Being Naked & Body-Image

I took off my sunglasses and beach skirt. I then removed my bathing suit and placed in on a picnic table. I walked to the edge of the water, stepped over the wall, and lowered myself into the pond. All the while, I was pretending I wasn’t self-conscious about walking naked in public in the bright afternoon sun. Of course I'm used to walking around naked, comfortable in my body in front of strangers and friends. Who isn't?! At least I knew no one would stare at me and judge me, because it was natural to be naked and everyone around the pond was naked. Oh, but I was staring at them. Where else do I get to observe so many random naked bodies in person? In so many shapes, genders, sizes, colors, and ages?

Last month I flew to San Francisco for a camping festival weekend several hours north of the city. It was hosted by a music society, so dance and thumping music were the norm amidst the gardens by day and blazing stars at night. As well, there was a beautiful manmade pond, lotus flowers and all, offering respite from the 95 degree heat. It was around this pond that all the campers were naked. And it was because of this pond that I agreed to go on this trip with some friends.

Most of us are not used to being naked around strangers, and many of us aren’t used to this around friends either. This has always made me feel nervous as my body-image concerns flare up and I worry about being judged for not looking perfect. I decided it was time to tackle this issue head-on when invited to attend the camping trip.

It sounds cliché to say that the experience was freeing…but the experience actually was freeing. I loved the warmth of the sun on my whole body. I loved swimming underwater with no clothing resistance. I really liked being able to just be me in my body with no pretenses. It was a gentle reminder that I’m fine, my body is fine, and that I may as well appreciate and enjoy what my body has to offer because there’s always something for which to be grateful. Although awkward at first, I was calmed by how easy it could be to be around a group of naked folks who were just being who they were. So I was just who I was. And I enjoyed it tremendously.

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego