Stripped: A Naked New Years Revolution

Do you remember the first time someone saw you naked?

I don’t.

Kind of weird, right?

I remember some dark rooms with boys at parties. I remember my first real, “let’s keep the lights on” kind of love. But I’ve got absolutely nothing when I dig in to find my first memory of being seen naked.

Instead, when I consider the question, I am reminded of the first time I felt exposed in a way I couldn’t control. I was in Kindergarten and had completed my first homework assignment with a little more gusto than your average five year-old. I exited the womb as an obsessive overachiever, and Kindergarten was my first chance to let the world know that it had encountered unmatched academic greatness.

And I had the perfectly colored whale picture to prove it.

Upon being presented with my masterpiece, my teacher looked past me and up at my mom, laughing as she proclaimed, “Well SOMEONE is a little excited about being in school, isn’t she!”

I am not sure if it was the knowing laugh the two shared, or the “isn’t she cute” glance that passed between them, but I knew right away that I had done something silly. Something that was more than expected.

Something that was far too big.

And so I hid as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, trying to cover up the heat that had sprung into my belly, crept up my chest, and threatened to reveal itself on my face.. an unnerving response that still persists to this very day.

I’m wondering… have you ever felt exposed that way? Made to feel visible without your permission?

Me too. So many times. And all of the clothes in the world can’t cover this visceral version of shame.

It has paralyzed me in boardrooms and bedrooms and every place in between. I have felt flushed with this sense of being revealed at the table when I filled my plate with food, or in meetings when my ideas were dismissed. And when I feel naked and known this way, I freeze, mortified that I have been uncovered in spite of my best attempts to the contrary.

To this day, I must force myself to stay present to a person when I sense I’ve revealed too much. When a friend places a hand on my back, I am not always able to appreciate the kind gesture, but am instead distracted by the fact that they now know how my flesh folds. When a stranger locks eyes with me searching for what might be real under the surface, I find myself gripped by that same belly-burning heat, forgetting that I am no longer that little girl who was stripped of her bravado and exposed as a silly, too big ball of excitement stuck in the middle of a world that needed her to stay small.

But you know what? I’m starting to discover that it doesn’t have to stay this way. After decades of managing my fear by finding ways to disappear, I have grown both achingly tired and desperately lonely.

This isn’t Kindergarten. I can’t use my mom as my shield. And I seem to have run out of places to hide.

So, I’ve decided to strip instead.

I’ve determined the most certain route to freedom is to reveal to you the parts of myself I’m most afraid you’ll discover on your own.

And now, when you lay your hand on my back, I forget about the folding flesh because I’ve already shown you.

Remember this? In this exact shot, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest and I was dripping sweat. Fear is a funny thing, isn’t ?

Remember this? In this exact shot, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest and I was dripping sweat. Fear is a funny thing, isn’t ?

When you lock eyes with me, you’ll find very little fear of being found out. I already know what you’ll see because I’ve looked there too, and discovered that if I stay with myself long enough, I will find something to love.

And if I let you stay, you will probably find the exact same thing.

But that isn’t the end of the story either. There is just one more thing.

I’m not done yet.

I’ve uncovered courage I didn’t know I had and have found things I had forgotten I’d hidden.

Things I didn’t want you to know. Things I didn’t want to know about myself.

Things about my relationship with alcohol and food and perfection and this fucking obsession with being busy. Things that shrink me and keep me hidden from you.

I am losing those layers, too, which feels a bit like flying.

And as you may have suspected by now, I’d like you to come along with me. I’ve never like flying alone.

As the New Year approaches, I want you to remember that you are entering a “no-fly zone” designed by multiple trillion dollar markets to clip your wings and remind you to shrink the undesirable parts of who you are. As you are bombarded by the images and invitations created to help you disappear, I want you to remember that there is another way. I want you to remember that a life without layers is the life you deserve.

I don’t know what you use to hide yourself. I don’t need to know. But I am absolutely certain the world is less than it should be because you are less of you in it.

And I want all of you.

Here. With me. With us. In this collective chorus of courage.

Creating a New Years Revolution full of women unashamed of being naked and known.

Seen and loved. Held and whole.

So, what do you say? Let’s get naked, shall we?


Sarah Stevens