Naturism and Body Image

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A paper published last January in Britain looked into the effects of naturism on body image and self esteem. They correctly site the problem: “Negative body image in both women and men derives from exposure to, and pressure to achieve, unrealistic ideals of attractiveness.”

We are bombarded daily with perfect body shapes in advertising, television, movies, and magazines. The new biggest culprit? Social media. This false ideal of perfection is an impossible standard to live up to. And yes, even as a male, I’ve had my own share of issues to overcome.

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Two Examples of Pectus Excavatum

My mother has photos of me naked in the backyard as a child. I recall swimming with friends in the public pools on hot summer days. So indeed at some point I didn’t care what I looked like. But puberty hit and that eventually changed. I consider myself a fairly attractive person, but my chest wasn’t like everyones. I have pectus excavatum, where my sternum grows slightly inward, and as I got older I went out of my way to never be shirtless around anyone. Ever.

When I met my wife all those years ago, she claims she never noticed my chest until I pointed it out. So perhaps I over exaggerate my own condition. But other than her, no one saw me shirtless until I discovered naturism.

You wouldn’t think it, especially here in Wisconsin, but not a single person has a body that looks anything like the ones in Men’s Health, Maxim, or Hollywood movies. Everyone has their own dings, dents, scars, and other imperfections. And the first time on a clothing optional beach led to a sense of freedom I’d never experienced before. I could be shirtless – heck, completely naked – and no one cared. No one stared or pointed. It was incredibly liberating.

I’ve since been shirtless in front of many friends who agree with my wife that it is not as noticeable as I make it out to be. And while it is certainly nice to hear, it also angers me that I hid myself for as long as I did. How many fun swim activities did I weasel out of over the years? How many times did I back out of going out with friends – or girls – because there was a chance I’d have to take my shirt off? I wish I would have discovered naturism earlier!

So even as a male, naturism has led to a very positive change in my own self esteem and body image issues. Now I cringe when my wife has the same negative body image comments about herself. If I could only talk her into trying naturism as well, she could understand when I tell her just how beautiful I think she is!

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