Kate Shaw, 34, Long Beach, CA

This year, as part of our Take Back The Beach program, we are asking YOU to tell us about your experiences with body talk and self-perception. Below, one reader's story.

"Holy F, That Ass"

I've always felt like I was too big. To deal with what I saw as my "body problem," during my teens and 20s, I turned to bulimia, self-hatred, and excessive exercise. Turns out, all I needed to help me celebrate my assets was a group of women fawning over me as I danced half-naked.
I started pole-dancing in November of 2015. Over the first few months, I would leave pole class ready to quit, thinking I was just too big or unskilled. But, little by little, I got stronger. Tricks that seemed impossible became as easy as could be. All along the way, my pole teacher was gentle and kind, and truly excited when I nailed a new move.
One day, in our normal end of class dance, a slender classmate of mine was cheering me on and gawking at my ass. She couldn't control her love for my booty and the way I was moving it, so she screamed, "Holy F, that ass!" Something clicked in my head. This female (and overall badass friend), whose body I had envied, was admiring my voluptuous butt, admiring my unique assets and my own form of being hot. All of a sudden, it was as if all the clichés about uniqueness and beauty made sense to me. We are all uniquely beautiful — there really isn't a superior type of beauty. Each version is awesome in its own way.
It's been about a year and a half since that first pole class. I am now comfortable, and even excited, to be mainly naked pole-dancing, embracing my curves, my sultry moves, and my femininity. This ease and love of myself carries over to bathing suits, jeans, and just about any other outfit. When I walk down the beach, I now strut, enjoying every shake and curve.
It's as if I have acquired a super power: the power to see beauty in myself and every human. It's pretty much the best super power I could ever dream of.
#TakeBackTheBeach essays are meant to reflect individual women's experiences. They have only been lightly edited (if at all) by Refinery29 and do not necessarily reflect the company's point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
Have a story of body image and self-perception that you want to share? Submit your essay to our Take Back The Beach contest here.

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