What would it take to feel good in your skin on International Women’s Day?
Today is International Women’s Day and thousands of women across the world are celebrating their achievements with events and debates. We have come a long way since the suffragettes first proposed the radical suggestion that women should have the vote, but we seem to have a long way to go. For example half of all 16- to 21-year-old women would consider cosmetic surgery and in the past 15 years eating disorders have doubled according to Cara Acred. Other research backed up by a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Miss Representation, about the under-representation of women in positions of power – women who are high “self objectifiers” have low political power. They’re less likely to run in politics, and less likely to vote: if value lies in their imperfect bodies, they feel disempowered.
I’ve started to wonder what would happen if we didn’t have so much time and money caught up in anxiety about our appearance. What if we just felt comfortable in our skins? I must be becoming a grumpy (low estrogenic!) old woman because I grow more and more irritated with the advertisements on the telly for cosmetics and diet foods. The diet industry in the UK alone is worth £2bn – not bad for a business wholly reliant on failure. Do they use their bonuses on low-cal snack for their own kids?
I notice that the younger generation of women seem to be even more fixated with appearance than we are, the absurdly narrow requirement of ‘beauty’ takes a massive commitment. It seems that despite our increasing economic wealth, we still seem to have a crisis of confidence, so my question to you is;
What if you felt comfortable in your skin, what could you achieve?
I believe our guilt and self-consciousness keeps us small. It serves to keep our greatness hidden. Might we be champion educators or champion politicians or campaigners, if we weren’t so bound up in fitting the mould?
I don’t just mean comfortable with our appearance, though that would be a start, what if we felt comfortable with who we are? To use Brene Brown’s expression,
What if you were enough?
So much of our ambition gets put aside for when we’ve lost a stone, or when I’m not hormonal or when the children are older.
A friend of mind told me a story about attending a public speaking training. The participants were asked to state out of 10, how good they were at public speaking; all the women rated themselves low, all the men rated themselves highly. But none of the men were significantly better at it than the women, they just thought they were. It seems that as women we consistently make ourselves smaller, not just our physicality, but our presence, skills and ambitions are kept doll-sized too.
As a body worker I get to see and hear about women’s relationships with their bodies a lot. I see my job as helping my clients develop a friendly relationship to their bodies so they can feel good in their skins.
Mostly people come with shame, disappointment, even disgust towards themselves. These beliefs start to be developed from childhood experiences in the family, (dirty girl) and the unresolved cycles of old hurts still remain in our tissues. These difficult feelings also come from mainstream culture and from society at large. I see shoulders curl over in shame, bellies bulge in turn, or the opposite structure where chests stick out in reckless courage and the abs are locked tight. We cannot shine in the world until we feel comfortable in our skins.
What would it take for you?
Here are some ideas, we might have to
- Notice the judgments
- Noticing what feels good to us
- Noticing what we need
- AND BE KIND TO OURSELVES
Kindness is an old fashioned value, but applied to our bodies which so often seem to be a conflict zone between how we are and how we think we should be, it can be a mighty weapon. Imagine we treated our friends in the way that we treat ourselves, there would probably be a big bust up, would the friendship even survive?
This woman’s day, I propose we take the radical step of setting an intention to be kind to myself, by treating myself as I would my best friend.
The first step in any process do change is awareness, I first have to notice my judgment or behaviour. Then I can have a choice and see if I can’t react myself with the same kindness as I would a best friend; rest a little, sit quietly with a cup of tea, chat more with my friends, dream about plants, feel gratitude for my body. The kinder I am to myself, the more I can take my place in the world.
This International Woman’s Day, my intention is to help women feel so good in their bodies that they can shine in the world.