Sometimes, the only way I know how to be is naked.
In one, very real way, I mean literally, physically naked. In many other ways, I mean it more abstractly—naked in my thoughts, in my soul, in all of the other ways a person can be naked.
In order to be anything other than stripped, bare and exposed, we have to add a layer. It may be a layer of clothing, a filtering of thoughts before they leave our mouths, a hidden message in our words to protect the truth beneath them.
My problem is this: I am paralyzed with the unknowingness of how to represent what is inside of me with these various layers I must put on everyday.
There are days that it is hard to get dressed, because I am unsure which clothes will say, “I am so much kinder to my body than I used to be, but am still nowhere near achieving confidence.”
I struggle to carry on conversations with strangers because I have not yet discerned which words and what body language conveys that, “I am trying so hard to open up to the world, please believe me. It’s just that I’m still quite afraid of being misunderstood.”
I am always wary to try and define my beliefs, because they are in constant flux, and sometimes they are contradictory of one another—can I believe in angels but not in heaven?
So, instead of waking up each day and gearing up to go outside and face life, I sit with myself in nakedness.
There, in that place, I don’t have to worry about what I look like in that scary mirror life holds up to us. There is no fear of being misinterpreted, misrepresented, or being the red tulip in a field of white.
Still, my heart tells me that while sitting with ourselves is a wonderful thing in small doses, too much of it is no way to live a lifetime.
We do not spend all this time getting to know ourselves so we can die happy knowing who we are and that is all. We spend this time getting to know ourselves so we know how to better leave our mark on the world, how to connect with others in more meaningful ways, and how to embrace others in their own nakedness.
This leads me to believe that perhaps there are two, distinct stages to this whole “self-awareness” thing—okay, there are more like an infinite number of stages in the never-ending process to enlightenment, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll go with two.
First, there is the terrifying, all-too-revealing, largely lonesome stage of getting to know what this nakedness looks like, finding all of the secrets we’ve hidden from ourselves, and recognizing both their existence and how we feel about them.
Originally, I had it in my head that this self-awareness would equal self-love. But, that doesn’t really make sense.
Love for others doesn’t always, and probably shouldn’t, come to us immediately upon recognizing someone’s existence. That is more like passion, or a fleeting connection based on something that does not go beneath surface level. It may develop into something greater over time, with patience and cultivation, but a deep, unfailing love does not bloom overnight.
Why would it be any different for ourselves?
In fact, we are likely to discover things that need work, that are not exactly what we want for ourselves, that will make us wish we never looked in the first place. It could be a part of our past we thought we were saving ourselves from by turning a blind eye to, or it could be a physical scar that we cover each day with long sleeves.
Each can be as difficult to confront as the other.
It is in this stage that I am currently stuck. I am confronting my nakedness, I am becoming more and more aware of it with each new day, but I am not in love with it.
Falling in love with it is, I believe, the second step in the process.
Maybe then, once I begin to love the newfound kindness toward my skin, love the parts of me that will forever be awkward and difficult to understand, and love that my mind allows me to believe things which are impossible to believe, I will stop being paralyzed by trying to figure out how to represent them.
I will simply let these parts of me show themselves for what they are, whatever they may be.
Maybe then they won’t need to be represented at all, by fabric or words or actions—they will simply be, and they will radiate through any layers added on top of them.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum