As recently as a year ago, I wouldn’t dare go topless at the beach or even at home. I wouldn’t dare wear a sleeveless vest.
I was that insecure about my body.
I sleep naked.
Weather permitting, I never wear a shirt at home. I love to wear sleeveless tops in the summer.
How did I come so far? This is my story.
As a child, I had no qualms about my body. I roamed about the entire time in a sleeveless vest and shorts — just like any other boy of my age in a tropical country like mine (India).
When I was around four years old — about the same time I started closing the bathroom door behind me — I gave those sleeveless vests a miss for half tees.
I’m still at a loss to explain exactly why I did that. I can speculate though.
It was probably the beginning of societal standards of decency getting to me.
I was still wearing shorts.
Then in came the teenage years.
I refused to step out of the house in shorts. Add to that the fact that the shorts of my school uniform had just been replaced by trousers.
It wasn’t long before I replaced all my shorts with tracks.
By the time I was 14, I refused to wear shorts and sleeveless tops at all.
A half tee and tracks at home. Jeans and a tee or shirt outside.
Quite naturally then, for a long, long time, I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to see, experience and accept my own body exactly the way it is.
At the same time, popular culture and the media was bombarding me with all sorts of stimuli about how my body should “ideally” look.
I have written earlier about how popular culture ingrains into us a narrow, unrealistic standard of beauty.
I fell prey to it.
I didn’t hate my body. But I didn’t love it either.
So when logic called for me to take my shirt off on a really hot day, I didn’t oblige. When my friends attempted to coerce me to join them for some fun in a water park, I didn’t oblige.
All because I was worried about how I would look shirtless.
What made me lose my body confidence?
Without a doubt — social standards of decency and popular culture.
They had gotten to me, and they had gotten way out of hand.
I didn’t like it this way.
I wanted to appreciate and accept my body.
Ironically, it was this very same media which landed a catharsis at my door .
The body positivity movement opened my eyes to how unrealistic the popular standards of beauty we hold ourselves to are.
I realised that:
I’m perfectly fine just the way I am.
Because none of us look perfect; and for all I know, I’m pretty fit right now.
My logical brain was convinced. My subconscious not so much.
Convincing it took many more steps, and this continues to be a work in progress.
By chance, I stumbled upon an Internet article on the why I should sleep naked. I really wanted to try this out.
I wanted to feel the pleasure and comfort of this experience.
Not to mention the slew of health benefits.
After agonizing over it for days, one fine night, I garnered enough courage to say “F**k it” to all my fears, and took my clothes off before going to bed.
And guess what?
I loved it. I’ve never looked back since.
Now I’m one of those people who sleeps naked whenever possible (mostly when at home in the privacy of my own bedroom).
Beginning to sleep naked made me fall in love with my body.
But I wasn’t done yet.
There’s a big difference between being naked in the privacy of the darkness of the night and having the guts to be shirtless in front of people.
That was the next logical step.
But I really didn’t do this deliberately. A variety of factors pushed me to do it.
India is a hot country.
Summer was fast approaching, and it was getting warmer and more humid. I was already sleeping naked, and I knew how comfortable and sensual it felt not having clothes.
I had every incentive to take my shirt off.
I desperately wanted to do it, but my fears held me back.
The final push came from my best friend.
While chatting with him one day, he told me he never wears a shirt at home if the weather permits.
The very next day, I decided to do it.
The same intense trepidation overcame me. I used the same old technique once again — I garnered up enough courage to say “F**k it” to my fears and took my shirt off.
Never did I ever look back.
Never mind that I was shirtless in front of my own family, I was still uncomfortable. It took me some days to get used to it.
Beginning to sleep naked was an entirely positive experience — it showed me how much pleasure I could get if I gave my body the love it deserves.
This was a different game, though.
It took me some days to accept my body just as it is — with all my great features, good features and not-so-good features.
I learnt to love my body. I learnt to love and accept it along with all of its imperfections.
Today, weather permitting, I stay topless at home.
I don’t wear shorts though, I prefer tracks. That is, however, a (crazy?) personal choice and not one driven by body insecurity.
I didn’t know it back then, but I had an ally working silently in the background.
There is some evidence that non-sexual nudity in the presence of people is a great way to shoot your body confidence through the roof.
No wonder then — many stories of human beings learning to love their body involves non-sexual nudity in some form.
I’ve made remarkable progress in a short span of time.
A year ago, I wouldn’t dare to wear a sleeveless top outside. I wouldn’t dare to go shirtless at home.
Today I can, and do.
I’m now quite secure about my body, but not secure enough.
If you ask me to recite this very same story before an audience, I’ll hesitate quite many times.
After wearing a shirt for some time due to the cold weather, I often hesitate to go shirtless again. I still hesitate to wear sleeveless tops when I go outside.
I’ve thus realised:
Body confidence is a journey, not a destination.
I’ve come a long way, but I’m far from done.
Are you insecure about your body? The very first step is to acknowledge this.
If it’s any consolation, you’re definitely not alone. So many of us suffer from body insecurity.
I was at rock bottom.
This is how far I’ve come — in a year.
Who am I? A completely ordinary human being like you — just another 17- year-old boy.
If I could come this far this fast, so can you.
My story is a blueprint to help you begin to love your body. So tell me – when do you propose to begin?
Originally published at medium.com