Take your clothes off.

No, I mean it.  This is a call to every single reader out there.  Do it.  Take your clothes off.  Not now, perhaps, (unless work condones such behaviour, I assure you the civil service doesn’t) but definitely tonight.  And stand in front of the bathroom mirror and look at yourself. 

I did this at the weekend.  It started off badly.  I had one eye squeezed shut and the other looking through my interlaced fingers, similar to the position I adopt during horror films.  And then it got better.  And after a few minutes, dare I say it, it was almost enjoyable.  Almost.   

I’ve never been one of those people who can saunter around happily naked.  I don’t consider myself to have an enormous amount of body hangups – I’m doing alright, I could probably lay off the pies for a few weeks but really, in the grand scheme of things, there are more important things to worry about.  But there have been a few whispers of late that have made me sit up and take notice. 

One was Caitlin Moran in How To Be A Woman when she said (loosely quoted) that if a child draws a rough outline of a human adult and you look vaguely like that, then you’re doing okay.  I liked that.  The second was Anna R’s post about body image that evoked some incredible debate from you all and where a couple of readers said they looked better naked than with clothes on, an opinion which blew my mind.  It has, hand on heart, never, ever ever crossed my mind that anyone might think they look better naked than with clothes on.  Consider me schooled. 

The third thing was less a whisper, more a klaxon in my ear screeching YOU SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN THIS, TOO SLOW OFF THE MARK, JONESY.  I have the marvellous, phrase-coining Mahj to thank for this article, this dating manifesto, written by Linsey Scott on Jezebel. As soon as I read it I sent it to every single female friend I had who wouldn’t already have printed it off for themselves.  Some told me there was too much swearing.  You’re right, there is.  But the fundamental premise of the article – or at least the premise that I took away, is that attraction is involuntary and women beating thmselves up about how they look or act is the ultimate exercise in futility.  It serves nothing.  There is no perfect person you could be if you just tried harder.  It’s a lie.  Your flaws are just life.  Get over it.  No man, woman or beast is going to care what you look like under your clothes.  They will just be mentally high-fiving themselves that they managed to get you out of them.   

I’ve always lived more in my head than the rest of my body.  I love what Katie said recently about learning how amazing your body is and what it can achieve if you treat it well and work with it, not against it.  I was a competitive swimmer when I was a kid and spent most of my childhood in high-intensity training.  But I was too young to understand just how powerful that made me.  As an adult I took up running and watched in awe as my body responded to the challenge.  Running a long distance is high impact though, and in a bid to get my body and mind to become friends, I do a lot of hot yoga – yoga in a room heated to 41 degrees Celsius – which is really, really hard work.  I don’t know how accurate the claimed medical benefits are and I suspect any medics reading that link are probably getting their feathers ruffled, but what it has done is made me push my limits, balance, endurance, stamina and focus in a way traditional exercise never did.  In a typical session you’ll be looking at yourself in a mirror for 90 minutes, in a vaiety of poses.  Because it’s so ruddy sweaty (you will never, ever sweat more in your life) you won’t be wearing much.  Neither are these poses particularly, shall we say – becoming.        

 

In case there was any confusion, this is not me.  I can get somewhere between the first and second pictures.  And may I point out, while we’re at it, how much effort it takes to even get to the first stage?  Image from Oh My Bikram

And so I thought the Big Naked Challenge would be easy.  It still wasn’t.  It was remarkable, how my mind jumped immediately to all the bits that were wrong, or not something- enough.  I had in my head what I should look like, and what was in front of me did not measure up.  I didn’t focus on the bits I like about me (legs!  shoulders! derrière!  I love you!), instead choosing to zoom in on the bits that don’t look like some sodding bikini-clad Gilette ad (hello the rest!). 

And that’s me, someone who, for the most part, doesn’t really care about this sort of thing, because whenever I do feel guilty for eating cake, the social conscience fairy on my left shoulder pipes up with how there are famines going on and really, does it matter?

So I suppose the point of this post isn’t to ask you to love your bits, because we all know we should do that.  It’s to ask you to at least look at them.  Be able to face them.  Be able to look directly at yourself from all angles without your critical voice shrieking in your ear about how imperfect you are.  Being able to look at yourself and not cringe, or shy away, or gloss over the “bad” bits will do huge, huge things for your self-esteem, it will make you not live in your head, it will remind you that the human body is, in fact, remarkable.   

Five minutes of pre-shower staring should be mandatory.

Readers, who’s with me for the big Any Other Naked?

Categories: Body Image, Written By Anna
19 interesting thoughts on this

17 Comments

  1. Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Our bathroom decor is such that one wall is entirely mirrored (it was like this when we moved in by the way) so if I wanted to avoid seeing myself naked it’d be pretty difficult and would involve complicated towel wrapping maneouvres. Having said that, whilst I’ll happily prance around the flat with no clothes on, I’m MASSIVELY uncomfortable about changing room nakedness – both my own and that of others.

  2. Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    When I said I preferred looking at myself naked than with clothes on, I can promise you that it’s only because I HATE the way I look in nearly all clothes. I think I look terrible in them. My body shape does not look suit anything apart from the most expensive, well-cut garments (or really tight things, which I am now too old to wear). With no clothes on though, I am (phew) just a human body. Not good, not bad, just normal. Like the picture of the humans they sent into space, to show the aliens what humans look like. That’s what I look like.

    Bikram Yoga looks properly insane. Do people faint? I think I would faint.

    Px

    • Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I with you Penny! They need to make clothes that FIT and look good on people who aren’t models. I think I look rubbish in most clothes because they just stick/hang funny in all the wrong places. x

    • Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      I fainted. I can’t go back to Bikram because the instructor at my local one winds me up something chronic. It did feel amazing afterwards though, if you disregard the lingering instructor-rage.

      K x

    • Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      You don’t faint. You feel a bit dizzy the first couple of times but that’s more your body getting used to the heat. The instructors encourage you to sit out postures if you feel dizzy. Because you have rest time in between each posture you’re okay. You aren’t supposed to leave the room – immediate hot to cold does crazy things to your blood pressure. So if you stay in the room you’ll be ok.

      Pensky I’d love to try it with you I think you’d like it.

  3. Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I said it on the previous post and I’ll say it again – I am happier naked than clothed. Its a bit of a running joke between my fiancé and I that I am happier butt naked than in saucy undies.

    That doesn’t mean I think I look good naked (far from it), its just I am uncomfortable in clothes. I don’t know if I look fashionable or if things fit me well or not, bra straps dig in etc etc. My skin fits me just fine though, so its much more comfy :)

    • Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      YES! I hear you Laura! I often think clothes looks strange on me. You have hit the nail on the head as to why…skin just fits better. I see myself in my birthday suit every day…maybe there really are too many mirrors in my house?

      I don’t know about anyone else, but given my niggles over finding clothes that fit and flatter, I often think I look slimmer in the buff than I do fully clothed. Maybe Gemma is right, maybe I do have some kind of body dismorphia or maybe good clothes are just really hard to find.

  4. Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    100% this. All of it. When I look in the mirror naked now I force myself to see the hint of definition of my abs, the flex of muscles in my thighs and calves and arms. These are the things that show that I am strong, but most importantly for me, these are the things that demonstrate that I am not just a dress size, or a number on the sodding scales, but a body that can do incredible things.

    I am there for Any Other Naked. With bells on. Not sure where I’ll be attaching the bells…. awkward thought.

    K x

  5. Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I was another one that said I look better naked. I just generally do look better naked or bikini-ed, I think that’s more to do with nothing fitting me properly as my boobs are as big as my head and that I am a useless shopper so I feel self conscious a lot of the time in what I’m wearing- that it’s not quite right.

    I’m not an exhibitionist though, I don’t like being naked in the gym changing rooms- I go in the cubicle bit just as much to avoid other naked people as showing myself.

    I don’t really look in the mirror naked either though- what’s the book where she gets divorced and find a the book about style written a really ing time ago and follows the chapters? There’s a bit in there where she does the whole body reveal- and admits she’s only been looking at herself in segments for year’s so as not to worry too much about it.

    I’ll join Any Other Naked- we could make an event of it, along the lines of Earth Hour or something, this could have been a sponsored post in fact- mirror company/ moisturiser/waxer!!! :)

    • Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Am determined to get a body moisturiser and mirror compant to sponsor Any Other Naked – we could all tweet each other with how we’re looking!

  6. Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Ps bikram yoga sounds terrifying

  7. Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    My phones done its usual trick of making me look illiterate. Sorry.

    • Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Ha, I thought that was just me that did that! Get too over-excited, post on AOW on phone, read it back, die of embarrassment. I never notice when anybody else does it, mind!

      Px

  8. Becca
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I think I look SO much better naked. So much so that TBTMMO regularly asks me why I am in my kitchen naked and should I not be more careful that I don’t burn myself on the kettle (am not so much nudist beach attendee than more comfortable out of clothes). Strange because, like Anna, I get changed in the gym in the toilets whilst everyone else wanders around naked. For me, I don’t mind being naked infront of him but rather do mind more so when its women because….how sad it this…I feel like I’m being judged. I blame being podgy at school and having “shamu” chanted when I got changed. Aren’t women BITCHES? Why why why why?

    I am happy to tweet you a picture of my toenails for any other naked.

    On the whole clothes thing….Rebecca Florence Finds is going to supervise a shopping trip and MAKE ME WEAR COLOUR that FITS ME. We will tweet about it. Obvs.

  9. Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    As a hot yoga convert, this so made me nod my head… yes, it does sort of make you face (quite literally!) your body… and yes none of the poses are becoming are they?! But you’re right, it does make you think of your body in a different way to the usual ‘I hate this bit’ bs! :)

2 Trackbacks

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    [...] asinine expectations about what women are supposed to look like is one of them (I have ranted about being naked and about body hair to name but a few).  So when this post by regular reader Katielase (who would [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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