The naked dream.
That one where you're standing up in front of your colleagues during an important meeting or at the front of a room.
And you’re naked.
The panic and vulnerability and fear of ridicule set in. And all you can do is run.
RUN! RUN FROM THE ROOM!
Except your feet are glued to the floor. You can't move! You can't leave!
Yeah, that’s me right now. That's how I'm feeling.
Because it’s happening for real in a few weeks.
While I won’t be at the head of the class or leading a meeting, I will be at a training that requires nudity. While not completely unexpected for the type of training (I’m in a sex, love, and relationships coaching program, remember?), it was a bit of jolt when it came up, and it wasn’t handled with sensitivity and compassion.
So, what should I do before getting naked in public? How can I hold myself through the terror, shame, judgement, and fear of not belonging that are common when shedding clothes for the first time amongst a group of people?
I’ve come up with the following five things to do before getting naked in public:
STEP ONE: Know the Rules
Get familiar with the rules and guidelines of nudity and sexual expression where you’ll be.
Is nudity the expectation in all areas or just the common areas? Will you be taking food in the nude, or will you be the only one showing up naked at breakfast? Is disrobing something that will be done during group activities or only during free time? How is consent and self-responsibility discussed? How will discomfort or inappropriate behavior be addressed?
Knowing these rules ahead of time will give you a sense of safety, security, and belonging with the whole community being on the same page.
If the rules aren’t made clear up front, set yourself up for fluidity. Come dressed in something light and loose, and prepare yourself to disrobe if you see everyone else in the flesh.
Also spend some time determining your rules, your boundaries. Know that you don’t have to get naked just because others are taking off their clothes. You have self-responsibility. You have the power to say no to any exercises or activities you are not ready for. You can prepare yourself to take agency with handling your comfort.
Do know, though, that if you are not participating, you may be asked to leave so others aren't distracted with observers.
STEP TWO: Know Your Hosts
Find out more about your hosts and develop a sense of safety with them. This allows you a measure of comfort that anything inappropriate or sensitive will be handled with compassion and care and not shame and judgement.
If it’s not possible for you to reach out to the hosts, or if you feel unsafe and can’t reschedule the experience, prepare to take care of yourself.
Sit down and get clear on what your boundaries are. What are you comfortable with doing? How are you comfortable being? What interactions might make you uncomfortable? What might you avoid doing?
Try role playing what you’d do if you feel vulnerable, see something you are uncomfortable with, or are approached in a way that makes you feel unsafe.
Have words, resources, strategies, and tools at your disposal. You don’t have to go with the flow if the flow is a clear “no” in your body, and your hosts are unavailable or unwilling to support the experience or step in. Take care of yourself, and be clear in your body and mind.
STEP THREE: Hear Your Fears
Take the time to listen to the parts of yourself that don’t feel safe, that are scared, worried, or afraid of getting naked in public.
In a society and culture that celebrate one body type, the male gaze, and heterosexist norms, you may have a lot of anxiety, and that is really normal.
You can journal a list of all your concerns, or sit with your eyes closed in a private space and voice them out loud in a stream of consciousness way for five minutes.
However you choose to listen, tune in to how your body is feeling and what you fear. This gives you an opportunity to address your concerns with love and compassion before you're steeped in the present moment reaction of getting naked with a group of people.
Is it likely people will laugh at you as you take off your clothes?
- They're probably not paying attention to me.
Is it likely people will judge you as you walk by?
- They're probably just enjoying the air on their bodies.
Is it likely people will ask you to leave because you don't belong?
- Well, no.
Considering the likelihood of your fears actually playing out strips some of the horror and allows you to be more present with the experience itself.
STEP FOUR: Get Clear on Your Goal
Keep close the reason why you're showing up in the first place.
Is it to challenge your conditioning? Is it to experience freedom? What do you desire from the experience as a whole?
In the shadow of your goal lies many fears and doubts that may try to hold you back from achieving all you seek.
Instead treat your goal like a mantra during those moments of stress and anxiety. Give yourself something concrete to hold onto through the intensity. It may be the clarity you need to move through the vulnerability to get to the other side.
STEP FIVE: Show Up and Be Seen
Channel Brené Brown, author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection.
She says: Show up and be seen. Don’t puff up. Don’t shrink down.
I didn’t know nudity was going to be involved in my upcoming training. But I do know I can get self-conscious in large groups, especially in large groups of people I don’t know.
So I told myself to show up as me.
I told myself, I don’t have to be tall, thin, young, and beautiful. I just need to show up as authentically as I can. That means packing clothes I already own in sizes that fit my body and be me.
Now that clothes are less a part of the experience, the rest still holds — show up and be me.
Wish me luck,
P.S. Remember I have yet to have the experience! If you’ve gotten naked in public and have advice, or if you haven't gotten naked but have additional concerns, share with me in the comments section. And please! If you know someone who could benefit from this blog, please pass it along. ;)