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Struggling With Body Confidence, Why I Stay Shirtless At Home

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I don’t think girls are the only people who suffer from body insecurity. I know this because I’m a boy – and I’ve been a victim to this endemic too.

This is my story.

As child, I had no qualms about my body. My usual summer clothing repertoire consisted of a sleeveless vest and shorts – just like any other boy of my age.

When I was around four years old – about the same time I started closing the bathroom door behind me – I gave those sleeveless vests a miss for half tees. I’m still at a loss to explain why exactly I did that. I can speculate though – it was probably the time when societal standards of decency started getting to me. However, I still wore shorts.

Then came my teenage years. I refused to step out of the house – even in my shorts. Add to that the fact that the shorts in my school uniform had just been replaced by trousers.

It wasn’t long before I replaced all my shorts with tracks. By the time I was 14, I refused to wear shorts and sleeveless tops at all.

I wore a half-tee and tracks at home; jeans and a tee or shirt outside. Quite naturally then, for a long, long time, I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to see, experience and accept my own body exactly the way it is.

At the same time, popular culture and the media was bombarding me with all sorts of stimuli about how my body should ‘ideally’ look. And in a previous article, I had written about how popular culture ingrains a narrow, unrealistic standard of beauty within us.

Despite this, I fell prey to it. I didn’t hate my body – but I didn’t love it either.

So when logic called for me to take my shirt off on a really hot day, I didn’t oblige. When my friends attempted to coerce me to join them for some fun in a water park, I didn’t oblige. All because I was worried about how I would look shirtless.

I didn’t like it this way. I wanted to appreciate and accept my body.

Ironically, it was this very same media which landed a catharsis at my door. The ‘body positivity’ movement opened my eyes to how unrealistic ‘popular’ standards of beauty really are.

I realised that I was perfectly fine just the way I was. After all, none of us look perfect – and for all I know, I’m pretty fit right now.

My logical brain was convinced; my subconscious not so much. That took many more steps, and this continues to be a work in progress.

By chance, I stumbled upon an article on why I should sleep naked. Something in me was itching to try this out. I wanted to feel the pleasure and comfort, not to mention the slew of health benefits.

After agonising over it for days, one fine night, I garnered enough courage to lay waste to the fears which were holding me back – and I took my clothes off before going to bed. And guess what? I loved it. I’ve never looked back since. Today, I’m one of those people who sleep naked whenever possible (mostly at home, in the privacy of my own bedroom).

Sleeping naked made me fall in love with my body. But I wasn’t done yet.

There’s a big difference between being naked in the privacy and darkness of the night and having the guts to be shirtless in front of people. That was the next logical step. But I really didn’t do this deliberately. A variety of factors pushed me into doing it.

India is a hot country – and summer was fast approaching. It was getting warmer and more humid. I was already sleeping naked, and I knew how comfortable and sensual it felt not to wear clothes. I had every incentive to take my shirt off. I desperately wanted to do it, but my fears held me back. The final push came from my best friend. While chatting with him one day, he told me that weather permitting, he prefers to remain shirtless at home.

The very next day, I decided to do it. The same intense trepidation overcame me. I used the same old technique once again – I garnered enough courage to lay waste to my fears and take my shirt off. Never did I ever look back.

The first few hours were indeed pretty intense. Never mind the fact that I was shirtless in front of my own family, I myself was still uncomfortable with this. It took me days to get used to it.

Sleeping naked had been a completely exhilarating experience. It showed me how much pleasure I could get if I gave my body the love it deserves. This, however, was a different game. It took me some days to accept my body just as it is – with all my great features, good features, and not-so-good features.

Gradually, I learnt to love my body. I also learnt to accept it along with all of its imperfections.

These days, weather permitting, I stay shirtless at home. I don’t wear shorts though, I still prefer tracks. That, however, is a personal choice (crazy, maybe?), and not one driven by my insecurity about my body.

Back then, I didn’t know it, but I had an ally working silently in the background. There is some evidence that non-sexual nudity in the presence of people is a great way to shoot your body confidence through the roof.

It’s no wonder that many stories of humans learning to love their bodies involves non-sexual nudity in some form.
________

The journey continues.

Indeed, I’ve made remarkable progress. A year ago, I wouldn’t have dared to wear a sleeveless top outside. I wouldn’t dare to go shirtless at home. Today I can, and I do. I love it.

I’m now quite secure about my body, but not secure enough. However, I am making fast progress.

For too long, we have allowed popular culture to disillusion us about our body image, and then hold ourselves accountable for this skewed image. This trap led our confidence into a tailspin till we hit rock bottom.

It’s time we realise that no two human bodies are the same. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise, by holding you to an ‘ideal’ body image. And if you’ve already been convinced, my story is the perfect blueprint for you to begin to come out of it and accept your body. It’ll be hard, but I promise you, it’ll definitely be worth it.

_

Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Pixabay
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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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