling. Being comfortable naked means – for my body specifically at this moment – that I should exercise it more often. That I should listen to it. When I went for a run the other day I felt pain in muscles I’d forgotten I even had. They were reminding me they were there, bringing me into even deeper embodiment and a stronger relationship with my body.
Original publication 28 May, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 30th May 2021
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