How Visiting a Nude Beach (Ah!) Changed My Perception of the Female Form

nude beach body-shaming

Body-shaming. Most of us are guilty of it, especially when the target is ourselves. We look in the mirror and judge. We notice our flaws and critique our shortcomings. We body-shame ourselves for not looking a certain way or wearing certain size. Shaming ourselves, for better or for worse, is something that almost every woman will admit to. But, shaming others isn’t so easy to come clean about.

Body-shaming other women is the worst kind of girl-on-girl crime; and, unfortunately, we are all probably guilty of it.

Whether it’s gossiping about a celebrity’s weight gain or silently judging a stranger on the street; it is all body-shaming, and it is all horrible.

Now, don’t for a second think that I’m not an offender. In the past, I was as guilty as they come. My absolute guilty pleasure was reading articles on celebrity “ugly moments.” I would judge strangers on the streets for their size, their outfits, their everything. It is truly disgusting, and I am ashamed of it. I guess I figured that because I wasn’t saying anything to these women, that all the shaming was happening just inside my own head, that there was no harm no foul, right? So, so wrong. Because even silently, I was participating in an action of hate.

What’s worse is that this perpetual body-shaming of others intensified my own insecurities.

Because, if I’m judging other women, they must all be judging me too, right? And that’s how the vicious, horrible circle continues.The good news is that I’m a body-shamer in recovery.

Sure, I still slip-up once in a while, but I had an experience when I was 20-years-old that opened my eyes to the harms and stupidity of body-shaming. And, since then, I’ve done my very best to kick the horrible habit.

When I was 20, I visited a nude beach, and my very perception of the female form changed forever.

The summer before my junior year of college, I went to Europe on an epic backpacking trip. I had absolutely no money and was starving for experience. Which, in backpacker, translates to: I’m smelly, tired, hungry and having the time of my life. During this trip we spent some time on the Greek Islands and visited a nude beach. Let me clarify here, that in Greece (and most of Europe) most beaches are inherently “nude.”

Culturally, it would be absolutely no issue to wear any combination of a bathing suit: just top, just bottom, or the whole thing – for the most part, it didn’t matter. But, coming from America, I was totally flabbergasted. I’m not a prude, but I had never seen so many naked or half-naked people in public. But, so much more than their nakedness, was their complete lack of embarrassment of it.

When I’ve gone to the beach in the past, even fully covered in my suit, I was always self-conscious. I didn’t want to be exposed. I didn’t want my tummy to stick out, my cellulite to be uncovered, or just my stuff all hanging out. I was participating in an action of hate.

But, one day in Greece, as I sunbathed (fully covered in my suit), I noticed a woman. This woman was wearing only suit bottoms (no top). But instead of looking self-conscious, or like she needed to “cover up,” she was just having a ball at the beach. This woman was playing with her baby daughter and husband in the shallows of the water, splashing and laughing. She never stopped laughing with her daughter to suck in her belly, she was a woman who wasn’t going to let insecurities get in the way of her day, this moment, or her life. I was totally in awe.

This woman, this stranger, was free. She was gorgeous.

And I was so embarrassed that I had ever thought her body or anyone else’s wasn’t complete perfection. This woman changed how I feel about body-shaming of both myself and others. I have seen what it looks like to be freed from by body insecurities, and all I want is for every woman to feel that way.

Needless to say – inspired by that woman, I got nakey that day!!

I am a body-shamer in recovery. And, in the honor of that woman (whoever she is), I invite you all to join me!