Summer can be a hard time for those who suffer from body image issues. Getting into a swimsuit can be hard enough without the stares and comments. Shelly Proebstel, a blogger from Waipa, New Zealand, recently visited Mt. Maunganui Beach to bask in the glorious weather when she noticed men “pointing and laughing” at her in her bathing suit.
While Proebstel admits there was a brief moment where she wanted to put her beach cover-up back on, she instead took to Facebook to share her experience and call out the guys who had laughed at her.
The post starts:
“To the guys who pointed and laughed when I took my sarong off today at Mt. Maunganui Beach, bearing my soul (my bikini body) to the world, I just want to say (excuse my language) F*CK YOU!”
"It’s because of d**kheads like you that people are so incredibly insecure about their body image."
"It’s because of people like you that women especially don’t feel safe or confident or comfortable to go out in society in something like a bikini, or a crop top (they probably aren’t even called that anymore!) or a short dress, or with their midriff showing."
"It’s because of people like you that people starve themselves and make themselves sick in an attempt to maintain a ‘model-like figure.’"
"It’s because of people like you that people wear long sleeves all year round because they are scared to show their arms."
"It’s because people like you that people become anorexic, obese, bulimic, self harm, commit suicide...I could go on..."
"No, you are not responsible for the entirety."
"But YES, you have to take some responsibility."
"So next time you see someone like me on the beach in a bikini or in a situation similar, before you laugh and point, take a moment to think about the damage you may just do, because not every person, young or old, male or female, will have learnt to have the thick skin, or the resilience, or the self confidence, that I do to brush it off."
Shelly went on to explain why she wrote the post:
"I won’t lie, there was a split second that I almost quickly covered up again, and then I reminded myself of all I have learnt on this journey, and I held my head high and stuck my belly out and wore that bikini with pride."
She also urged parents to teach their kids respect:
"Parents, I urge you to teach your children that there is no one body shape, but instead that there is a rainbow of beautiful bodies. I urge you to teach them not to stare directly at a bigger stomach than they might be accustomed to seeing on tv or in society, but instead, to look at a persons face and into their eyes."
"I urge you to teach them to be kind to all types of people, regardless of their outer appearance. I urge you to teach your children to accept people for exactly who they are on the inside. And I urge you to teach your children to be role models to those around them who aren’t being taught this, and to be the positive change we need to see in the world, so that in 5 or 10 or 20 years time, no more people are pointed at and laughed at by the way they look when they wear a bikini on the beach."
Shelly received an overwhelming positive response, with over 4,000 comments and 6,500 shares.
"I wish I could rock a bikini but my silly extra ‘bottom tummy’ doesn’t really work in bikini pants, one commenter wrote. "Having said that, I rock my size 20 one-piece and don’t give a fuck what others think about the chubby mama swimming with her kids and having fun."
Proebstel decided to challenge her definition of beauty in 2018 by shaving off her long brown locks to raise money for Everybody is a Treasure, a charity that runs body positivity workshops throughout the island nation. Since then, Shelly has been writing about her experience on her social media platforms.
"I believe that that media, especially social media and magazines, often put out the wrong message," Shelly told the New Zealand Herald when she first shaved her head. "You never learn about how to be beautiful on the inside. It's always about how to lose weight in 30 days, not how to love yourself in 30 days. Shaving my hair off meant letting go of that security and choosing to see the beauty inside me. I’m making a statement that beauty is not in your hair – it’s in your heart.”