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?

Do you remember the last you let a stranger judge you solely by your appearance?

The last time I did this was Thursday.

I am one of two 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 calculated response besides my reflexive, “It doesn’t matter that much.” So now I think 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 especially included, but as vain as it sounds to let someone evaluate me based just my body, I ask you, “Is it really that wrong?”

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 my toes, 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 you desire to be different. Perhaps you wish you were fitter, thinner or maybe a little thicker, actually. We all want to be the things we simply aren’t, but that’s a secret everyone keeps only to themselves.

A physical self-image isn’t always the culprit behind these issues that so many people share. They are merely the scapegoats we blame for the failings of our character.

The impossibly flawless T.V. 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 strangers, 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 said to me.

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. Having people see what I know is wrong with me is. A fear of being vulnerable is something, I believe, most Americans develop once we hit the age where we’re told to keep personalities as private as or bodies.

There are always going to be parts of who I am I will hesitate to let people acknowledge. There are still parts of me that I’m ashamed of, inside and out. Keeping them 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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