By Laura Delarato
My 16-year-old self remembers her. She was my mother’s friend — an incredibly tall, statuesque woman with yellowish-blonde hair and oval-red sunglasses she peered over every single time she lit a cigarette while driving; a self-aware beat as she exhaled out the driver window. I don’t remember her name, but I remember a medium-ish portrait she had hanging in the bathroom — it was her sitting completely naked on a towel at the beach donning the same red sunglasses and cigarette. That one singular image dripped with confidence and power; two qualities I thought I’d never find in my body. But there it was, on display for anyone who graced her coconut scented bathroom. I frequented it just to stare at the image; how she looked so unbothered by the world and what anyone could say about her naked body. I asked the nude gods to bestow that power onto me as I struggled with my, seemingly, wrong 16-year-old body.
"It swats away the negative messages we are surrounded by as we try to live our lives and love ourselves to the best of our ability."
Unabashed nudity exudes a mental and physical fortitude unlike no other. The veil is gone, your vulnerability is out, and there’s no shield for you to hide behind. It screams I am comfortable with who I am. It swats away the negative messages we are surrounded by as we try to live our lives and love ourselves to the best of our ability. Think about this: how many contradictory messages do you receive in one day through media, images, societal expectations, work, and friendships? We need to be modest but promote our work in order to be seen. We all need to jump on the self-care bus, but don't be vain or you’ll be seen as a narcissist. You do you, but don’t be indulgent. It’s too much pressure for all of us to live up to; barely balancing on these arbitrary standards on how to be.
I started taking nude photos of myself a few years ago, prompted by a peer who was also in eating disorder recovery. She insisted the act alleviated her dysmorphia because she had to move, pose, and feel what it was like to not disconnect from her physical presence — and the connected proof was captured on her screen. I nervously went into the self-challenge, ready to slink away to the simultaneously safe and unsafe world of hating my body. I was still wasn’t letting anyone take a photo of me with clothes on . . . let alone being nude. I would recoil from the lens, convinced that my face, my body, my being was not good enough to be captured.
"I suggest you start taking nude photos right now and find that personal connection with your body."
But, I did it. I would take a few photos with my phone and then immediately delete them. I couldn’t endure their physical existence or the minute possibility of anyone seeing them. I tried again with new positions. And then again, showing off more and not entirely hating them as I kept posing, kept exploring, kept trying. Now, I’m 32 and scrolling through my phone’s photo album looks like a collage of fleshy thumbnails where I’ve posed, selfied, set up my timer all for the sake of finding confidence within myself.
We are all very good at disassociating from our bodies — not looking at ourselves in the mirror, forgetting to eat, powering through when we feel sick, removing ourselves from physical activity because we might not be naturally equipped, never ever being naked — and we let that fear of facing our form drag down our confidence, our self-esteem, what we believe we deserve. I suggest you start taking nude photos right now and find that personal connection with your body. Here, a way to finding your nude path:
No one is saying this is going to be simple. The act of even getting naked is a mental gymnastic feat that requires us to ignore years of conditioning that have told us we’re not good enough no matter how hard we try. Start here by acknowledging that the overwhelming feeling you may have in your chest right now is a product of consistent marketing to get you to buy things.
"It’s important for us to critically think about what we are being told through hashtags, paid promotions, and what images the platform’s algorithm pushes you to see first."
Okay. Now that we’re mentally prepped, it’s time to do some social cleaning. That aforementioned marketing pressure is thriving across all of the social platforms we typically frequent. Go through your feed and unfollow everyone that makes you feel like your body isn’t worth it. Yeah, even friends. It’s important for us to critically think about what we are being told through hashtags, paid promotions, and what images the platform’s algorithm pushes you to see first.
Our brain associates value with repetition. If we only see one kind of body represented, we will start to believe it’s the only body that has worth. And that’s a shame because your body right now has worth. Fill your social feeds with people who look like you, who love their bodies, who actively enjoy being naked in the body they have. I hate to be cliche but seeing really is believing.
"Let’s all take a moment to recognize that being naked is kind of funny!"
Let’s all take a moment to recognize that being naked is kind of funny! Your body moves in a completely different way when it’s not being held up and pushed together by waistbands and structured pieces. Take baby steps into your nude photo journey by learning what it feels like to move without any barriers. You can start small with a robe or underwear in your room. Then gradually get in the habit of doing a routine without clothes on. I, personally, do my makeup in the morning completely naked!
Know this. Not every photo of yourself is going to be amazing. It’s not supposed to. Our bodies are vast, and there are always new locales to discover. Put your phone on Selfie mode, set up the timer, and try moving in ways that feel good. You don’t have to exude a sexy pout or an alluring stare. Smile! Don’t smile. Just try moving feels good for you. You don’t have to keep the photos this time! The more you do it, the more natural the moving will become. We are working on exposing yourself to yourself!
One of the more special parts about taking nude photos is that you start to realize how beautiful your body really is. The positions you once shied away from will become routine and that negative internal monologue you once told yourself will fade away — unable to take up space in your mind and body because you’ve put in the work to remove those barriers. Recognize and be proud of those moments, babes.
"Learning to be a more confident, secure, self-assured human being through nude portraiture is maybe the most envy-inducing activity to ever be done. "
The last piece of this: ignore everyone who tells you this is not professional, appropriate, humble, etc. Learning to be a more confident, secure, self-assured human being through nude portraiture is maybe the most envy-inducing activity to ever be done. Know that and move on from those people.
Sixteen years have gone by and I still think about that woman with the nude portrait in her bathroom, and how this seemingly self-indulgent act has made it possible for me to feel good about my body, manifesting in hundreds of photos I’m not ashamed of at all. And this quiet assuredness branches out into other parts of my life: I’m significantly more confident when talk in front of large groups, I have better verbal autonomy when I speak to my lovers, no part of me feels awkward when I need to disrobe at the doctor’s office. All because of the elementary act of setting up a phone camera and snapping a few pics. Set aside tonight, tomorrow, the upcoming weekend and get ready to see a palpable transition in your confidence!