TThere’s something indelibly vulnerable and authentic about living the island life. For starters, at least one part of (almost) every day is spent in a bikini. You find yourself permanently in little to no clothing. Any attempt at make up is melted off your face before noon. The sea and salt water turn your hair into straw. There’s no bulky sweater to hide the bloated bulge from your decadent lunch and you curse yourself for forgetting to schedule that wax appointment. The bright, natural lighting does not hide the wrinkles, the freckles, or the dimples we call cellulite. Your first time meeting someone new you’re either sun burnt, half naked or a walking ad for frizzy hair products.
There is literally no mask. You can’t hide.
You are stripped down.
This is your real self. Your undone self. Your natural self. Your vulnerable self.
Your most beautiful self.
You are forced to accept who you are without all the things society says you need: the push up bra, the foundation, the hair straightener. You start to realize nobody has the “perfect” body, flawless skin or perfectly shiny hair. You start to realize you don’t need to pretend to either.
You learn that this is what it is to be human: to love and accept others for who they are and to reveal who you are to them without inhibition. It’s scary at first. Then it’s necessary. It’s the only way to connect with the people on the island. It’s the only way you can feel truly connected to your self.
There are no distractions. No shopping malls, thus no advertising that screams your inadequacies at you. You spend your days on the beach rather than on the couch and you feel healthy and strong rather than idol and mundane.
You start thinking less about your next wardrobe and more about your next adventure; less about your thighs touching and more about your muscles getting strong enough to allow you to play in the ocean for longer. You haven’t worn your watch in weeks because your day is organized by the motions of the sun and appointments are scheduled around the surf rather than traffic hour.
The sun may highlight your socalled imperfections, but it also adds a cheerful sparkle to your eye. You find yourself waking up with a smile for no apparent reason. As you slowly start to let go of the notion of outward perfection, you begin to yearn for an inner revolution.
As you connect with the Earth in a newfound way, you connect with your deeper self.
Unfolding before your eyes like the layers of an onion, you’re face to face with the very core of who you are; as if that’s not intimidating enough, you’re forced to share that version of yourself with the new community around you. This community is a breath of fresh air they push your comfort zones, they test your limits, they work together. They teach you that in this community, you only reap what you sow.
You realize, that this is true for yourself too. You experience the rejuvenation of sowing kindness and love into your imperfect body. The freedom of letting go of the critical thoughts that spewed hatred at your reflection before. You prefer to sow seeds of playfulness, compassion and peace into your soul and thus it begins to pour into your external life.
As your inner beauty blossoms, your outer beauty radiates. It’s not the sun kissed skin. It’s the radiating beauty of a naked, truly free soul.
You relinquish the mask and by doing so you relinquish the need for external validation.