My ‘Nudie’ Origin Story – Shari Read PhD
This article was originally written for TAN Magazine
A few years ago I was on my way back from a work trip and had the opportunity to spend a week in Hawaii on my own. I had booked a lovely little private villa in a small complex with a private courtyard and, after a brief contemplation of my dislike for tan lines, quickly discovered the joy of nude sunbathing. I’d been traveling on my own and was already an avid selfie taker so it seemed only natural to take a few of myself in the nude. Once I had a couple I liked, it just seemed natural to share them with my husband (they weren’t going on FB!). We’d never done that sort of thing before so it was a bit of a leap of faith to just send a nude out of the blue; turned out ok!
Reflecting on the last few years and my growing tendency to be outside in the nude whenever possible and delay putting clothing back on after showering and the like, sleeping nude, wandering around the garden nude, I realise I’ve been a nudist for a while now. But I didn’t know about nudism and naturism as an ideology or philosophy or perspective on life.
I am in a very fortunate position in this moment of my life, to be able to pause and take the time to do whatever brings me joy. So in thinking about my options I remembered something I had never told a soul before, that for as long as I can remember I have wanted to pose nude for a life drawing class or photography shoot. I was ashamed of this fantasy because I believed that my body wasn’t good enough. But thankfully I have grown as a person over the years and now accept all of the various aspects of myself, including this desire to be ‘seen’, in a non-judgmental, non-sexual environment. So, I went looking for an opportunity with the hope someone out there who knows what they are doing (i.e. a legitimate photographer) might want to photograph me nude! My new friend Nigel was kind enough to relieve me of my nervous anticipation within a few hours of posting a message online.
In seeking out the chance to be a nude model I came across the website TrueNudist, I made an account and started putting my profile together and spent time looking at other people’s profiles to try and understand who the people in this online community are and in what ways I might relate or even belong in terms of shared identity. It is a mixed bag to say the least but in exchanging intellectually driven conversation with some of the true naturists in the online community I have learnt a great deal about the lifestyle and beliefs around it.
I have been an environmentalist my entire life, I have always felt my connection with nature, I have questioned the nature of money and the entrapment of the economy since I was a teenager and more recently, I have been a disruptor of corporate thinking and practice as a business school academic and spiritual teacher. Learning about nudism and naturism had me on my knees, literally, sobbing with gratitude. To discover there is a global community of people who see the world differently, who understand what it means to be non-judgmental, welcoming and accepting but are also able to be protective of something special…an entire community of people who are both strong and soft…well, I’ve been looking for you all for a long time.
Sharing my thoughts and perspective on nudity with my husband and two daughters, almost instantly improved our relationships. Communication is more open and freer; we can explore an expanded range of topics more comfortably and we all feel less judged and judging. Within weeks I have made connections with people I can imagine staying in contact with for the rest of my life. And I have a renewed sense of purpose in my life.
For many years, like so many others, my work has been about raising awareness about the need for radical social change and helping people re-imagine what the future could be like. Since leaving academia mid-2021 I have been exploring the idea of becoming an activist for human-centered, system-wide social transformation however in discovering nudism I feel that I have connected with a deeper message around shedding the societal norms and expectations that keep us stuck in old, unhelpful patterns.
In 2016 the World Economic Forum released the findings of a survey which found that 86% of respondents believed we were experiencing a global leadership crisis. The research revealed an alarmingly weak correspondence between power and competency, a major fault in our current models of leadership. As a result, increasing numbers of people lack trust in leadership of all forms, political, organisational, religious and so on. Essentially, effective leadership is built on trust and we know from experience and research that those people most effective at building trust know how to listen and understand a variety of perspectives, be present and non-judgmental, have integrity and show up as their authentic selves. What I have discovered very recently is that the genuine nudist/naturist community seems to have a greater number of people fitting this description than the general community. People who can free themselves of the hangups of the ego just to delight in the simple pleasure of the sun on their bare skin or the authentic company of good friends who it is safe to be vulnerable with, these are the types of people we need leading our communities now.
And so, with all of this coming together in this way, at this point in my life, I feel ready to take a stand and go nude for change. And knowing there is a global community of people who I experience a shared identity with gives me courage to step into the arena and help spread the message that we are ready for a new, better world, the one that we deserve. There are more people who want change than don’t, but we don’t hold the power, they do. That is, until we come together collectively and ignore the rules that keep us tightly restricted. Like ripping off your tie and kicking off your heels, let’s collectively but respectfully shed the social norms that no longer serve us. I hope you might join me in going #nudeforchange.