I grew up in a very conservative home where nudity was not encouraged.
Despite my upbringing, I've found myself in locker rooms, changing rooms, and other situations where being naked around others is a normalized, non-sexualized situation. Most often, this nudity has taken place around my friends. Just this past weekend, I was in a wedding and the frenzied bridal party all got dressed together in the bridal suite. Nakedness was necessary, and because I was surrounded by friends I trusted, I felt totally comfortable in my body.
If this idea is something new or terrifying to you, that makes sense. People have become more and more private about their bodies over the years. But taking a long look at non-sexual nudity may have profound effects on your psychological health and self-esteem.
Dr. Lynda Boothroyd, a senior psychology lecturer at Durham University, researches how brains respond to images of bodies. She notes to The Daily Mail that media representation has real effects on how we see ourselves.
"Every time the brain sees an image of [a body], that then becomes incorporated into an internal prototype," she says. "What we are categorically not accustomed to seeing is normal, naked bodies...Little wonder then that we look down at our own bodies and feel they are distinctly lacking."
Confidence coach Jo Painter says that women are having the wrong kinds of conversations about their bodies. She says, "The worst people for fat-shaming are women themselves. We'll start feeling better about our bodies if we stop going backwards and forwards with the personal body-shaming."
Jaqui, a British woman who took part in a nude photoshoot with her three best friends, said that her whole perspective changed when she went skinny-dipping with them at 38 and felt too embarrassed to take off her underwear.
"Since then, being in situations where I've seen my friends in a state of undress has forced me to embrace my own body. We've been on many holidays — and in and out each other's bedrooms or in pool changing rooms in a state of undress.
"Each time, I've become a little bit less self-conscious and the more I dropped my own guard and the more I saw them naked too, the easier it became."
"I realized it didn't bother them and there was no longer anything to worry about. Being exposed to their imperfections has made me much more accepting of my own."
So the next time you're in a safe situation with people you trust that requires nudity, try not to cover up. It may just make you love the parts of yourself you didn't know you could.