The day I overcame my feelings of body inadequacy

Sole Felsen
The day I overcame my feelings of body inadequacy

Looking back now with hindsight, I realise I hated my body during my teenage years. I was deeply body-ashamed, hating my female shape, and afraid to look at myself from my neck down. It became normal for me to hide behind layers and layers of clothing. 

I wasn’t alone, as many of my girlfriends also had body issues, but not to my extremes of feeling ashamed. I was so body conscious that for over a decade I never once set foot inside a swimming pool or went to a beach. Thankfully my parents didn’t actually notice why I was so intent on avoiding beach holidays, accepting that I would prefer to take my own vacations abroad.

It’s very possible I would have gone through my entire life feeling this way about my body if it wasn’t for the fact that some years later, in my late twenties, I moved to continental Europe. In my new country spas were very popular and affordable. Chatting with my work colleagues I learned that the benefits of the sauna experience were huge, as they told me about the different types of sauna rooms with varying temperatures, decoration, and all sorts of salt/honey/mud/etc peeling techniques.

Over time I became more and more curious to experience a spa for myself, but there was one big problem – I knew that nudity was mandatory in the sauna area. With my long established body insecurity issues, I came up with all sorts of reasons to convince myself not to go. Are ugly people frowned upon in spas?, I’d ask myself. Was I too fat to be naked in public? Would other users stare at me and judge me as unsuitable for going naked?

At the same time I rebuked myself for thinking like an insecure child. I wanted to try it out at all costs, so one day I finally decided to rid myself of that paralysing female insecurity that had made me miss some life opportunities. I decided I was finally going to confront that fear of being naked in public for the very first time in my life. 

Playing it safe, I booked a session at my local sauna, on my own, on a Monday morning when I figured that the place would be relatively deserted. That proved to be the case, with nearly all the other sauna goers seeming to be retired gentlemen. Before I knew it I found myself sitting naked in a sauna at nearly 100 C. At first I sat in a most uncomfortable position, determined to show as little of my body as possible, but I soon realised the men had their eyes closed and were only focusing on their own sweating. 

Feeling more relaxed all the time, I repeated my sauna courses in the other rooms until I entered an empty steam room as the same time as a man who seemed to be 100 years old. He was staring at me, and I started to feel self-conscious again. After some of minutes of equitable silence he spoke up: “You win! I was trying to endure this heat for a few more minutes out of pure vanity.  I didn’t want to appear as a weakling in front of you, but I’ll have to leave now, you are definitely stronger than me!!!” 

I burst out laughing, realising that I was mostly laughing at myself. While I was worried how he might have been appraising my inadequate body, his only concern had been his own physical resilience and whether he could outlast me in the extreme heat. 

It took that old man to make me finally realise the truth – that body shame exists only in our own minds, that it is a waste of energy and a negative influence on our own mental health to keep thinking so much about how others perceive us. After all those years of being preoccupied with thoughts of body shame, I finally got it thanks to the lesson from those octogenarian men. If they didn’t mind what other people would think of them, why should I be so insecure about myself? We are all the same worthy human beings, no matter what shape or size we are.

One thought on “The day I overcame my feelings of body inadequacy

  1. Colin from Ireland says:

    Thanks for sharing. First time at a naturist spa is always so memorable. I still remember my first expierence at Sauna Katelenplein in Veldhoven in The Netherlands !!!

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