Is there anyone, except perhaps a few veteran naturists/nudists, who doesn’t think that being naked around other people – not only strangers but even people we know well – can produce strong feelings of vulnerability? Vulnerability is a topic we’ve touched on somewhat before, but the time seems right to go into some depth about it.
It will take a few posts to do justice to the subject. First we have to ask, what is “vulnerability”? Don’t bother looking in the dictionary. We need to go deeper than that. Let’s just start with examples, aside from being naked, of when we typically have feelings of vulnerability. The list could be long, but includes having a first date with someone new, going to a job interview, having to speak in front of an audience, and having a candid discussion with a significant other. All these examples involve situations where we have specific, serious fears that something “bad” could happen.
To be specific about the vulnerability that is felt when one is naked, the fears might include
- Fear that someone important to us will reactive negatively to seeing us naked
- Fear that others will have a low opinion of our naked appearance
- Fear that others will have a negative opinion of our character if we admit to enjoying social nudity
- Fear of unwanted sexual advances or even physical danger as a result of being naked
- Fear of loss of social status or even employment from being known as a participant in social nudity
And so on. Since you’re reading this blog, you can surely think of many more examples.
So the question we have to contend with is: How can we learn to cope with the feelings of vulnerability that threaten the enjoyment of social nudity? Notice that we’re not looking for ways to dispel the fears entirely. Some of them are almost inevitable if we want to actually enjoy participation in social nudity. It isn’t a good idea to deny that some fears, which may vary from person to person, are actually realistic.
However, in order to enjoy the benefits and pleasures of social nudity, it’s worth the effort to work on the associated feelings of vulnerability.
To begin with, we’ll start with a TED lecture by someone who’s spent years researching vulnerability. Brené Brown is a university research professor of social work and author of several books dealing with topics such as perfectionism, shame, and vulnerability. The following video doesn’t mention nudity at all, but it gives a good summary of Brené’s take on the topic of vulnerability. Her bottom line is that trying to numb an emotion like vulnerability is not a good approach, because it also entails numbing positive emotions associated (for example) with play, creativity, and connection with others. Her advice, in a nutshell, is to strive for an attitude of authenticity – the association of which with nudity is something we’ve also discussed previously. Though she’s not referring to nudity, the message is that it is a good thing to let yourself be seen, if you want to connect with others. Obviously, this is an even more significant step if you’re naked.