I recently had a conversation with Catholic in the 21st Century about physical and emotional nudity and it really got me thinking about how I feel when I see myself in the mirror before taking a shower.
Clothes act as a veil for human beings in a lot of ways. They cover up our bodies, accentuate certain personality traits — but at the cost of others occasionally, and act as protection from the elements and oglers. Like most people, I spend almost all of my time clothed. Except for when I step in the shower for obvious reasons.
Now, before I get in the shower, I often catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and it almost feels like an out-of-body experience because, for once, I’m stripped completely bare. There’s nothing between my skin and my eyes. Now I say almost because I know that body belongs to me. I know that, underneath all of the layers, that’s what I truly look like.
It’s a moment of pure spirituality for me. I see myself the way God sees me: no filters, no tricks, no lies. Just me. All of me. It’s one of the most literal manifestations of self-awareness in my life. That girl in the mirror is me.
Then I get to thinking: Do I like what I see in the mirror? Is my true form enough for me? Am I ashamed of seeing myself like that? Am I happy with myself and my life?
It’s that state of being naked, that authentic experience of me, that not only gets me thinking in the shower but carries over into the rest of my life as emotional nakedness. I’m not ashamed of any of my emotions anymore. I used to be perturbed by my darker side; my anger and sadness, but that’s just part of being a human being. We’re not bundles of sunshine and we’re not black clouds. At least in the ideal sense. I understand that mental illnesses can make an individual swing closer to the poles of the spectrum than they’d like and that’s why mental health can’t be ignored. It’s a valid world problem.
At any rate, not being ashamed of my body really helped me love myself. I used to struggle with body image. To the point that I starved myself at a particularly low point. Fortunately, I had two very loving friends who pulled me out of that rut, but it was still an uphill battle getting to the point where I could look at myself in the mirror — even fully clothed — and not cringe. I love how Catholic in the 21st Century puts it, “God created our naked body and said it is “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) That suggests that we don’t have to uphold all these social norms surrounding beauty such as the infamous thigh gap and flat belly. We’re beautiful because God created us that way.
Once I’d achieved that surface level acceptance, I was able to progress to accepting my inner brokenness and imperfection. I remember BeautyBeyondBones bringing it up once how unhealthy the ideal of perfection is because nobody is perfect or ever will be. Period. Trying to make yourself perfect is what leads to eating disorders and/or self-harm. I’ve been there, she’s been there, and so have many others. There’s nothing wrong with having bad days or weeks or months, there’s nothing wrong with not having all the answers to your life — or yourself for that matter, there’s nothing wrong with coming as you are. We wouldn’t have all of these emotions and flaws if there was something intrinsically wrong about them.
Take a look at all of the successful blogs on here that are founded on honesty, I’ll give you a shortlist right now:
- Beauty Beyond Bones
- LIFE CONFUSIONS
- Searching for Fai
- flashlight batteries
- OKOTO ENIGMA
- LIVING AND LEARNING
- Rambling Kori
So if someone asks you how you’re doing, and you’re honestly not well, you don’t have to lie. I’ve done it before and it was far more healing than trying to cover it up. People care a little more than you think if you allow them to. Now I’m not saying you should recklessly throw yourself out into the open, I’m just saying you should keep an open mind. The stranger who offers you a shoulder to cry on may relate more to you than you think.
When I was a high school sophomore, I remember my dad brutally yelling at me in the car as he drove me to school for some reason. I was so shaken up that I didn’t speak to my friends at all that morning — I went straight to class and tried to compose myself but failed. I wound up using a bathroom pass just so I could leave. I must have spent too long crying because my teacher sent out a student to check on me. I didn’t know her very well but I figured I owed her the truth since she got dragged out of class for me. Her dad could get very angry at times like mine and, from then on, we actually got pretty close.
Also, you can turn your weaknesses into strengths, if that’s important to you, or you can just embrace the imperfect nature of human existence and spare yourself a lot of insanity. Japanese Buddhism emphasizes a lot on the insufficiency and impermanence of human existence and their aesthetics actually derive from that as well. The concept of “wabi sabi” is essentially finding beauty in the passage of time; in the experiences that a person or object has had. You know the saying that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their shoes? Japanese aesthetics celebrates the fact that we can do that. There’s beauty to be found in having lived. (I strongly encourage you lovelies to read more around it if you’re interested, I learned all of this in my philosophy class and it really changed the way I see things.)
All things considered, that’s basically why I don’t rush past the mirror before I take a shower. I get an authentic experience of me that builds me up.
“So, the next time you’re getting dressed, don’t immediately reach for a new pair of underwear after taking off the old. Be naked in a safe place. You might be surprised at what revealing your body reveals to you.” – Catholic in the 21st Century
P.S. What about you lovelies? Have you ever felt something similar — even if it was in a different context? How do you “come as you are?” Have you ever opened up to someone, against your better judgement, and had it turn out quite well?