The other day I was chatting to my boyfriend and I made a joke about wanting to be naked constantly and he laughed. Then I asked him if he would spend a weekend naked and his answer was a Big Fat NO.

He’s just not that comfortable with being naked and this made me start thinking about all the other people I know who hate being naked too. 

I have friends who prefer sex with the lights off so that they don’t have to see their own fleshy bits or who are just so uncomfortable with their bodies that they cringe at the thought of spending more time than necessary being starkers. 

Which, personally, I think is unfortunate. 

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Being naked is awesome and so freeing. It’s also fun just to play video games while you’re sitting completely naked on a chair and no one else knows. It’s like a secret with yourself.

"We are taught by our families and community how much of our body we are permitted or expected to show and these expectations will differ from place to place, and from culture to culture”

Also, nudity shouldn’t only be seen as sexual. Yes, we get naked when we’re about to do something intimate with our partners, but our bodies are more than just for procreation or bathing and we should be able to enjoy them for what they are. 

I spoke to Dr Jaclyn Lotter, Head of Programmes at the South African College of Applied Psychology, about why people are so afraid to be naked and while she says she doesn’t think people from all cultures are afraid to be naked, social convention has played a large role how comfortable people feel.

"We this have a whole generation of people striving towards a physical image which is not even real, given the extensive use of photoshop and other similar tools for masking reality."

“It is important to remember that clothing is a social convention that has largely been shaped by cultural and religious practices around the world. We are taught by our families and community how much of our body we are permitted or expected to show and these expectations will differ from place to place, and from culture to culture,” says Dr Lotter.

Dr Lotter then points to one of the oldest stories out there about being shamed of nakedness – the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and realising they were naked and seeking to hide it. 

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Dr Lotter says they “became aware of themselves or became self-conscious, gaining the knowledge of their own mortality, imperfection and frailty. In a similar sense, when are aware of our own flaws, we may try to hide them because we worry about how we might appear in the eyes of others. By being naked, we bare ourselves to the judgement of others, exposing our self-perceived imperfections in spite of the shame they might bring us.”

Perhaps this is why so many women experience body dysphoria or develop eating disorders or self-harm. They’re not happy with their bodies because they’ve been taught to be ashamed of them. 

"I think it starts with small acts of activism such as challenging people when they begin to body shame others. "

Dr Lotter says: “I would argue that in modern western culture, the media has the greatest contribution to people feeling ashamed of their bodies. The beauty and weight loss industries aim to make money. The advertising world relies on us to be dissatisfied with our appearances so that we will consume products that come with the promise of happiness.”

Perhaps because so many advertising campaigns still use mostly white, airbrushed models in their work instead of aiming for body diversity and showing real images of women we’ve become accustomed to a certain body ideal and are dissatisfied with ourselves when we do not fit into that ideal. 

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Dr Lotter continues: “The majority of images in the mainstream media are of young, white, thin women and there is a very particular message about what the beauty ideal is, and by implication what is not. We have a whole generation of people striving towards a physical image which is not even real, given the extensive use of photoshop and other similar tools for masking reality. This can only lead one to be dissatisfied with one’s own body and in many cases can cause serious mental distress and can even trigger eating disorders and potentially dangerous body augmentation practices.”

So what can be done to change our perceptions of our own bodies and accepting the way others celebrate theirs? “This is not an easy process to change. It’s not something that we can simply change overnight. It’s a battle against the majority voice in mainstream media. But I think it starts with small acts of activism such as challenging people when they begin to body shame others. It’s about calling out or loved ones when they start complaining about the way the look and rather supporting them with affirmation for their worth,” says Dr Lotter.

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“In order for us to stop shaming others, we need to learn to embrace ourselves. And for some people there might be deeper psychological work they need to do in order to overcome an inner critical voice and begin to deal with their shame that might be manifesting in a physical manner,” Dr Lotter concludes.

So are there steps you can take to be more comfortable being naked? Well, sure there are! Print out the infographic below, attach it to your mirror at home and follow these steps to help you be more free with your naked self:

image: W24

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