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When you hear the word “shameless,” what do you think of? For me, a little voice in my head chimes in with judgmental commentary about how someone else behaves, particularly a woman, and particularly in relation to her body. For instance, calling someone a “shameless hussy”, which feels like it must be something I’ve heard in movies since I can’t remember hearing it in real life.

So it was a bit mind-boggling to me when I heard someone say that he was shameless in relation to his body – and to say it proudly.

I tried to imagine what that would feel like, to be so assured about my body that I didn’t have any shame about it. Not only in the way I look, but in how I move, how much food my body needs, all of it.

I couldn’t immediately conceive of it. It was so far outside my experience that it was beyond my reach. But I still kept thinking about it.

Then someone challenged me to think of relating to other people without fear of judgment, and I realized all those issues were tied together. I felt shame about my body not only because I was afraid other people would judge me but because I had learned to judge myself.

I think that type of judgment is hard to avoid in our society, especially if it’s reinforced from an early age. Putting myself in a position where I am judged – like with my writing – likely doesn’t help.

But last week, something shifted. I don’t know why, exactly, but I had this sudden freeing realization that I don’t have to apologize for myself.

Of course there will be times when I say or do something that I might regret and want to apologize for. I do not, however, owe anyone an apology for what I look like, or who I am intrinsically as a person. Nor do I need to let myself feel judged or shamed by others.

It was a wonderful, revelatory feeling, and even better, it’s one I’ve been able to mostly hold onto. I don’t feel it quite as strongly as I did in that first moment, but I remind myself of it every day, that I can claim my body and the rest of myself without shame or apology. My hope is that I can get to a point where I say with confidence that in this regard I, too, am shameless.

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