I had an interesting thing happen recently. Even though I'd like to jump ahead, a bigger story is needed to put it in context. You don't mind a personal story on body acceptance, do you?
I've mentioned it very briefly before. My major body issue is my chest. Anyone who has seen me knows that I have a unique feature with my chest. The medical term is "pectus excavatum", and mine isn't quite bad enough to need medical attention. It has its positive moments. My heart is shifted over about an inch, which I think is neat. Doctors seem to like it since they often invite in their staff to see it. That's about all for the list of positives.
As a kid, I was always very embarrassed by it. So much so that I wouldn't go swimming or take off my shirt on a hot day. I even warned my new girlfriends about it. I slept in a t-shirt during my college years, until I had my own room. It's safe to say that I had body issues, and it had an impact on my life.
I'm also not a shorts type of person. I almost never wear shorts. Partly this is because I don't like my hairy legs, so I don't want to display something ugly. The other part is because they don't go well with combat boots. Even on a hot walk to Mazo Beach, I'll still wear jeans. The legs look a lot more normal when naked, in my opinion, so it's either all or nothing for me.
I first gave home naturism a try about 5 years ago (with my current girlfriend), outdoor naturism a try about 3 years ago in Australia and loved it, and social naturism a try over 2 years ago at Mazo Beach. I've mingled with the regulars at Mazo, gone to several parties, visited a few resorts and campgrounds for events, attended a huge gathering, hung out with some good local friends, been naked around textiles, been naked on the net, been naked in nature and got published, and am on my way up in the naturist world.
Last winter, I told my parents that my girlfriend and I are both naturists. It took a bit of explaining (maybe 20 minutes?) to convey that we weren't swingers, and after that they were fine with it. We're both very open about it to friends and family.
This summer, my Aunt and cousin were visiting for a couple of weeks. One of the things I suggested was a canoe trip down the Wisconsin River since I knew the area well. Come to find out, there are no day trips that go past our favorite beach. Despite that, I still joked around during the car ride that I was disappointed about not seeing my beach friends. I made it known that we should paddle up-river a half-mile so we could visit the beach. My Aunt didn't ask any questions.
I was initially paired up with my Aunt in the canoe, I explained the reasoning behind my jokes and how I knew the area so well. She couldn't believe that we went to a nude beach! She had to confirm with my Mom that I wasn't pulling her leg. She thought it was funny, and mentioned that she'd never go to one, and didn't ask many questions about it which was a little surprising. She's normally full of questions.
With some pressure from the family, I was wearing swim trunks and sandals that day. At the first stop I had my shirt off. Years ago, I'd be wearing boots, jeans, and a shirt for the whole trip. This time, I got as close to naked as I could reasonably get.
When my Aunt was paired up with my Dad, she had to confirm it with him too. My Dad made a remark that surprised me: "I think it helped him get over his body issues." (My girlfriend overheard it and told me about it -- I was further away.) My Dad stuck up for my choice to be a naturist, and recognized that it's been a benefit to me even though I hadn't recognized it yet.
With that, I've realized just how much naturism has helped with my body issues! I never thought twice about taking my shirt off during the canoe trip. And the shorts? I was wishing they were off too. I still don't like wearing shorts -- but for opposite reasons as before. I've gone from being afraid of showing my body, to accepting my body and it's flaws and assuming that others don't care about seeing it.
It's a different mindset. Society has the impression that if you've got it, flaunt it. (And that if you don't, then nobody wants to see that.) Naturists don't care if they've got it, and they don't flaunt it -- they're just comfortable. They don't go places to check out other people -- they go to be comfortable themselves. It was hot, and I was getting comfortable. I wasn't worried about showing (flaunting) my skin like I would've been in the past.
This simple change of attitude could make a world of difference if more people would experience it.
There's another positive to my chest issue in the list. Uniqueness. It's been reminder that being different isn't always a bad thing. I've always been proud to break away from the norm, and to make my own decisions. Everyone is unique in their own way. Instead of hiding it, people should find strength in it. Naturism helps with this.
Side-story 1: At one point, we went to a large fitness club. After the locker room, my girlfriend and I compared notes. I saw many naked men, who didn't really cover up to and from the shower. My girlfriend walked naked to the scale, weighed herself, and walked back. She said that women were giving her looks of disgust because she was naked. The other women were very diligent in covering up.
Side-story 2: After the canoe trip, we ate at a place right by the landing. My girlfriend and I watched an attractive girl in a bikini getting dressed outside. (Yes, a bikini is technically dressed, but apparently not enough.) She had a towel around her shoulders, and tried very hard to balance the towel on her back as she put on shorts. After almost losing the towel a couple times, and quickly fixing it before continuing, she managed to get her shorts on. Her shorts ended up covering about an extra 2 inches of leg, but she was content. Before she lost the towel, she slipped on a muscle shirt too. My girlfriend and I were laughing through most of this. It seems that modesty sets in only after leaving the sand.