Updated: Jan 18
CONFRONTING BODY IMAGE ISSUES
Recently I went to Spa Castle, a Korean Spa complete with pools, saunas, and baths. Before going, I read an online review about an optional experience where you are completely naked. I found myself very comforted by the word “optional,” immediately thinking to myself, “Well, I’ll just skip that part…”
At Spa Castle’s door, I proudly presented my all-day Groupon pass, stowed my shoes, and proceeded to the women’s locker room. Once inside, I was greeted with a sea of nakedness, wave after wave of women in the nude. I was uncomfortable, quickly averting my eyes and keeping my head down so as to avoid all of the women walking by. I found my way to my way to my locker and put on my bathing suit, a bikini quickly concealed by shorts and a t-shirt.
I came prepared to follow my Spa Castle experience plan of action: Dips in the pools followed by saunas and then straight home, happily skipping over the naked baths completely. Aware of the body image issues I have, ones that I know I have completely created myself based on things that have been said to me, feelings of rejection in my marriage, and a disconnection with myself, I reminded myself that I was here to enjoy the spa - no need to bring all of this bubbling to the surface today.
"Aware of the body image issues I have, ones that I know I have completely created myself based on things that have been said to me"
However, in order to get to the pools, I had to pass through the naked bath area and I did so with my eyes glued to the floor. I arrived at the pools, which were a bit on the loud side, crowded with men, women, and children using the facility. I hopped around to a few but didn’t stay for more than twenty minutes because of the noise. I decided to call it quits, heading to the mandatory shower before returning to the locker room. But there, directly across from the naked baths, I suddenly found myself taking off my bikini top and bottom, joining the sea of nakedness.
There went my plan of skipping over the naked part!
It wasn’t that I suddenly wasn’t afraid - I was. But, there was something so freeing about the experience that it drowned out my fear. I allowed myself to be in the moment (and was proud of myself because of it). The feeling, however, didn’t last long. So, like a turtle still in her shell, I quickly made my way back to the locker room, returning to my uniform of shorts and a t-shirt.
I spent about an hour and a half in the different saunas, which ranged from color therapy to Himalayan salt saunas. And I enjoyed them all. As I finished, I realized that I had sweat so much that I needed to shower once more before heading home. Right then, I decided that since I was going to be naked to shower, I might as well give the naked baths one more try.
And I’m so glad that I did.
This second time in the baths, I really looked at people. I saw women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicity so carefully caring for themselves and their bodies just the way they were. I witnessed a young naked teen carefully bathing her naked grandmother, both of them sharing a beautiful experience. Neither one of them wearing a shield or hiding in a turtle shell. They were simply embracing the moment they were sharing, their being naked had nothing to do with it. I saw a woman who many would coin as overweight confidently walk from bath pool to bath pool so freely. I saw a woman carefully putting her face, shoulders, back, and breasts under the rain shower.
I saw women just simply in love with themselves.
Watching this was so overwhelmingly beautiful that I knew my being naked and afraid was my own issue. I found myself contemplating why I was living in fear of my body? Why now when I’m free to love it completely, safely?
"They were simply embracing the moment they were sharing, their being naked had nothing to do with it."
There in that bath, I decided to let go of the story I had told myself, the one where I was fat, flabby, and unattractive. I saw quite simply that self love and acceptance was missing for my body and that I could look to these women standing, sitting, and bathing in front of me as a source of inspiration.
Spa Castle, I will be back and, this time, unafraid, or at the very least, less afraid.