I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not I should write this article. Ironically, for fear of judgment. And rejection. But I’ve learned some important lessons about myself over the last 4 days. And I always believe it is important to share those important lessons when learnt.
So, here it goes.
Camping with a twist
The 27 April is a Public Holiday in South Africa – Freedom Day – a day which commemorates the country’s first democratic elections after the apartheid era. This year it happened to fall on a Tuesday, so we decided to make a long weekend out of it.
As some of you know, we have recently bought an old Land Cruiser which is fully kitted out with a roof top tent and awning. We both love traveling and exploring new locations, but feel guilty leaving our 3 rescue dogs behind. The land cruiser was an ideal solution. And last weekend was the perfect opportunity for our first adventure.
And what an adventure it was!
As is typical for us, we ended up leaving arrangements to the last minute. Having trawled through the internet for dog-friendly campsites and contacted numerous agents for assistance, we managed to find a beautiful campsite in Klipfontein, Tulbagh, about 90 minutes outside of Cape Town. The pictures looked beautiful. There was tonnes of space for the dogs to run. And it was a no kids’ zone! Perfect when you have dogs who use children as ten-pin bowling practice!
The bare necessities
The booking confirmation came through and immediately my face flushed red: “CLOTHING OPTIONAL”. And you’d think as a lawyer I would have read the small print! How was I going to explain this?!
Now, one thing you should know about me is that, when embarrassed, my reaction is to burst out laughing (you’ll see how inappropriate this trait is later) – and this had me in fits. I awkwardly explained to Justin what I’d done and – to my surprise – he took it in his stride: “Best give the dogs’ nails a trim then”!
So, after having a good giggle about the error of my ways with a few of our close friends, we headed off to Tulbagh. The car was full to the brim: dog beds, tables, cooking equipment and ironically two full suitcases of clothes. Well, it did say clothing was optional – and I fully intended to embrace this option!
As we arrived, I could already feel the nervous laughter rising from the pit of my stomach. “Just behave Frieda. Nudity is a perfectly natural state” – I said to myself. But, frankly, nothing can prepare you for walking around a corner smack into a very naked man. Especially when he is a stranger. I burst out laughing! Oh my goodness, I had no idea where to look. Fortunately, I could pass off the laughter as fright from the collision. But thank heavens for my COVID mask!
The gentleman was super kind and found the owners for us who, in turn, explained the layout of the campsite, fetched us firewood, came to meet the dogs, and helped us locate a braai pit (barbecue pit for non-South Africans).
We explained to them that this was our first time venturing into a naturist campsite and that we hadn’t actually realised it was an au natural camp at the time of booking. They were incredibly kind and re-emphasised the fact that clothing was optional. No one would judge us if we chose to keep our clothes on. Or if we braved taking them off. There was 50 hectares of land so we could be as secluded as we liked.
But, the toilets, showers and wifi were only located in the main campsite. Where every other naturist would be….
Shaken but not stirred!
I must say, having got the initial interaction out of the way, my discomfort levels rapidly decreased. We did opt for a secluded spot under the willows opposite the main campsite. Partly for the dogs. But mainly to ease ourselves into these new surroundings.
Having established camp, we ventured into the main campsite to familiarise ourselves with the lay of the land. No sooner had we arrived, we were offered pancakes and a beer, asked if any assistance was required, and engaged in conversation.
The openness and friendliness of the camping community was quite different to our normal camping experience. Usually, people tend to acknowledge each other by a nod of the head, but generally try to avoid engaging in social niceties. This was a refreshing change. And the conversation was a lot more honest and open because eye contact was consciously maintained! (But yes, I couldn’t resist having a peek or two – oh come on, so would you!)!
Meeting my judge
By Day 2, we’d plucked up the courage to give it a whirl. The sun was shining. We were in our secluded spot. We felt safe. And if we weren’t going to experience this now, then when were we ever going to? So off came our clothes!
It felt so foreign and triggered every single one of my insecurities:
- “What would people say if they find out?”
- “What would they think of me?”
- “How is this going to damage my reputation?”
- “People are going to think I’m weird!”
- “You’re no Cindy Crawford! Keep your clothes on and don’t go and offend society!”
Isn’t it amazing how harshly we judge ourselves, each other and uncomfortable situations? All those negative assumptions that we carry around with us. We are so conscious of what other people think about us that I can only imagine how often our “judge” prevents us from trying out new things or stepping outside of society’s expectations.
But rather than reaching for my clothes, I pushed myself to see how long I could last. I’m in a fortunate position to be training in Positive Intelligence at the moment – which directly explores the limitations which our Judge and supporting saboteurs impose on the way we see the world. As such, I have a tonne of exercises that I can tap into to calm my survival brain (which encourages fight, flight or freeze actions) and activate my PQ brain which views things from a much more empathetic, curious, creative, fearless and clear-headed perspective.
Yes, the first few conversations were a little awkward, but gradually the discomfort of seeing multiple naked bodies dissipated. It wasn’t threatening, sexual or perverse – which is (admittedly) what I had sub-consciously expected. It was a judgment-free community which had erased all of societies airs and graces.
These people were comfortable with who they were. They were comfortable with their bodies – which crossed all dimensions of society: race, size, culture, age, gender. There was no automatic assumption of positions or the status you held in society by the clothes you wore. Everyone was on a level playing field – something which we rarely experience in this day and age.
Judging others: It says more about you
The weekend not only opened our eyes to a new experience, but it also shed light on how I judge myself and others around me. And I should say that I consider myself to be pretty open-minded. The lessons I learned were the following:
I’m a lot less concerned about my cellulite when the rest of my body is on show! My body is also in pretty good nick – so I should probably embrace that!
Honest and powerful conversations come when you make eye contact. Granted, I was consciously conversing at eye level – but my goodness, I realised how little we actually look people straight in the eye when we talk to them. We are forever scanning people. Looking around. Multi-tasking whilst having a conversation. Rarely do we focus just on the conversation at hand. Try it out – you’ll see the difference.
We assume so much about a person based on how they dress; what they do; where they live; what car they drive etc. We form our first impressions of people within a blink of an eye. Quite literally within 1/10 of a second! Most of the time our assumptions dictate whether or not we invest in a conversation. I’ve learned so much about the people I met this weekend because societal indicators were removed.
We make judgments about situations that are foreign to us. The minute we exit our comfort zone and try something new, our brain also steps out of its comfort zone. It struggles to compute the new pattern of activity and switches into “survival mode” in order to protect us. By calming our brain and seeing the situation for what it is – a learning opportunity – we are able to step out of this fight, flight or freeze mode and become less judgmental.
It’s strengthened my relationship. Both of us were outside of our comfort zone this weekend and our insecurities were triggered. But we laughed, talked openly, listened and supported each other. We return to our daily lives more aware and more open-minded.
What’s your judge preventing you from doing?
The above story is intended to highlight how our own self-judgment, the judgment of others and judgment of situations keeps us trapped in the status quo. Our judge narrows our perspective, holds us back from trying out new things, and makes implementing any desired change in our lives ten times harder.
- Imagine being able to take time off work without feeling guilty.
- Imagine being able to try a new hobby without fear of criticism.
- Imagine being able to date without fear of rejection.
- Imagine being able to voice your opinion without fear of repercussions.
So ask yourself this:
- What assumptions / judgments do you hold about yourself, about others and about certain situations?
- Are those assumptions / judgments valid? Or are they triggered out of fear? Or are they triggered out of your own insecurities?
- What is your judge preventing you from doing? What desired changes in your life is it preventing you from making for fear of negative consequences?
We all have a judge in us. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get to know yours, so that you can reduce its power?