“Growth is uncomfortable; you have to embrace the discomfort if you want to expand.” ~Jonathan Majors
Click, the camera lens shutters as I stand barefoot in mud, waist deep in cold river water with lilies all around me, wearing nothing but a lace cloth draped across my body. I’ll never forget how nervous I was the first time I was professionally photographed nearly naked. Something greater than my fear had called me to do it.
When I was growing up, my father was determined for me to model or act. I went to several model castings and auditions and was even in a beauty pageant. But those paths led me nowhere. It was as if I was completely unnoticed.
I remember several times, after having photos taken for agencies, my father wouldn’t let me see the pictures. He would say, “They didn’t turn out good,” and I believe, to this day, that he was right and was protecting me. I was not photogenic in my youth. I was definitely a “late bloomer.”
Those experiences gave me the belief that I clearly was not the girl people were looking for. That I couldn’t model, and I wasn’t pretty enough (no blame here on my father; it was the entire experience as a whole).
In my adolescence I was far from confident; in fact, I was extremely judgmental of myself and engrossed in comparing my life to the popular girls. This made me feel and act even more awkward, and I really grew to dislike myself.
Fast-forward a decade later, when I was avidly practicing and teaching yoga. Over several years I started to learn to be in my body, to accept my body for how it was that day, in that moment. I also started to heavily meditate and learn to detach from my judgments and harsh critical thoughts.
During this time, I heard a woman talking about doing naked yoga. I couldn’t believe this… what?! Naked yoga!? It sounded so intriguing. I had to try it!
So, one day in my own home, completely alone, I undressed and stepped onto my mat. Seeing my naked body in the poses I had practiced hundreds of times, but now naked, was so intimate. It was like seeing my naked body for the first time. I’ll never forget how much I cried while moving from pose to pose and reciting the words “I love you” to the different parts of my body.
From there it all unraveled. During this time, several girlfriends who were photographers asked me to model for them. It was then that I really started to come face to face with all the parts of myself that I was so insecure about seeing, let alone someone else seeing!
I remember the day I was asked to pose nude for the first time, I rose to the occasion. It really added a deeper layer, or actually, it took all the layers off in my self-love journey!
I felt shy, timid, judgmental, and quite frankly, I had no idea what I was doing. But this feeling of awkwardness forced me to get grounded, to breathe, and to tap into the environment around me. I had to let go of what I looked like, and then I started to be playful and have fun!
When I first saw the photos, I was so embarrassed. It made me want to shrink and fade away. In time, as I continued to model, it became an ongoing journey of building confidence and learning to accept and love myself. I was drawn like a moth to a flame because I was embarking on something beyond my past experiences of fear, and it was transformative.
I went on to model nude several more times, in various settings: the forest, the lake, the desert, the hot springs, and indoor studios. It became an act of freedom to have my body turned into art. A wild woman was born!
I felt so free while modeling nude that it became a literal quest to overcome my insecurities and radically step into self-acceptance. To love my imperfections, to expose the raw and the unpolished parts of me.
Now, all these years later, I see that these photoshoots are much bigger than just me being naked. It’s alchemizing shame into confidence, hatred into self-love. It’s about being a seed of inspiration for others to express freedom and the power that’s found through vulnerability.
Naturally, we humans are creatures of comfort, but we do not grow and evolve when we stay in these zones. The power and healing that is on the other side of the familiar is immeasurable.
If you feel the burning heart’s desire to step into greater leadership, share your talents with the world, take the leap in your life, and step into the best ever evolving version of you. You can extract what I have talked about above and implement it into your life. This doesn’t mean you have to get naked too, although that’s one way to get radical about it!
Here are seven practices that you can implement into your self-care routines, morning or evening, to create greater self-love and boost your confidence.
6 Self-Love and Confidence Boosting Tools
1. Do mirror work with affirmations.
Speak affirmations—positive “I am” statements”—into the mirror. I am joy. I am fierce. I am beautiful. I am ready.Notice and allow. What emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, or memories come up? Tuning into what these statements trigger inside you can help you identify areas for healing.
For example, if you don’t believe you’re beautiful, why? What does beauty mean to you? When did you first start believing this? What happened, and who else was involved? What proof do you have that this is just a belief, not fact?
2. Practice naked yoga.
Roll out your mat at home, turn on music, light candles, and enjoy!
You might feel uncomfortable doing this. You might focus on all the parts of your body you dislike and how you imagine you look while doing the poses. Embrace the fact that it’s just you—there’s no one to impress or please—so you truly can just be in your body, without judging it. Connecting with your body is the first step to accepting it, and accepting it is the first step to loving it.
3. Seek discomfort.
Do things that feel (just a little) scary, intimidating, and unfamiliar to you. If you’re naturally shy, start a conversation with a stranger. If you don’t usually speak in meetings, offer a suggestion. Put yourself in situations to stretch and impress yourself. There’s nothing that will create confidence faster.
4. Try something new.
Take a class, join a club, try a new hobby. Do something you’ve always dreamed of trying, or something you envy other people for doing. Even if you’re not “good at it,” the fact that you tried builds courage.
5. Pamper yourself.
Get your hair/nails done, have a spa day, wine and dine yourself. Every time you take care of yourself or do something nice for yourself, you reinforce that you deserve it.
6. Try a nude photoshoot.
This can be done completely privately, photographed by you, or it can be as adventurous as you want. The choice is yours! Just be sure to choose a photographer you trust, someone who understands you’re doing this for self-empowerment and won’t pressure you into doing anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.
Not only have these steps helped me cultivate a lifetime partnership of love with myself, but they are also proven practices of transformation!
I could have easily stayed in my comfort zone instead of stepping into that muddy, cold river naked, but I was so inspired it beckoned me to step into the unknown, because I knew it meant stepping into greater power.
This is your sign to lean into those juicy discomforts, to find power in vulnerability, to say yes and live fearlessly!