Baring The Psyche In Social Nudity

Once the clothes come off, it is easier to be yourself with others.

Once the clothes come off, it is easier to be yourself with others.

There is a truth that operates in our modern world, the truth that “clothes make the person.” Clothing does create a version of who we are that we choose to fit various situations. That version is a carefully controlled version that hides more than it reveals about us.

As a therapist, I typically dress differently than I do when going out with neighbours to take part in a relaxed community event, or to a more formal event. I have a different way of dressing that fits each situation. What do I want to reveal about myself? What do I want others to notice and focus upon? But more often than not for most people, clothing allows them to hide from themselves. The last thing they want to do is to open up the Pandora’s Box which hides the ghosts and shadows of one’s past, or the dark shadows of instincts and impulses they sense may be lurking below the level of their awareness.

When we stand in front of a mirror, naked, typically we don’t like what we see. We’ve spent so much of our lives, hiding out bodies from ourselves and others, that there is an uneasiness felt when faced with the truth of our bodies – the scars, the blemishes, the missing or excessive flesh. It is hard to accept that this body is authentic; we want to “fix” it somehow and the normal way to fix it is simply through hiding it. The thought that our students, our co-workers, our bosses, our children would be able to see us stripped down to nothing but our skin sends a ripple of fear coursing through our brains. After all, we have all worked so hard to build our identities which provide us with presence and authority in the community. How will others be able to continue respecting us if they see us naked? Imagine, a teacher being seen nude by a number of her students at a beach – surely those students would lose respect for the teacher and tell others and that would lead to being dismissed as a teacher.

Yet, when we do risk taking off our clothes in the company of others who do so as well, we share something that builds relationship and trust. For example, the teacher naked on the beach is seen by a few of her students – yes, the students are naked as well. Like the teacher, they have taken the risk of being nude in front of others, many of whom are strangers. The likelihood of them telling others is extremely unlikely for they would in turn be exposing themselves to ridicule and peer-censoring. Rather than lose respect for their teacher, they would have an increased respect for the teacher.

I want to use a “counselling” example to show how this is in fact what we do when we risk being vulnerable. A person goes for counselling, usually to a trained professional. Bit by bit, the person discloses to the therapist and gets some relief, Typically the therapist keeps a professional distance as he or she listens and questions. When the counselling process gets stuck, it is usually because the person feels a growing disparity between himself or herself and the counsellor. At that point, a small disclosure on the counsellor’s part, an act of exposing and being vulnerable typically helps build a better sense of balance for the person who is being counselled. Trust is increased. Both counsellor and client are more authentic to each other. And with more trust, the counselling process continues.

The act of being nude with others is an act of trust. It reminds us that beneath our social roles and our disguises, we are basically all the same, humans sharing the same planet, the same air, the same goal of achieving a bit of happiness and contentment in the world we live in.

18 thoughts on “Baring The Psyche In Social Nudity

  1. I completely agree with this idea. When i am at nudist /naturist camps i find the people there so much more friendly and honest just so down to earth and nice.


  2. Very well said! Many nudists/naturists argue against the ‘Clothes make the person’ idea by erroneously taking it too literally. Though not the first to express the concept, Mark Twain is usually attributed as the source and he did write, ““Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society” This often infuriates nudists who misunderstand the meaning and take it as a slur on naturists.

    Clothes do not MAKE the man;, they create the IMAGE the man wishes to project, as you so rightly explain far better than we’ve ever been able to! That image is what influences others. Naked people are incapable of creating an image through attire and are at a disadvantage in Textile society.

    We’ll be sharing this at our website and here and there!


  3. I agree with this article. I also add for my fellow Christians, since you brought up the “Clothes makes the man”, that I would say that clothes does not make the man, but God made the man, and in his image and likeness. The “clothing” God used is an image of Himself, his likeness, character, creative, artistic, scientifically and socially curious, etc. We have a spirit within man that continue to “make the man” and further God’s creation to a new level.

    When we (those who believe in a creator God) say that “clothes makes the man”, we are putting another god before the True God. Isn’t that idolatry? We then worship the one who supplied those clothing to make us, which is ourselves. We look into the mirror (as mentioned) and become proud of ourselves and what we created ourselves to be. A “self made man” is another form of idolatry.

    God made the man, and man was not really ‘naked’ in God’s eyes, because man was complete. “God completed all that he made”. and God said “it is very good”. It was the narrator who said “Adam and Eve was naked and not ashamed”.

    As a Therapist, you may want to point that out to your Christian clients who has this issue.

    See my article “What is Naked?” at


    • Boyd, as much as we respect your work and writings, you are making a common mistake in interpreting the ‘Clothes make the man” statement too literally. It was never intended to mean that clothing modifies or creates an individual, it’s merely that attire creates an IMAGE that the person wishes to create, usually as a means of acquiring position in society. And it works. That IMAGE is what society reacts to, not the real inner man.

      Consider judges, politicians, police officers, businessmen, strippers; all create their IMAGE through clothing. Society judges and places value upon others by their attire. That’s what the phrase means, and it’s inescapable.

      The beauty of nudism/naturism is that without that false imagery we are forced to actually meet and know a person to discover who they are. Clothes may make the image of the man, but nudism forces the man to expose who he really is through his actions and words.


  4. This is not a comment.
    Please give me your name so that I can put it on my translation to give you credit for the essay (use the mail indicated above, obviously if you agree with my purpose to publish)


  5. Pingback: La fiducia di mettersi a nudo | Essere Nudo

  6. I wish that becoming “authentic” was as easy as stripping our clothes off, but it isn’t. We do shed our clothes-created persona, but little more. Being in the company of other nudists doesn’t automatically create a “safe zone” where we are free to be our deeper selves. Often we barely know those people from Adam. They may be acquaintances or familiar-strangers, but we aren’t likely to know any more about each other than our respective names, that is FIRST names. We may share where we call “home”, but little more, because we don’t know who we can trust. It is also highly-unlikely that we will ever see those people outside the boundaries of that nudist venue.

    I am far more “open” in some of the online groups I belong to than in person, because I know that there is mutual love and respect in those online communities. Trust can only be built-up over time.


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