Saturday, January 29, 2011

How to Look Good Naked

While many self-loathing people might sign up for a reality show that promises makeover, I would be surprised to find people lined up for a self-acceptance experience that involves exposing your flaws and vulnerabilities to the world with no promise of ridding you of them. I wouldn’t do it. So I was pretty shocked by the audacity of this show “How to Look Good Naked” hosted by Carson Kressley. He basically takes women who hate their body and tries to convince them they’re beautiful—by having them get naked and unashamed.

I don’t like to be naked in public.

I guess that’s normal. I have a recurring dream about being naked on an elevated toilet in the middle of the mall food court. And there’s the one where I realize I’m naked in the middle of teaching a class. Vulnerability scares me. Even more than being physically exposed, I think I fear others seeing inside. I can turn deep shades of red just thinking about things I’ve said that may have exposed parts I try to keep hidden. I even go through and delete blog posts periodically when I’m feeling especially vulnerable and fear I may have taken too many layers off in something I’ve written. I’m very careful about what I let you see.

My friend recently said to me, “Let people feel the full weight of who you are,” and I can’t get over it. When I think about it, I’m filled with a million reasons why I should cover up instead—a million reasons why I shouldn’t let you see me naked. It makes me think about our fall and restoration. If, in the garden they were naked and unashamed, then does redemption involve ridding us of this shame that tells us to cover up the full weight of who we are? To stand naked and unashamed, I would have to have full confidence that what was exposed was acceptable—that I’m loved in spite of my damage from the fall. Is that the makeover God has in mind? Is that redemption?

As I was watching Carson gently convince women to take their clothes off, look in the mirror, and be photographed naked, my discomfort was growing. He told them they were beautiful and brought evidence to persuade them they were acceptable, until finally they seemed to trust him enough to take a risk and expose themselves. It reminded me of how I need to hear from God over and over that I am beautiful and acceptable—until finally I’ll risk exposure to let others experience the full weight of who I am. It seems to me that unconditional acceptance is the only thing that can convince us to take off the layers of striving and careful covering—it is the only thing that heals the wounds of shame.

Of course, I’m not suggesting we all become nudist—literally or figuratively. In fact, if the host were a straight man, I don’t think he could pull it off. I, for one, would assume ulterior motives. And the truth is, it’s not always safe to walk around naked in our fallen state. But if we never stand bare before God or others, we can never be fully known, and can never experience the balm of acceptance—we can never look good naked. We have to get naked to look good naked. And that is where redemption takes place.
“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.” Soren Kierkegaard