Body Confidence. You don’t have to get naked, but it might help.
If you have read my previous instalments, you will have heard the message repeatedly that taking an active part in enjoying social nudity can hugely benefit body confidence.
As a naturist and having found a significant boost in body confidence from engaging with other naturists, I am quick to sing the praises of getting your kit off to boost self-esteem.
One of the things that I need to keep reminding myself of is that body confidence can come from a large number of things, not just getting naked. A new outfit, a new hairstyle, or a genuine (appropriate) compliment from a colleague or friend can boost confidence and help our self-esteem.
Looking online there are many sites and articles offering advice on how to improve body confidence. Advice such as, fake it till you make it, sign out of social media, positive affirmations, find a workout you love, be grateful and even seek professional help.
Some of these suggestions don't address the core issues, but rather try and suggest you just need to keep trying to fit in until you do.
In today's media-sensitive culture, for many people, being themselves doesn’t stand much of a chance.
One prominent piece of advice seemed to be encouraging people to sign out of social media, but I realise that for many, social media is too big a part of their lives to quit. For lots of people, social media is an integral part of their connection to others. Often it is a connection to others who share similar interests or attitudes, people who understand them and help them to feel like they belong. For people who feel that they are part of a minority group, these connections can be essential coping mechanisms and a lifeline for maintaining mental well-being.
One of the articles I came across suggested that rather than quit social media, just stop following those people whose message damages your body confidence and follow people whose message improves it.
The thrust of this strategy is to remove the negativity and surround yourself with positivity.
A naturist setting does exactly this. Naturists come in all shapes and sizes and largely have already come to terms with their bumps, blemishes, scars and uniqueness. I have always found that people following a naturist philosophy are welcoming and supportive, and I have often heard comments from people new to naturism that their issues of body shame and self-confidence are improved significantly just by joining in.
Many naturists pride themselves on being non-judgemental on the subject of body shame and body acceptance. They can be judgmental on other matters around the lifestyle, but when it comes to matters of judging people for who they are rather than what they look like, you would be hard-pressed to find a more accepting group of people.
For many, the older you get, the less you care about much of the body image pressure that seems to influence so much of the younger generations. Accepting that your body does what it was designed to do and allows you to experience the world, even though it might not match the ever-changing and unrealistic ideals imposed by marketing companies, is something that comes easier the more life experience you have.
Interestingly, while exploring the topic of body confidence in preparation for this piece, I came across the work of Dr Keon West. While there appears to be little empirical research into the relationship between social nudity and the effects on self-esteem, Dr West's research concluded:
It was found that more participation in naturist activities predicted greater life satisfaction—a relationship that was mediated by more positive body image, and higher self-esteem (Study 1). Applying these findings, it was found that participation in actual naturist activities led to an increase in life satisfaction, an effect that was also mediated by improvements in body image and self-esteem (Studies 2 and 3).
The constant barrage of filtered and manipulated images in today's society means that many of us have forgotten what a real body looks like. We are so blinkered in our view that we need to fit in and be perfect, that we forget to enjoy, appreciate and even celebrate our uniqueness.
A friend of mine, and fellow craft beer appreciator, Grahame (@fluxroad on Twitter) recently said:
If my body allows me to do the things I want then it is a good body. It might be wider than I like or shorter than I want, but it is a good body.
While getting your kit off may not be the solution to all your confidence issues, if you have tried other things and are still struggling, then what have you got to lose?
Talking to other naturists (we are easy enough to find on social media), or getting in touch with your local club, will help answer many if not all of the questions that you might have before you rock on up in person.
For those people too shy to join others, simply spending time naked in your own space can help you learn to love your body and reduce some of the pressures associated with low body confidence.
"The tragedy is that so many people look for self-confidence and self-respect everywhere except within themselves, and so they fail in their search.”
Dr Nathaniel Branden
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.
Some great thoughts there, Steve. The paragraph about social media deserves some comment. Social media, for many people, is highly addictive and consequently time-robbing. A not-so-suprising number of people I've spoken to say that, for them, social media causes them to become depressed and self-loathing after realising how much of their day has been wasted on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram instead of achieving all the things they were meant to achieve that day!
Face it. Before the internet and social media invaded our lives, we spoke to each other either in person or by using a now-antiquated device called a "telephone". These methods were amazing! You could actually gauge very accurately how a person was feeling just by hearing the intonation in their voice or watching their body-language. They were far more effective means of communication and human interaction than social media platforms will ever be. No - people don't need social media at all. They are a habit that can be broken, and astute people find the means to do that.
In a September 2021 article in The Guardian, Damien Gayle reports that Facebook has kept internal research secret for two years that suggests its Instagram app makes body image issues worse for teenage girls, according to a leak from the tech firm.
Since at least 2019, staff at the company have been studying the impact of their product on its younger users’ states of mind. Their research has repeatedly found it is harmful for a large proportion, and particularly teenage girls.
I agree with MystrD that exercising and eating healthy are the most important things to do. Very often you can't do much else about your body. I just want to add it's not always about perception and media messages. Some of us have bones or other body parts out of whack so that we don't fit the norm is not perception; it's empirical, dx'd medical fact. Media messages? Nope. We had complete strangers walking up to us and giving all sorts of negative comments. For whatever reason my response from a young age was "My crooked spine does not affect you and you know it. So what is this really about?"
But the answer is the same. The textile world was so obsessed with my skeleton it was almost funny at times. Was my hunchback impeding progress toward world peace? You'd think so at times. OTOH, the nudist world doesn't care. I've been a nudist for over 10 years and I haven't gotten a strange look yet. So yes, no matter what your body is like, you'll fit in just fine.