There is this perception that nudists must inherently be more secure in themselves, more confident in their bodies, than the rest. Whether that’s correlation or causation may depend on the person. Some nudists and naturists are secure in themselves, surely, because they became nudists and naturists and were forced to overcome their insecurities, while others were naturally more inclined to become nudists and naturists because they had already acquired the requisite self-confidence. Maybe they were just never taught to feel that same shame.
If I had to lump myself into one of those camps, it would be the former. When I first learned about nudism online as a wildly insecure teenager with rampant hormones and a spiral of confusing thoughts running through my mind, I had a lot of anxieties to overcome before I could enjoy nudism the way I can today. Maybe that’s due to my childhood, but I think many people would have come out of my childhood with a good deal more confidence than I did. There was nothing particularly shaming or repressive, at least as it pertained to comfort with one’s own body, in my home. My parents were very religious, yes, but my dad was a veterinarian and treated the body in a more clinical way than most dads might. There was fairly open discussion about bodies when I was young, though we never actually saw each other’s bodies.
Weirdly enough, as a very young child, I would strip off my clothes and run around nude whenever I could. I would run outside, up and down the stairs, watch movies. But at some point it was implied that I shouldn’t and I don’t remember what moment that was. All my life, I have been an introvert. In my childhood this manifested itself as extreme shyness, to the point where I could not stand to draw any attention to myself, to come across as different or unique in any way, even to excel at something that brought me attention. I took up quiet hobbies like drawing and getting good grades. I shied away from sports and other extroverted activities that others gave more attention. And, to add to that, I grew up knowing that I was gay, constantly fearing that my difference to others would be found out, would bring me more attention. Everything in me wanted to shrivel up and hide everything I was. As a result, the thought of anyone seeing my body became one of my biggest fears.
I couldn’t even change in the changing room with everyone else: I had to change in a bathroom stall. I refused to wear sandals because I didn’t want my feet to be seen. On top of that, nothing I wore ever fit me quite right. I was always tall and skinny. A little too tall, a little too skinny. My arms were too long for my shirts. My legs were too long for my pants. Everything fit me too loose or too short. So, not only did I feel uncomfortable in my skin, I felt uncomfortable in my clothing as well.
When I discovered nudism and started devouring every piece of information I could about it, it helped… a lot. I learned to appreciate my body, to embrace it, to forgive it. I was gentle with myself in ways that I knew the world would never be, and I made peace with that. I let myself be naked and I allowed my skin to feel the world around me with no mediation. Even as I embraced nudity and started practicing nudism on my own, it took me years to get used to the idea of being nude around others. Changing in the locker room in high school was still stressful and I was terrified that I would be forced to shower with my classmates at some point. Years. It took actual years for me to undo what I had done to myself in my anxiety and insecurity. Also, to be fair, all social settings give me a little anxiety, so it’s likely that I will always experience insecurity when I enter a new nudist space or meet a new nudist friend.
So why am I spilling all of this information? Because I want you to know that even nudists feel insecure. It’s not always easy even for us. But it does get better. Being nude around others doesn’t cause me the same fear that it once did, but I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t still a pang of anxiety the moment I disrobe around others. A lot of those insecurities rush through my head and I feel my heart race the way it did while waiting at the starting blocks when I ran track. But that feeling is fleeting. The satisfaction of being nude and free and shedding those barriers almost immediately washes that away. And I will champion nudism as long as I am able to do so because I wholeheartedly believe that embracing your body and learning to be gentle with yourself through social nudity is therapeutic and healing. It’s worth it.
After all these years, I can comfortably visit a nude beach or club without hours of anxiety leading up to the moment I disrobe. I can wear clothes that fit my body without feeling insecure because I have embraced my shape and learned what clothes will help me feel like myself. I take better care of my skin and health because I realize that my body deserves to be taken care of and relies on me for that. I can wear sandals now because I don’t see my feet as gross or shameful. The thought of someone seeing a nude photo of me doesn’t scare me. But I had to work actively on all of those things, to undo the years of shame that I had subjected myself to. And I am a much happier person because of it. So, if you are new to nudism, and you’re not feeling as secure and confident as you want to feel, know that you are not alone. It’s not a switch you can flip, it’s a journey you take and you’re in good company.