If you are not naked while reading those lines, get naked! Yes, now! Okay, it it’s not possible right now, plan it for later. But the important point is I need you to get entirely naked and look at you in a mirror. When you’re naked facing a mirror, even if you are a seasoned nudist, I’m sure you will see some of your body flaws. You know, those love handles, this wrinkle or that extra fat you gain. We are all the same, we always have something to address when it comes to our bodies.
If there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get rid of our flaws, to the contrary, the way we see ourselves has a psychological impact. And what we may not know it that the psychological price we pay may be due to others blame and shame, as we’re going to see in this chapter. Nudism can help developing self-confidence, heightening our psychological security and living shamelessly. All it takes is to get naked, alone and with others.
The Birth of Shame
I remember an event that happened at the park on a beautiful day as I was reading, lying on the grass. Two young children were playing when they decided that going naked was much more comfortable. They just took off their clothing and start chasing each other. One of the mothers smiled as the other admonished her child to get dressed, blaming and shaming him for his nudity, while he was running laughing. Her mother managed to catch him and have him get his short back, which made him cry.
Of course, you may argue that children shouldn’t be naked in a public park. And I will argue back that if our position regarding nudity weren’t a shameful one, children could be playing naked in full innocence, as I deeply believe there’s nothing wrong with being simply naked.
The religious scriptures taught us that Adam and Eve felt shame once they bite the Apple. “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” – Genesis 2:25. Once they eat the apple, from the Tree of Knowledge, “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together,” – Genesis 3:8. Religions will teach you that Adam and Eve learned that being naked was bad (even evil) and they needed to be clothed. An interesting article by Biblical Gender Roles says that God “clothed them, because they were always meant to be clothed. However, we’ve seen in the previous chapter it was not their nudity that caused shame but the loss of righteousness.
Because of this misinterpretation, Christianity has create shame and ban simple nudity. Judaism and Islam did the same. This original sin is one of the foundations of shame and the justification for labelling nudity with shame. Another powerful foundation is the feeling many experiences at puberty. The many changes in our body make us uncomfortable with nudity and the shame kicks in deeper.
Limor Weinstein and Dr Marissa Tolera explain in a Bespoke article that “for some of us, shame is a part of our genetic make-up, and for others, it is more a product of the environment, or a mix of the two”. However, it seems shame foundations are built and strengthen in the first two years of our lives. This means that “if you experienced bad parenting, trauma, or insecure attachment, or if anything else went wrong during the first two years of your life, your brain will be damaged and this will affect you forever”.
This doesn’t imply that loving parents who teach that simple nudity is fine will lead you to being a nudist, but this may at least help not being ashamed or shocked by nudity. If shame seems sometimes useful to maintain our interpersonal relationships, it costs a lot in terms of self-esteem, personal judgement and confidence, as we’re going to see.
The Effects of Shame
In a fascinating article in Psychology Today entitled What is shame, Dr Kaschak tells us that “shame is a sort of psychological prison that can be easily established in almost every individual” and “Reducing shame allows access to individual strengths”. Shame seems more like a tool, or worse, a weapon, that is used by others or by our own self to discredit us and make us feel weaker than we are.
Shame and guilt are intertwined, although different. Shame is inward centred, while guilt is outward centred. Shame forces us to see us an inherent bad person, while guilt forces us to see some of our actions as bad. Since shame targets us directly, it builds a negative self-judgement that becomes our own narrative.
If we’re told as a kid that nudity is bad, that you should be ashamed if others see you naked, it will become part of who you are, even if there is nothing inherently and rationally wrong with simple and plain nudity. If the shame of nudity were not built, we wouldn’t need to deconstruct it when we realize there’s nothing wrong with nudism and that nudism is actually a very sane and comfortable way of being.
Textiles and anti-nudists will tell us that nudism can destroy relationships. They will push the shame button to blame nudists. We’ve heard about couples who split because one spouse is nudist and the other not. We’ve heard about friends who break away because one is nudist and the other not. Nudity is difficult to admit for many as the shame of nudity is so deeply buried in their minds.
Body shame can have multiple effects, including depression and even suicide. Nudism is a great way to reduce if not get rid of body shame. As Dr Kaschak reminds us, shame “is not an effective tool for psychological learning” and “is instead psychologically damaging”. Every time we feel the pang of shame, we should stop and reflect, and learn to understand and redirect our thoughts.
Understanding Our Shame
If you feel shame about nudity or your own body, don’t beat yourself up. Pause for a second and acknowledge that shame. There’s nothing wrong so far. Shame is a protection mechanism that our brain triggers. Recognizing shame is the first step in silencing it.
How can you recognize shame? In the case of nudity, it’s fairly simple. When naked, you can’t really look at you in a mirror. If you’re seen naked by somebody else or know that you could be seen, you try to cover for genitals (breast and crotch) with your hands. And of course, you feel really uncomfortable. Your first reactions are to hide, get dressed and apologize. Those are all normal in our willingness not to shock others and to prevent them from thinking we’re pervert.
The latter is an important aspect of the shame of nudity as nudity equals sex for a majority of people, as we’ve seen in the previous chapters. Nudity equals sex equals private, then nudity equals private, end of the nudity story. Not really, as nudists cut the equality between nudity and sex.
Now, if you want to embrace nudism and become a nudist, start by noticing that feeling of shame when you’re naked. Ask yourself where it is coming from. Maybe it relates to what your parents told you as a kid. Maybe it was your religious education. Maybe it was an incident with others. If you can’t point out a specific event or series of events, ask you when you felt shame like this before. You may need to dig deep into your memory. It may require multiple tries. The most important point is to allow yourself to release that memory, event or series of events.
If you have a therapist, have a discussion with him or her about this feeling of shame and your awareness. He or she may help you identify where it’s coming from and getting rid of it, as we will see in the next part. Awareness is a key step in our path of understanding.
Once you start to have some clues, ask yourself why you feel that way when you’re naked or see others naked. It might be simple or more complex. It may resurface difficult memories. If it happens, don’t keep them for yourself and discuss them with a therapist who will help and guide you. The most important point here is to first understand that there’s nothing wrong with what you feel, then to decide you’re going to silence the shame of nudity to embrace nudism.
Next part – Taming Shame
Strip Nude, Stay Nude, Live Nude and Share the Nude Love!