Decker: Confessions of a nude model with a body image problem

An artistic rendering of nude model Justin Decker. -Photo courtesy of Yaritza Olivares

Can you recall the last time someone saw you naked?

Not, “When was your last causal hookup?” When was the last time you actually let a stranger judge you solely by your appearance?

For me, it was last Thursday.

I am one of two fully nude models currently working for Rowan’s Art Department. Yes, I take all of my clothes off, and no, I have never gotten an erection while working. If I ever do, I will just let it happen.

Whenever I tell people about my job, their first question is always something along the lines of, “How are you so comfortable showing your body to a room full of strangers?”

I’ve yet to give a more cogent response besides a reflexive, “It doesn’t matter that much.” So perhaps it’s time to develop my answer.

The truth is, I’m more comfortable having others judge me than I am judging myself. I’ve often been known as a harsh critic of my own work, my physical appearance included, but as vain as it sounds to let someone evaluate me based on my body, I need to ask you, “Is it really?”

Everyone who is in the studio with me is there with the purpose of paying attention to every minor imperfection about me, everything from my head to the way I dress when my session ends. The reason I took this job is because I wanted to break down a self-image problem I, along with many other people, have been struggling with for a long time.

No matter who you are or what you look like, chances are there is a part of you that desires to be different. Perhaps you wish you were fitter, thinner or actually maybe a little thicker. We all want to be the things we simply aren’t, but that’s a secret everyone keeps only to themselves.

But a physical self-image isn’t always the culprit behind these image issues. They are merely the scapegoats we blame for the failings of our character.

The impossibly flawless personalities of A-list celebrities and American idols are the things we are attracted to more than their bodies. Even Chris Hemsworth’s wife says she doesn’t care about how he looks.

Many of us wrongly believe that a winning personality comes with a winning body, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

During my sophomore year at Rowan, I took an introductory acting class with a girl who told me she used to work as a stripper before she came to college. At one point in the class we were paired together for a scene where she was meant to be the focal character for the audience. As soon as we started planning out our dialogue, she told me she wouldn’t be able to handle everyone watching her for so long.

Perplexed at her apparent inconsistency, I asked her how she could handle working a job where she takes her clothes off for people, yet be so reserved when it came to keeping them on for a moment of make believe?

“When everything’s out and everyone sees me, there’s less to worry about,” she replied.

At first I didn’t appreciate what she meant when she said that.

When it finally came time to perform for class, she walked out of the room in the middle of the scene with tears in her eyes.

She never came back to class.

Being naked is not what scares me. Being seen for who I am is. A fear of being vulnerable is something, I believe, most Americans develop once we hit an age where we’re told to keep ourselves as concealed as or bodies.

There are always going to be parts of my personality I will hesitate to let people acknowledge. There are still parts of me that I’m ashamed of, inside and out, but keeping it to myself has only stunted my growth.

When everything’s out and everyone sees me, there is less to worry about. But at least I know I’m not trying to hide the parts of me that don’t really matter.

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