What a question..! And one, quite frankly, that I've avoided for most of my life (along with full-length mirrors) since I seem to have suffered from low self-esteem when it comes to my own personal body image.
One of my earliest negative memories about my size is of sitting at our kitchen table in floods of tears. Tears induced by a screaming tantrum and my stubborn refusal to eat yet another breakfast of egg and grapefruit, together with my mother's clear bewilderment at my behaviour. Why couldn't she understand, and why was she punishing me? It was the second week of a 14-day regime to lose weight, during which time I was allowed only egg, grapefruit and tinned tomatoes. My sister was still a baby at this time, so I can only have been four or five years old. My mother, a top model in her youth, had clearly suffered from body issues of her own (which, in those days, were not even talked about let alone acknowledged) and was determined that I wouldn't grow up under the same black cloud. Unfortunately, her good intentions seem to have backfired. Rather than gaining confidence in the way I looked, I felt that surely there must be something wrong with me - and anyway, wasn't it just a short time earlier that I'd been forced to eat two large spoonfuls of malt every day to build me up? I felt confused, hurt and ashamed - emotions that have stayed with me for a large part of my life.
So I was suitably inspired this week by Gok Wan's TV show, when he helped a blind lady to overcome her negative body image. I found the programme particularly interesting because this lovely lady had lost her sight in her 20s, so hadn't been able to see her face or her body for over 30 years. But when asked to describe how she looked, she burst in to tears, and used words like "fat" "flabby" and "wobbly" to describe herself. Despite looking lovely, she was convinced that she was unattractive - even ugly. Gok's job, this week, was to fix purely what was in her head - the image she held locked away in her own mind's eye. Because her lack of sight meant she'd never be able to appreciate her external appearance as seen by others.
"Simple!" some might say. "A piece of cake!" others might think. Me? Well I think it's probably one of the hardest projects Mr Wan has chosen to tackle. Why? Because this week it was purely about changing his client's beliefs, her internal perception of herself - but this time without the aid of external input. No clever use of colours or patterns, no make-overs or highlights, no long mirrors or lengthening vertical drapery. Nope, this time it was a totally different brief. And one that, so far as I'm concerned, is the ONLY real project that the rest of us ever have to tackle. That of internal self-perception, whatever that may be. And if we don't like something about our lives, the answers always lie within ourselves.
Over the past year I've personally been stripped emotionally bare, and left absolutely naked and vulnerable as the day I was born. Shell-shocked and thrust suddenly in to a world that was totally unknown. I've lost everything I once thought was real. All I thought I could depend on has crumbled and fallen away. I've faced one shock after another, and believe me there have been times when I thought I couldn't go on.
And yet through it all, while I've been fighting to survive the quicksand of constant change, I've been given the opportunity to see myself as I truly am. And through that opportunity, the priceless gift to find myself beyond the facade. Because, like anyone else on the planet, once all our clothing is stripped away, there is nowhere left to hide.
So I've been finding out about myself. Realising things that I never knew before. Discovering likes and dislikes. Strengths and weaknesses. Values and principals. And beliefs. Some things have come as a total surprise (like the fact I actually enjoy making jams and chutneys...!) and others are a rebirth of interests I'd lost a long time ago (like playing the piano and singing along loudly - it may not sound very good, but it makes me FEEL good!). And as I've been exploring and making friends with myself, with who I really am, my confidence has been soaring - as my Facebook friends will confirm!
Since the mental and emotional nakedness has been achieving great results, I decided to take a fresh look at my physical self. For as long as I can remember, and in common with so many women, I've been unhappy with the way I look. And in recent years, I've chosen to hide my body in shapeless tops, trousers and trainers. It's kept me out of danger. Allowed me to exist in the shadows away from criticism, avoiding disapproval.
Well, not any more. It's been a slow and deliberate process, but slowly I've been building up my courage and now I'm experimenting with a different look - and it seems to be working! Heels are now my footwear of choice (yes, OK, not too high since I'm lacking a cruciate ligament!) along with a foray in to skirts, dresses and flowing layers. Statement jewellery is also now part of my regular wardrobe, and I've suddenly fallen in love with belts. To start with, it's nerve-wracking, as people seem taken aback by my changed appearance and ask if I'm going anywhere special - and I realise with embarrassment just how scruffy I must have been for so very long! "Ooooh, that looks nice. Is it new?" my friends are asking. No, not new, just refurbished. Taken out from the back of my wardrobe, dusted down and worn properly, not pushed away because I felt too shy to wear it.
A bit like me really. I've been carefully retrieved from the rubble of my shattered life. Tenderly dusted down, gently repaired, lovingly polished. And now, I'm gratefully shining - and radiating a new joie de vivre that had previously escaped me. For now, finally, I can accept all of me - yes, including the niggling, annoying even downright foul parts of me. Yes, I am re-born. Yes, it's been bloody hard work. And yes, I've felt naked and vulnerable as a new born baby. But now, like a baby I'm smiling and curious about my surroundings. And as any parent knows, babies love everything about themselves, yes even the contents of their own nappy!
My change over recent months has been internal - not external. A change of perspective and approach more than a change of anything on the outside. Like Gok's brave blind lady, I finally see myself as someone worthwhile, someone who can be beautiful on the inside and the outside.
So now, after all of this, and as I stride ahead with confidence, in response to the question Do I Look Good Naked? My answer at last is "Yes I jolly well do!"