“I’m used to my body doing what I want it to do, without pain. I take that for granted so much.”

I’m Hannah, one of the creators of Project Naked (that sounds kind of grand, but I can’t think of a better word!) I’m so happy to see how many new followers the blog is getting recently, and hope to hear stories from some of you! Here’s some stuff I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of days.

I’m currently away on a three-month trip across the US and Canada, and I’ve been reflecting the past few days on what my body means to me.

I’m in Vancouver right now, the tenth stop on my travels. The morning I was leaving Seattle to come here, I tripped running for the bus and totally decked myself, two rucksacks and all, and bashed up one of my knees. Thankfully I think the rucksack on my front stopped me hitting my face and breaking my nose, because fuck going to a hospital in America. I limped onto the bus and managed to make it to my train on time, despite having to take a couple of breaks when I felt faint from the shock of the fall and the pain in my swollen knee.

Then I made it to Vancouver and tripped again, only slightly this time but I hit the kerb and took the skin off my other knee. While I sat snivelling at a bus stop, mopping the blood up with baby wipes, a man stopped and gave me a hug, which was nice and exactly what I needed right then.

The past few days hobbling around on my bashed up knees has made me appreciate my normally strong body and realise how I take it for granted.

20140705-120047-43247682.jpg

I’m used to my body doing what I want it to do, without pain. I take that for granted so much. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve walked extensively at my usual quick pace, and my strong, dumpy wee legs take me wherever I want to go. If I want to walk 15 miles taking a convoluted route from the Upper East Side in Manhattan to Park Slope in Brooklyn, I can and I did. I can sit, crouch, squat and lounge on whatever surface I like when I’m tired.

And now for the last few days I’ve been limping around in mild pain with every step, lowering myself into and out of chairs like I’m 8 months pregnant and having to keep an eye on how I’m sitting so I don’t crack open my scabby knee suddenly or hit it on things.

I’m not complaining. This is a minor and temporary impairment and I feel it getting better every day, although I’m still hobbling up stairs slowly and getting frustrated by how much more slowly I’m walking. But it reminds me how I just assume my body will do things for me. I take it for granted that every day I can get out of bed without pain, walk without pain, sit however I like. I don’t appreciate it at all.

Another thing my injured knees have done is make me less self-conscious about my hairy legs. Even though I haven’t shaved them in over two years, I’m still not crazy about getting them out for the general public. People stare at them and nudge each other – not constantly, but enough that I notice and feel uncomfortable sometimes. And inflamed with feminist rage which just casts a downer on my day because WHY DO THEY CARE? And I’m not being paranoid and just assuming people are noticing. They definitely are. My hair is thick and dark, more obvious than on many guys’ legs, and while I understand that it’s unusual to see on a woman I wish that people wouldn’t stare.

But for the first few days my knee was too raw not to go bare-legged. So I had to get my shorts out and limp around in them. And then when I saw people staring at my legs I just assumed they were staring at my banged-up knees wondering what happened (which is still not polite, folks). I didn’t care if people stared at my legs because it was just more comfortable to have them out.

Trying to feel fully comfortable with my body is something I still have to do. I generally do like my body a lot. I think it looks nice, despite its “imperfections” as far as the media is concerned. I hardly ever obsess over it, and when I find myself thinking bad thoughts about it I push them away, because they are always bullshit. And I’m learning to appreciate its strength and power more.

My body carries me through life and helps me do amazing things. In just the past two months, it’s taken me white water rafting, walked around almost a dozen cities, climbed 500 stairs from a Vancouver beach (with two sore knees), swum in a Vermont lake and in the Pacific Ocean, and eaten more mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups than is really advisable. My body can let me see the whole world.

– Hannah, 26

Advertisements

Carol Rossetti – WOMEN

This is one of the reasons I love facebook and can’t quite give it up because I come across amazing things like this from the various pages I follow. This is the amazing work by Carol Rossetti, so simple yet so powerful! I wanted to share on the blog because I felt it so fitting and something a lot of woman will relate to. Also the illustrations are just too KICK ASS not to share.

10460783_607627086023505_2359297747599507528_n

10456279_611061502346730_1308003179945535168_n

10450757_611061322346748_76972309744280116_n

10440667_607627246023489_5260652503377494039_n

10433089_607627039356843_8578679951548815492_n

10426631_611061422346738_3325652325691785541_n

10426566_611061375680076_2253383492968375296_n

10425880_607627026023511_6889663281894561945_n

10415637_607627249356822_7319651340761856396_n

10408867_607627332690147_7405618258385569419_n

10384588_607627142690166_6043201589597472719_n

Posted with permission. Please go to http://https://www.behance.net/carolrossetti to see more of her amazing work!

“Just because I often look at my reflection though doesn’t mean I like what I see.”

Feels quite strange to sit down and type up how I feel about my body. I think it is on the whole it being seen as narcissistic or vain to talk about one’s appearance.

I can’t really remember how I felt about myself as a child so any issues I do have is clearly something that came later in life. I do remember however being told off for looking at myself in the mirror, something (even as a 23-year-old women) my mum still calls me on. She has often commented that I have an ‘obsession with my appearance’. I always seemed to think it was natural to know what you looked like at any point of the day.

Just because I often look at my reflection though doesn’t mean I like what I see. I often change my hair colour as it’s the only thing about myself I can change instantly. I wear make-up nearly every day to cover up what I don’t like. I think I have more body hair than what’s normal for a woman but it can be removed instantly or covered up. What I can’t change instantly or cover up is my weight or my in-step.

I’ve always been a bit heavier than the other women around me. But when you have near enough bow-legs exercising causes me a fair bit of pain and it’s getting worse the more weight I pile on.

Losing weight though scares me. I’m scared that if I lost weight and had a lot of men suddenly interested in me that the only thing they wanted was my body and not that I’m a good person to be around.

I start physio soon for my legs; hopefully the pain becomes less and I can exercise more and maybe get the body I want.

“I have concerns that I will be left feeling un-womanly but the far greater chance is that I will just be left with smaller breasts, still wearing a padded bra and (hopefully) much more confidence.”

Like anybody, I have my insecurities. Neurotically speaking, out of the top ten things that I worry about or that annoy me, about 7 or 8 out of ten are related to my body. (The exceptions are failing my degree or family problems). From sweating too much, to the point where I am the only person who I know with clammy fingertips, or having a little too much hair everywhere (emphasis on ev-er-y-where) and worrying about the fact if I were to go get my first professional wax, I’d be laughed out of the room. Include into this my anxiety that I’m not skinny enough and the general angst-y rubbish which clouds my thinking as I head out of my teens and into my twenties. But mainly, I have enough good humour to accept them as just an unfortunate combination and that most people have much worse.

I’m still a virgin. Partly through choice and partly through utter fear. Since being at university, I’ve had two relationships. Both of which were short-lived and riddled with doubt about the best way to act or what new sexual experience I’m about to have, and, partly, a lack of confidence in my body. The reason is as follows:

I have to make a decision in the coming months about my body and it will be with me for the rest of my life, as the ‘problem’ has been since I started puberty. As much as I can cope with bleaching my top lip and occasionally using stronger deodorant (even on my fingertips) and home waxes – until I become eventually brave enough to finally take a visit – the size and asymmetry of my breasts is number one on my angst list. (Sometimes replaced by the shade of my slight lady-lip moustache that I’m currently rocking and whether it’s noticeable to people who aren’t as aware of it as myself).

Since the age of 13, I have been seeing a specialist about the asymmetry of my breasts in their development. The memory of medical photographs at the age of 14, one of which carefully captures a bead of nervous sweat running from my armpit down and around the curve of my non-existent breasts, still stings. Although my breasts have developed seven years on from this, my breasts themselves haven’t grown much. As a size 12 to 14, I wear a 36A-B bra, where one of the cups is amply filled and the other is more of an AA-cup and disguised by my choice of slightly padded bra.

I’ve chosen to wait until my early 20s to ensure that my breasts are properly developed and that one is not just a ‘slow grower’. Unfortunately, it seems not to be the case. And in three months’ time I have potentially my final discussion with the NHS consultant plastic surgeon. I am not normally at a loss for words to say, but when it comes to this decision I am. My breasts are small but well-formed; I have very good nipples; however, as my breasts are so small the half a size cup difference is quite noticeable. If my breasts were to be slightly larger then the difference would not bother me so much and the thought of wearing a thin non-padded bra and occasionally allowing a cheeky hint of nipple to rise underneath my top is something that I would like to do – though it wouldn’t be a regular occurrence but is something that I would currently never dream of doing. It would leave me too vulnerable.

The options available to me are the following: an implant in the smaller breast, two implants to ensure that the shaping of both breasts is similar as my body ages over time, a breast reduction on the slightly larger breast (either in the traditional form or potentially by using a liposuction technique) or to not have surgery at all. I do not want miniscule breasts but more than that, I do not want something alien inside my body. I feel as though I want the next sentence to begin with “Unfortunately, both of my breasts will be smaller as I have a reduction on the slightly larger one…” but the honest truth is that, after feeling so uncomfortable, I’m not too sure whether it will be unfortunate. I have concerns that I will be left feeling un-womanly but the far greater chance is that I will just be left with smaller breasts, still wearing a padded bra and (hopefully) much more confidence. And always the potential to finally let my permanent nip-on be welcomed to the world via a non-padded bra.

The chances are that as I’ve been in the NHS system for so long and have considered my decision for so long that there would be follow-up care and any ‘damaging’ psychological effects could potentially be solved by another breast operation; an enlargement. Though I really think it won’t be necessary. Strangely, writing this has shown me that the confidence I lack can be solved by a bit of effort to keep in shape, do my hair and a wee bit of make-up. The fear of taking my bra off and having sex (I considered writing “intimate relations” then, apologies) is not from my breasts alone, but they remain a contributory factor. I was not brought up in a prudish family and was taught to respect myself and my body. The idea is that so long as I am comfortable with my decisions and how I act (and I don’t cause harm to others), then it’s fine. Partly, the longer I wait, the more that I want it to be with someone that I trust and feel comfortable with. It isn’t a decision which is rooted in romantic ideals of being in love but it still means something to me. Frankly, the ‘issue’ with my breasts has been something that I hide behind and occasionally excuse laziness or gluttony by. The “well, it won’t change things anyway” attitude which really has not helped me so far. With a summer ahead of me (and after just emailing my consultant as I am finishing this piece), it’s made me realise that the time is now. I’ll still wait a year until I’ve finished university until I have the operation by which time I will be 22. But the decision has been finally made and the plans can finally be set in motion. Just the fact that I have made my decision makes me more confident and really, that’s all that matters when anyone has to very personally think about their insecurities and their bodies.

by an anonymous woman in her early twenties

“All the things I loved in my body before him, and all the new things he made me love, were tainted now by the memory of his touch and the pain of its loss.”

I’ve written here before but I wanted to again because I’ve been thinking about my body a lot recently. My body and mind have both been in flux and it’s been confusing and made me think about a lot of things.

About three months ago, my heart was broken by a man I thought loved me. And heartbreak raised all kinds of issues. Suddenly, my body felt so alone. Alone, and still, everywhere, covered by him. I took to sleeping with my arms and legs wrapped around a pillow, to feel something against me except the emptiness left by him. He was gone, and my body ached for him. Not sexually, because my mind had retreated from sex – from the crushing reality that I wouldn’t be having sex with him any more – but emotionally. All the things I loved in my body before him, and all the new things he made me love, were tainted now by the memory of his touch and the pain of its loss. I couldn’t touch my own body, smell my own scent, without remembering how he had loved it. I still so badly wanted my body to belong to him that it didn’t feel like mine any more.

My appetite faded and I lost weight. I’m thinner now than I was before – not underweight but slimmer. People keep telling me I look really good. I feel ambivalent every time someone tells me that, because I was perfectly happy with my body before and in no way thought I was fat. I feel conflicted in myself when I look in the mirror, enjoying my flatter stomach and then asking myself why I’m buying into that ideal, why I like having a flatter stomach when I didn’t think it was fat before. I still have a big arse – I hope I’ll always have a big arse – but it’s smaller than it was before and I don’t want to lose any more weight. What I see in the mirror varies with my mood. Sometimes, when I feel lonely and unlovable, when – even though I don’t want him back now – I wish he was still here, these breasts seem too small, too saggy, these bags under my eyes jump out at me, this new, flatter stomach is still too pudgy. And then sometimes, when I’m jumping around my bedroom to this song and I’m happy and I’m in my body and I’m feeling like I fucking rock – then I look in the mirror and I know I’m fucking beautiful.

My mind has been so up and down, and my body changing. But I think my mind is on the up these days, and my body finally feels like mine again. I can think of sex now without missing him, I can masturbate and enjoy my body and my mind and a sexual world without him in it. I miss him, or I miss closeness, sometimes when I’m sad. But my body is my own. I want sex again, I want to feel my body against another, I want to enjoy discovering someone.

Another issue this has been raising a lot in my mind recently is that, now I’m single again, sometimes I wonder where I’ll find someone else who doesn’t care that I don’t shave my armpits. I know that anyone who cares is someone I don’t want to be with, but the thought can’t help but cross my mind. It was a choice I made for myself but being with someone who liked it made that choice easier – if I’m being totally honest, it might have been what made the choice possible for me in the first place, although I’m not about to go back on it now.

Sometimes when I’m out in a club and I’m dancing, I catch people staring, nudging their friends to point out the mad hairy woman over there. I love having hairy armpits and, while I can’t deny there is an element of making a political point about it, this is the way I like them. It doesn’t hurt as such when I catch people looking. It makes me a little angry, although I do understand why they look. But it also awakens this socially-inculcated fear that most people find my body disgusting. That I might meet a lovely man at a party and be having a lovely conversation, flirting away, and then reach up to get something and turn around to find him running in disgust and horror from my horrifying armpits.

I know that’s ridiculous. But it’s also not completely ridiculous. The beauty norms of our society make me – I think make all of us – feel the need to justify those things which are “abnormal”. And my hairy armpits are, by societal standards, abnormal. They are an abnormal choice that I’ve made, a choice which is bound up with various implications in people’s minds – dirty, hippie, man-hating… – and even though I love them, I still sometimes feel self-conscious. To put it bluntly, I worry I won’t get laid. Not that I’d want to fuck anyone who gave a shit about my armpit hair – but the idea that someone might find me unattractive because of that one factor of my appearance does cross my mind and it does hurt.

I guess this is all a part of coming back into my own body. It’s partly sexual frustration, partly the normal fear of being alone forever that surfaces when we find ourselves single against our will. It’s a big part societal norms that I’ve absorbed even though I consciously reject them. It’s the memory of shaving my armpits for the first time after some girls made fun of me on the bus to PE when I was thirteen. But I’m not on the PE bus now (thank fucking Christ) – I’m twenty-three now, and I love my hairy armpits, and someone else will too.

I’m so glad to be back in touch with my body. It’s no longer a site of too many memories of happiness gone sour; it’s a site of happy memories to come. It’s a place I’m living in again. I look in the mirror and it’s all mine; it’s not missing anything by not being next to his.

by Hannah

“Being naked with other people in a non-sexual way really shows you that the most normal thing about your body is that it’s totally unique and different from everyone else’s.”

I’m really not sure how to begin discussing how my feelings towards my body have changed over the years as I love this blog and want to do it justice and also, until I stopped caring so much about my body, I was really never sure how I should feel. Perhaps “should” in there is a very telling word! While at school I was heavily into sports and trained at least 8 hours a week and as a result was healthy but incredibly skinny (I recently saw a photo of myself at 14 and was quite freaked out by the sight). I did the whole developing thing late and fast. At 15 or 16 I started my periods and went up 3 cup sizes in two months. The boob job jokes were quite flattering at the time but did make me more self-conscious.

This was when I was at the age where you really start to care about your body and are very vulnerable to media and advertising. While I never really attracted anyone of the opposite sex until I was 18, it was when I was 16 that I had more body confidence because since I wasn’t fully developed I had the media ideal figure with boobs but very skinny. Naturally, I stopped sports, started drinking and smoking and developed an adult body so the model-like waif disappeared never to be seen again! That didn’t stop me thinking I should still have it and trying to regain it, even with crazy and very unhealthy diets pills from the US (“if they’re illegal in Europe then they must totally work!” is not a good line of thought). Perhaps this was due to media, my mother’s constant dieting or just me, but I was unhappy with my own body, even though I’ve never been larger than a size 10, and I hated that I could also sense myself judging other women’s bodies and probably making them feel the same! Patriarchy at work I guess…

The biggest change for me was living at uni with no TV, and later no internet, and surrounding myself with only the sort of people I wanted to. After a few years of great friends and increasing amounts of communal nudity I now feel that I am finally comfortable with my body. This nakedness began at solstice and festivals with skinny-dipping and saunas and dancing round fires but I have also had several naked parties with friends in the comfort of private flats (apologies to West Princes St for that time I forgot to shut the blinds!).

I now have smooth legs, hairy armpits, a couple of tattoos and piercings in eh… intimate areas. My body is not small or large but has a little bit of fat all over, ok- maybe a bit more on my belly, and my legs wobble when I walk and I’m totally ok with that. Since I stopped wearing a bra my boobs are considerably bouncier as well! My friend and I even had a fantastic time decorating my new room with our naked bodies and lots of face paints.

One of the things which makes me happiest now is how comfortable I finally am and how liberating it feels! I love being naked!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.