GOTN Avatar

On fear and self-loathing

I hate spiders. They terrify me to the point of irrationality. I’ve barged people out of the way to escape them, reflex-kicked my bare feet at walls, and fallen off beds when I suspect there’s one near the headboard. This fear pisses me off, but it’s so guttural and instinctive I doubt I can do much about it. I live with it, because it’s not like I’ll get rid of all the spiders any time soon, and besides – they’re relatively easy to avoid if I have kind friends ready with a glass and a square of paper to hand.

Fear is easy to live with if you rarely have to confront it. But every now and then it ends up confronting me, and I realise that I wasn’t being a big brave girl all along, I was just avoiding something that was so enormous and terrifying I didn’t dare to face it.

I fear being naked.

Body-image and irrational terror

That might sound like a weird confession coming from a sex blogger: I have loads of sex, and I’m frequently naked. But despite getting my kit off on a regular basis, I haven’t combated the fear, I’ve just been finding cunning ways to avoid it. Like the time when I put a mug over a huge spider and left it on my kitchen floor for a week – I’ve dealt with the immediate problem, but the problem still festered away.

When I was carefree and fucking lots of different guys, I’d spend long hours shaving legs and armpits and crotch, plucking stray hairs from random places on my body, sucking my stomach in and avoiding cake. It didn’t make me fear nakedness any less, it just gave me a temporary stay on the hatred I felt for my body. Being naked with guys was vital to my happiness, and being attractive seemed like an impossible goal, but one I should strive for nonetheless. I could be… not gorgeous or stunning exactly just… prettier. Better.

Since I got into a relationship, my fear and hatred of my own body has been dulled. He loves it, so I try to ignore the whispering voice in the back of my head that says it’s just not good enough. Again, though, this isn’t really dealing with the problem any more than putting a mug over a spider will magically send it outside.

Getting my tits out in public

It was hot on the beach. Not the kind of wet-picnic, blue-lipped misery you’d get in Britain, but glorious, blue-sea hot like you get in those glossy holiday brochures. It was also one of those beaches where most people are topless. I was fascinated. These were alien creatures with a philosophy I could barely comprehend – people for whom the fear of tan lines was far greater than the fear of getting their tits out. In fact, looking at the way some of them were strolling around with ice creams, I had a sneaking suspicion that these people weren’t scared of nakedness at all. Imagine. Watching women walk around nearly nude in public gives me similar cowardly envy as watching the playful kids at school pick up daddy-long-legs with their bare hands.

I took my top off in the sea.

Not properly off – it was wrapped around my wrist, tightly like a security blanket. Just in case the tide should suddenly rush out and I was left standing there in half a bikini and an invisible blanket of shame.

“You look awesome,” he said. And “I want to touch you.” And, oh, a million variations on this: you’re beautiful, sexy, hot. I love you. I love the way you are. I love your body. Professing his desire for something that I’ve only ever felt disdain for.

And I wanted to say ‘thanks.’ I’d have loved to do what my mother taught me, and accept a compliment with grace. But I couldn’t do better than a choking, angry “fuck off.” Because he can’t love my body, of course – it’s awful. Horrible. Monstrously wrong and different and bad and appalling.  Just as no one can ever really want a pet tarantula – they just get them to show other people how brave they are. How cool. How unusual. My irrational, fearful self knows this with the blind conviction of someone who is almost certainly wrong.

“We should go to a nudist beach.”

“Hell no.”

“We don’t have to. It’s just… well… it might be fun.” He grinned. “I know you’re nervous, but what if we did it together?”

So we did it together. Shaking with fear and sweating under the flimsy layers of cotton summer clothes, I followed him to a place where it wasn’t just OK to be naked, it was expected. Embraced. The whole thing seemed absurd to me – the idea that people would enjoy being naked more than they liked being clothed. This wasn’t just a practical response to tan lines, it was a genuine love of something that made me nauseous with dread. It wasn’t a fear of being judged – how could I possibly pass judgment on a stranger when the hollow ache of my own terror is rendering me insensible? And how could they possibly pass judgment on me when I couldn’t imagine them having anything other than the same ridiculous worries?

I didn’t fear these people. I feared myself. I feared my body.

Just get over it

This week, the amazing @ArchedEyebrowBR blogged on Summertime body shaming. She highlighted the ludicrous simplicity of the idea that in order to get a bikini body you just have to ‘get a bikini and put it on your body’. Of course it’s not that easy. It’s definitely not that easy for me. Because although my rational mind wants to stamp out all the body-shaming, all the self-loathing and misery, it’s not just a case of ‘forgetting about it’ or ‘getting over it.’

If it were that easy I’d have done it already. I’d have embraced the fact that – in truth – my body isn’t monstrous or horrible or any kind of enemy: it’s actually fine. Sometimes fatter, sometimes thinner, sometimes hairier or paler or bruised for no apparent reason. That would be the rational thing to think, and I know right now that it is the truth in the same way as I know right now that spiders are more scared of me than I am of them, and it’s not like we live in Australia or anything where the little fuckers can kill you with a single bite.

But self-loathing isn’t rational, or easily brushed aside.

With the sun shining, my boy whispering words of kind encouragement, I got ready to do it. I set my brain to work overdrive in ‘rational’ mode, telling me that my body was gorgeous and my concerns were unnecessary, that no one was looking and no one cared and those that did look would probably be smiling. Finally, eventually, I took off my bikini. Hooray for me! Well done! I overcame my fear of being naked! What a happy ending!

Once it was off, I lay naked for ten minutes sobbing face-down into a beach towel.

I’m not saying I’ll always be like this, or even that I’m guaranteed to be like this – on a good day with a fair wind and a happy outlook I’ll probably be less tearful and more strident. Nor am I saying that anyone else should be like this, or should feel obliged to get over it if they are. All I’m saying is that it’s hard. It’s harder than I make out sometimes, when I write rational, angry blogs about what is not wrong with you. It’s harder than just ‘getting confident’ or ‘ignoring your worries’ or ‘facing your fears’. I’m saying that I’ve stamped on a few, but there are still a million spiders. Sometimes I worry that there always will be.


  • Mariasibylla says:

    Thank you so much for this! It’s really brilliant and touching and honest and close to my heart. I think it sucks that so many of us have such a difficult time simply being proud of our bodies. On the other hand sometimes it’s hard to admit that we are insecure. I’m a bundle of nerves and angst about my shape, but I want to (or feel like I should) pretend that I’m super secure. If I agree that all shapes and sizes are beautiful, shouldn’t I obviously agree that I am beautiful? But it’s not that easy and you have very eloquently illustrated that conflict. So thank you again.

  • seaside slut says:

    I am full of admiration for you. I wouldn’t have had the bravery to write this post, though I completely identify with it.

  • Ay None says:

    I don’t do public nudity under any circumstances, and indeed would generally rather stay as covered as possible at all times. But private nudity is oddly fine.

    Partly this is because I tend to be distracted at the time. And partly I think it’s because I don’t get naked with anyone who hasn’t been well prepared in advance. If you don’t know me well enough to expect the body hair and wobbly bits, then you don’t know me well enough to fuck me.

  • Fiddy says:

    My wife isn’t afraid of nudity at all. Heck, she prefers being naked. Her phobia though, is water. Still has an adorable onesie swimsuit that is apparently for role play purposes, but she HAS bitten me on reflex to get out of my arms when a large body of water suddenly pops up.

  • Roger says:

    “Full of admiration,” – yes I am too. I don’t suppose I can even begin to imagine how hard to write this must have been.. Judging by the comments already in, your determined honesty will not have been in vain. More than one lady, I suspect, will bless your cotton socks this evening.

    By the way… changing the subject, sorry. Did you spot this is the Graun?

    I wish you a peaceful, spiderless, naked night!

  • Abbi Rode says:

    Once again this is so close to how I feel. I’m ok in great underwear, in the right lighting. I’m ok lying down.
    But in the sunlight, standing up? No way.
    I try to offset this by constantly posting photos of myself ‘in the perfect light’ – all the while terrified that if anyone met me they would be deeply disappointed.

    The eternal struggle.

  • Coquine Elle says:

    This hits so close to home that I could have written a similar blog post. I’ve never truly been comfortable with my body. I have good and bad days but going anywhere where nudity is allowed would leave me with an anxiety attack. Maybe one day it’ll get better but who knows.

  • Hmmm…

    Why the self loathing? Where does it come from? I mean I have serious anxiety issues (back in the day I was just labeled as shy) so I understand irrational fear and loathing. But to hate one’s body so viscerally – something you have to live in everyday – that’s the essence of you – is something I don’t quite understand and am always curious to know from where it stems.

    • Girl on the net says:

      The honest answer is that I have lots of ideas and none. I suspect it’s because I have never been perfect. I look back at pictures of me when I was 16/17 and go ‘holy shit I was super-hot!’ but obviously then I thought I was fat/pale/etc. Thing is, I have always thought my body was something that needed to be changed and bettered. The obvious and easy answer is ‘pictures in magazines/the media/whatever’ but there’s probably more to it than that. I don’t know. All I know is that it’s annoying and irrational, and while I try my best to be rational, I can no more rationalise it than I can rationalise my fear of spiders.

      • Sam says:

        There doesn’t have to be a reason. If you’re not comfortable with yourself, inside or out, no amount of “but you’re gorgeous / funny / wonderful” will convince you otherwise – and it’s got sod all to do with being perfect, or even passable. It’s about feeling acceptable, and some people manage it without blinking; for others it takes years and therapy and a lot of missed opportunities.

        For me, liking my body is something that’s only happened fairly recently, and is very much a work in progress. I’m still not sure about the bit above the neck, but I like that my eyes and eyebrows seem to be quite smiley even when the rest of me is decidedly meh. The strange thing is that once I got over my body, actually started to like it, that was when I decided it was time to get it into better shape. I can only hazard that it’s because I knew inside before that the real issue wasn’t with how I look, but how I felt about me in general, and no amount of faffing with the outside was going to change that.
        It still doesn’t stop me looking at skinny young things with apparently zero body hang-ups on the beach and wondering how they can do it when it took me so long to really believe that I was okay and it’s all right for me to show even a bit of flesh.

        Perhaps – and with you being a sex blogger, I can see why this might seem weird – it’s that it’s really not your thing. Like spicy food makes some people cry they dislike the sensation it causes so much, like getting up to speak in public makes some people throw up.
        There’s no rule that says you have to be completely gung-ho, or even comfortable with, everything and anything just because you have broader tastes than other people who would rather hide under five duvets than go naked. There are plenty of ways of being and feeling hot – but feeling comfortable with yourself is the most important. In the meantime, you’ve got one hell of a reason and plenty of opportunity to dress up. That’s something I can’t see myself ever doing without fighting like hell not to and wanting to dive under the sofa to get away, even if the idea appeals.

      • Sarah says:

        I’ve felt like this for as long as I can remember. I hated my body and my face at 21 – I recently saw some photos and I looked amazing. A small size 8, with big boobs, lovely hair (before the meds thinned it!)…. If I saw that person now I’d think she was beautiful (and even saying that makes me want to puke as it sounds so conceited).

        The thing that makes me want to change it is that I will never look better again than I do now – before kids, without wrinkles, not too saggy. And I bet, when I’m 50, I’ll look back of photos of now and think I was beautiful. I wish I could just relax and enjoy it.

  • Rachel says:

    “If it were that easy I’d have done it already” -EXACTLY GOTN! Thanks for writing on this, I had almost the exact same experience on holiday with my boyfriend this year. There is nothing I would like more than to really mean it when I act like I’m not ashamed of my body, but whatever I try I can’t.

    There are multimillion pound industries dedicated to making women feel bad about their appearence. That’s a lot to stand up to. What really gets me is when they act all concerned and friendly whilst blaming women for having poor body image, this article is about adverts that shame women for feeling ashamed: .

  • Elly says:

    Oh jeez, this was me 18 months ago. Every word of that resonates with me, and it is something I’m getting over (hooray!). I think that women are never going to win this battle, because we are told from childhood that we aren’t good enough, and that is reinforced for the rest of our lives (make up, perfume, clothing, hair products etc etc). It is drummed into us that we can be better and prettier and sexier – and even though we’re aware of the marketing strategies and know whats being advertised is unrealistic… it still works.

    By the way, I live in Australia. The spiders suck.

  • riz says:

    An excellent post.

    I would like to add that a man can also hate his body, although I agree with other commenters that there is probably more pressure on women in relation to body image.

    I dislike my body. I dislike it because very few people like it, or want it. I accept the argument about loving or accepting yourself but the bottom line is I want to be wanted, to receive affection, to fuck, as do the majority of people. My body and my brain are the two main tools I have for attracting someone and unfortunately, my experience is that very few women are attracted to this body and the person in it. Being small is a big impediment as a bloke, in dating terms. I dont know how I could ever love my body, it serves no useful function in attracting a partner.

    Other than allowing me to vent, for which I thank you (!) I also wanted to share another reason why one may dislike one’s body. We need our bodies to so things and sometimes they fall short in that task.

  • Azkyroth says:


    Here is some tangentially related material maybe?

  • Thank you for sharing this. I just… you’re not the onyl one, and it really means a lot for yu to say this. Thank you.

  • Lilx says:

    I have a TED Talk for you to watch about fear:
    Maybe it helps.

  • Katie says:

    I guess I’m somewhat fortunate in that I actually like my body. The bit from the neck up is of somewhat dubious quality, but from the neck down, until you get to my ankles, I’m pretty happy with the way it’s turned out.

    I used to be quite self concious of my boobs, especially when they first made their appearance. As a fairly early developer at an all girls school, I used to get a lot of teasing about them; firstly because I actually had some and then, slightly later, because of their size. I realise it was mostly jealousy,but my early teenage self didn’t appreciate that fact.

    My various partners over the years have taught me to love them though (although at certain times of the month, I could still quite gladly cut them off).

    Toplessness and nudity on beaches have never been an issue for me. I guess I’m just a sun-baby, and I find being naked in such heat so more comfortable than having a hot, wet, sticky bit on material clinging uncomfortably to my nether regions as it dries out.

    Body image is such a personal thing though. It doesn’t matter how often, our how many people tell us we have lovely/sexy/beautiful/fuckable bodies, unless we feel that way about ourselves, then flattering as such comments are, it is often hard to take them as facts.

    I think the hardest thing, after learning to love ourselves for who we are, is to try and love and appreciate ourselves for the way that others see us. I’m a lot closer to that now than I was in my teens, but personally, I still think my bum is my nicest part and not my boobs.

    Katie xx

  • Sarah says:

    I could have written this myself. This is one of my biggest problems.

    I never judge other people by their weight (unless of course they’re half ton people who can’t get out of bed, then I just get sad). I look at women with probably bigger bodies than mine and find at least one beautiful thing in it. I applaud women who are normal looking for sharing their bodies online. I firmly believe that my body is the least interesting thing about me.

    But I hate it.

    At the height of my eating disorders, I would bath in the dark (which says a lot, as my next biggest fear is the dark). I am never naked when I’m alone, unless I’m in the bath. I never go to the beach despite living five minutes walk away. I let my body hold me back. And the sad part? I know there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s an okay, average body. But the upset I face when I have to get dressed up and I’m bulging unattractively, or I have to wear a swimming costume makes me cry so hard it hurts.

    The fact that I’ve been having my hormones screwed with from the age of 14 non stop doesn’t help because my weight is out of my control – I’ve gone up to a 14, down to a six and back again. I wasn’t happy as a six anyway.

    This is where I’m really lucky in terms of my partner. He always loved grabbing at me and would always tell me how gorgeous my body is, but I used to think it was just a thing he said to make me feel better.

    Once I explained to him recently how insecure I really am about my body, he’s started explaining to me what he loves and why. All the bits I hate, he loves the most. He loves the fact that my boobs are a bit saggy and jiggle around. He loves my waist and my dreaded hips. He loves seeing me in positions I wouldn’t want anyone else to see me in.

    He got me to do something the other week that I never thought I would do and seeing how much he loved it gave me so much confidence. Now, during sex, I pay attention to his faces and noises as he looks at different parts of me and he really does love them. Now I put myself in those positions and feel sexy.

    Of course outside of sex I still hate my body but hopefully that will change if this continues!

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Hadn’t read this one before you linked it today. It’s a sad post, though one that clearly a lot of people sympathise with. I do hope you’re slightly more comfortable with your body by now. As someone said above, if only we could appreciate ourselves the way that others see us.

    Personally, I guess I should be happy that this is not something I’ve particularly struggled with. I’ve never hated my body; don’t exactly love it, but it’s fine for me. If I’m not that keen about showing it off, I think that’s more down to a natural reticence than shame or embarrassment; I’ve never had an issue with nudity as such, which may be something to do with being raised by actual naturists (but that’s another story…).

    Still, everyone’s got something they’re afraid of/ashamed of… all we can do is try to learn to overcome our fears.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.