Whether you're single or in a relationship, the thought of stripping down to your birthday suit can be terrifying.
When we hate our bodies, we panic at the thought of showing off our physique, hide under baggy clothes and dread the moments where we have to be intimate.
I know it's hard when you despise your body to believe that people wouldn't run away in horror if they saw you naked.
A few weeks ago, I had a lovely woman write in to me:
I met a wonderful man when I was living abroad. It's been a year and a half now that we have been calling each other, Skyping and texting. We are in love and he is waiting for me to come back. But now that I am back in my home country, I have gained a lot of weight and I am very sad, disappointed and angry with myself because I feel like I have ruined everything. I know he won't love me the same with all the weight that I have gained.
Deep down, that's what we are really afraid of. We are terrified to be seen as our pure, raw, vulnerable selves.
We believe that if the person we care about sees us naked, they won't love us/accept us/be attracted to us anymore.
But this is so far from the truth. One of my biggest lessons in body acceptance happened a few years ago. After I came home from living abroad in Ecuador for a year, I had gained a lot of weight. A guy I had known from the gym, who had asked me out before I left (I said no), took an interest in me again.
I adamantly refused at first. I actually thought he was kidding. I had gained 20-25 pounds and believed in my head that there was no way he could think I was attractive with the extra weight.
But he was persistent, so I agreed to go out with him. On the outside, I was cool, calm and collected. On the inside, I was downright terrified of being intimate with him.
Would he be repulsed by my body? (He was a personal trainer and saw fit, hot bodies every single day.)
Why does he really want to go out with me? (He must not have REALLY seen me, because I gained 25 pounds.)
Does he notice how fat I am and how much weight I've gained? (Is he blind to the fact that I'm two sizes bigger?!)
But I pushed these thoughts aside, and gave it a chance.
We ended up dating for a while. And no, he didn't run away screaming the first time I was naked.
He touched me, lights on, without any alcohol to increase my level of "confidence"...and I survived.
It was unnerving. I'm not going to say it's easy to feel good naked (especially with another person) when you hate your body.
But you have to trust in the bigger part of yourself that knows you are MORE than what you look like. You have to be willing to get real, raw, and vulnerable.
Here are three ways you can begin to feel more confident in the nude:
1. Allow yourself to be touched.
If you're in a relationship, let your partner touch you. Let him/her caress your stomach, thighs, butt, and any other part of your body you loathe. If you are single, go out and get a massage.
When you realize that you can be touched without the other person running away from you in horror when they see you...when you see that the other person adores your body or simply sees it as what it is-a body, you can begin to let go of all of all the crazy thoughts running through your head.
It also helps you to realize your body has a shape and an end. Sometimes, when you picture your own body in your mind, or see it in the mirror, you think it's 1000 times bigger than it really is.
When you allow yourself to be touched, you realize that your body doesn't extend as far as you think it does. It has boundaries. And an end.
2. Do Not Compare.
When you're constantly comparing yourself to others, you're sabotaging yourself in detrimental ways.
If you're always looking in the mirror and lamenting the fact that you don't look like that magazine ad you just saw, you want your stomach to look like your friend's 6-pack bikini pic on Facebook, and you're desperate to make your butt look a little more J-Lo like, you are NEVER going to feel good naked.
Each of us is on our own journey. And when you compare your body with someone else's, it's not a fair comparison. You never know where THEY are in their journey. At the heart of this comparison lies a deep fear; we are afraid of what other people are thinking of us, afraid we don't measure up.
Allow yourself to be you, with all of your "flaws", blemishes and imperfections.
Because when you start to take yourself out of the comparison game, it's amazing how all of the reasons you "should" look a certain way begin to fall away.
3. Believe in your own definition of beauty.
Is your definition of beauty fitting back into your skinny jeans or looking like a size 2 model? Or is your definition of beauty strength of character, a passion for changing the world, and the ability to cheer your friends up at a moment's notice?
A woman who feels good naked has discovered her own definition of beauty. Ultimately, it's all about inner confidence, attitude, and belief that you truly are good enough just as you are.
When you believe in a beauty that defies external standards, you allow your OWN beautiful qualities to shine through.
Despite what our society says, feeling good naked is a whole lot more than a firm bottom, tight abs, and a toned bod. It's about connecting to your own source of self-love and realizing that what YOU bring to the table is enough.
So next time you're standing in front of the mirror and start to go down that path of hating what you see, I want you to stop for a second and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and get back in touch with what's truly real in you.
Are you tired of starting over on Monday? Grab your FREE "Must Have Guide To End the Diet Cycle Today". For more info on how to stop obsessing over food and finally feeling at ease in your body, visit jennhand.com
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more