How to overcome fear of nudity in the sauna

Juhannus is coming up so I figured many of you may be headed to mökki about this time, and as always, nudity is part of the experience.

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Just a quiet, naked, weekend away!

As much as I would’ve liked to have been raised in a nudity-friendly culture, I wasn’t. And changing this mindset has not been easy (I even tell people how uncomfortable I feel sometimes haha). This little dilemma gets frustrating and old pretty fast. Why do I need to get naked to enjoy time with my friends!? Or why can’t I just get over it!?

Sometimes I cop out: “I know, it’s such a shame I have a shift at the gym today. I would’ve loved to have joined you guys in the sauna.”

But sometimes I face my fear and I go. Always high fiving myself after for having done so. I noticed the experiences where I’ve been able to relax more easily, have all had one thing in common: my perspective. Not like what I was thinking about  but quite literally: the way I saw things.

My vision was different because I didn’t wear my glasses or contacts. And despite what you may be thinking, very concretely changing your vision – to the point where you only see a blurry line between where people start and the rest of the sauna (I’m not even that blind: -2.25) but it made me feel much more at ease.

Kind of like when kids put their hands over their eyes and think no one can see them? Well because I couldn’t see anyone else naked, I felt like they couldn’t see me either. Damn – what a relief!

So yeah, I have to strongly support a change of perspective as a radically underrated solution to doing anything, and I’ll leave it at that 🙂

How about you? Do you strip down or skip the sauna altogether? Have you felt more at ease as time goes on? I’d love to hear more opinions on this.


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P.S. I’m writing you from Berlin today, since I’m attending a polyglot (=multilingual) gathering. Super excited to fill you in on this passionate community and all the awesome things they’re doing. Stay tuned for an update on that next week!

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  • Mark

    Speaking as someone from an Anglo culture, I recognize your anxiety about nudity in close proximity to friends and strangers but if you put it in its cultural context, sauna is about openness and relaxation – we’re all naked under our clothes but some people are more naked than others!

    • Irina

      Of course! And it’s this idea that I admire in the Finnish culture, but admiring it and feeling completely at ease are slightly different. In any case, I found out having a beer helps with openness and relaxation, in the typical Finnish tradition 😛

  • Tom

    Damn it, I miss Finnish sauna so much and your post makes me miss it even more now 🙂
    Luckily, I’ve never faced your dilema. My liberal Czech nurture never made a point of “those body parts”. Generally I would say, it’s easier for guys to deal with nudity in sauna (I know some exception though), but I can also understand some poeple feel less confortable with it. Anyway you should enjoy sauna in the most convenient way for you, that’s what sauna is about, to make people feel comfortable and relaxed and not stressed and freaked out.

    PS: Have fun in Berlin, I can imagine how exhilarated you must feel among all the other polyglots 😀

    • Irina

      That’s good to hear! We don’t have this liberal nature in Romania. Luckily the Finns repeat the traditions annually so you have the chance to practice 😛
      P.S. Berlin was awesome, stay tuned for a blog post about it 😉

  • Irina

    I’m happy to report another successful sauna visit during this Juhannus.
    Recipe for success: taking off my glasses & having a beer. Forgetting my bathing suit at home was an extra push haha.

  • Lauren

    For me, being able to go to sauna with friends (or other female strangers in health clubs) was a step towards the healthy realisation that it’s okay to have whatever kind of body you were born with. Sure, it was a challenge at first, but sauna helped me towards building self-confidence in my body, feeling comfortable in my own skin. Somehow, knowing that everybody is different – and everybody’s okay with it – was an unburdening experience. I still feel a little uncomfortable at times simply because even after 6 years, it’s still somewhat new and I don’t have a lifetime of experience in sauna culture to feel sure that – well, in an oddly comical but honest way – that I’m being naked right. That’s just a niggling thought and when you put words to it, it’s easier to put it aside because it’s a bit silly, isn’t it? Go easy on yourself where things feel difficult or uncomfortable, growth is a process, but you’re doing great.

    • Irina

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I really like you’re take on it, and how it’s become something that develops strength and confidence in you as an individual instead of just forcing yourself to do things differently in another culture, just because it’s done that way there. 🙂

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