What would it take to feel good in your skin on International Women’s Day?

2011_international_women__s_day_by_party9999999-d3b6aadToday 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? Barbie

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

  1. Notice  the judgments
  2. Noticing what feels good to us
  3. Noticing what we need
  4. 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.

 

 

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8 Replies to "What would it take to feel good in your skin on International Women's Day?"

  • Lisa Kavanagh
    March 8, 2014 (2:49 pm)
    Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful article Kate. This is one of the areas I am working on, by running workshops for girls. Social media has a lot to answer for. The last few generations of girls have grown up with “page 3” being an unchallenged norm. With advertisers pushing push-up, cleavage enhancing bras, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, teeth whitening, cosmetic surgery and weight loss programs down our throats, it would take a mother with very high self esteem to guide a daughter through this unharmed. Women are subject to sexual objectification in so many walks of life. Newspaper and magazines raise women up, only to knock them down again. They consistently measure and grade women based on their appearance. A lot of damage has been done over a long period of time. I do see the tides are changing though, there are growing numbers of men and women working and petitioning for changes. Articles like yours which raise awareness and encourage girls and women to stop and think about how they treat themselves are vital in this process. Thank you x

    • katecodrington
      March 8, 2014 (5:39 pm)
      Reply

      Thanks Lisa! I really appreciate your support; the objectification is so mainstream that I sometimes feel that I’m totally out on a limb. This is written from a more personal view point than usual and it felt a bit of a stretch. I fear for young girls growing up now, it’s great that you’re doing workshops for girls, can you add a link so I can share it please?

  • Alessandra Smith
    March 9, 2014 (9:54 am)
    Reply

    Thank you Kate for tris true and inspiring posting. I’d like to underline the situation of the older woman who feels that she’s becoming unworthy, invisible, redundant as her physical appeal goes. It shouldn’t be like that, a person’s value and beaty resides in the sort of person she (or he) is. Not so in our society.

    • katecodrington
      March 9, 2014 (10:56 am)
      Reply

      Thanks Alessandra, it is an interesting process, this sliding under the radar. I wonder if we are invisible, how we can use this subversively to go undercover? I am starting to study peri-menopause more deeply now and will be writing more on this soon.

  • Jackie Elton
    March 11, 2014 (8:43 pm)
    Reply

    Thank you I love this article. This is close to my heart as I have a 9 year old soon to be 10 daughter and an 11 year old son. I do worry about the harm this does for girls but also the unrealistic images that boys see too. I read an interesting article about true beauty recently which was good and made me think. There are a number of times that I haven’t shined because of my size and the way I look.
    Jackie

    • katecodrington
      March 12, 2014 (9:29 am)
      Reply

      I have a daughter the same age and worry about how she will inhabit her body as she comes into puberty. I guess the best thing I can do is be a good role model for her and work on being comfortable in my own skin, getting easier with making mistakes and being seen etc.

  • Amanda Sharp
    March 14, 2014 (8:37 pm)
    Reply

    You’ve raised some interesting points. I had a TIA lung embolism that resulted in a stroke leaving me in a wheelchair. I had until that point never appreciated my body and detested it all the more as I had to succumb to unknown careers wash and bathe me. I cringed at the thought of looking in the mirror. I eventually recovered and lost a lot of weight , I thought I would be happier having reduced myself to a size 10 from size 22 but I found out I had the dreaded PIP implants and on their removal I lost all my womanly curves. I had a couple more operations which left me scarred.my husband never said a thing. My kids told me I wS pretty but I wouldn’t listen. I have now gained weight and am a size 16 . I struggle with mental health issues but this year I have met some ladies through social networking , like yourself who inspire me and challenge me to look in the mirror again. It’s been awhile and fear sets in as to what will I see. Funny when you think I spend my “well time” making others look pretty . I admire anyone who is comfortable in their own skin. X

    • katecodrington
      March 15, 2014 (8:09 am)
      Reply

      Thanks for telling a bit of your story Amanda. You are a woman of great courage and strength and your family are very lucky to have you in their lives. I think your daughter might be right!


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