Photos of young, naked women peppered the pages of my father’s newspapers. It was a serious newspaper (non-English) speaking to matters of politics and foreign policy and, yet.
Here were these photos too.
There were never any naked men in there. Just women.
I had already begun to internalize messages of being less than boys – my father outright told us such things.
These pictures, with the general conditioning of the culture-at-large had me believing that my value lay in how attractive and sexy I looked – to men – with as few clothes on as possible.
I felt a strange cocktail emotions relating to my body and my gender – disgust, anger, resentment, inferiority. I felt trapped. I felt at war with myself even if I probably couldn’t articulate it as such at the time.
One way in which this manifested itself very strongly in incredibly painful periods. Every month, a torture (until I was able to heal it).
The world we live in now is not quite the same as the one I grew up in. There are far better and more positive messages towards respecting and cherishing women and the feminine. We have more of a voice and the means to speak our truth and have it be heard.
Still, it’s not quite good enough. Misogyny is so pervasive it’s the air we breathe, most of us can barely distinguish.
It’s just normal or the way it’s always been. Sigh.
Even for women, we’ve internalized so much misogyny it’s a lifetime to extract and separate from it all.
So if you find difficulty in finding joy and your true purpose in your life, especially as a woman, you are not alone!
And the practice of finding joy and pleasure and purpose in being a woman is a lifelong one of discovery.
Below are my suggestion on where to start re-discovering your joy, purpose, power, and pleasure in being a woman. It’s based on decades of my own practice and in working with hundreds of women.
It may seem simple but I truly believe to begin these steps will liberate us. Start with one and I would suggest it be this first one:
Dance & Move Your Body. In Private. Just You.
When was the last time you danced? Or, more importantly, moved your body to music? If you can’t remember, or it’s been a really long time, you’re not alone.
And this needs to be remedied.
The discernment between dancing and moving your body to music is important for some of us to understand.
Sometimes we dance and we think it has to contain certain choreographed movements or look a certain way (like polished or sexy or ‘good’ in whatever way). This can be fun and challenging in interesting ways – nothing wrong with it.
However when we slow down and become present to our body with our attention and our breath, we can allow our body to move in the manner it wants and needs to move. I would still call this dancing but it’s not choreographed, it doesn’t necessarily look good. It can look chaotic and strange.
This is why it’s important to dance and move alone with no one watching. With safety and freedom to truly feel (and even discover!) yourself and move in all sorts of weird and unusual ways.
Pay attention to your hips and pelvic area. Chances are these are tight.
Pay attention to your jaw as you’re paying attention to moving your hips and pelvic area. Chances are this area is tight too. What will it take to relax all these parts at once? How can you move? How are you being moved?
What feels good can be your guide. Be prepared to have different feelings come up. Welcome them. Use the feelings to guide you in how you want to move. Bonus points for letting sounds out too.
Move the body. In private. Just you. Move in weird and different and unusual ways. Breathe. Breathe.
Pick your favourite music. Then pick music you don’t know or don’t particularly like. Try out different things is what I’m saying.
Do this every day! Yes, every day. Even just 5 minutes.
A stiff body breaks down. A body that moves is a body that lives, is a body that can respond and flow with the inevitable and unpredictable.
Of course, not every body can move in the same way.
There is a starting point for everyone. It doesn’t need to be the same. We start with where we are.
Where and how can you start today with movement and dance?
Dance with Others
When I was a young woman, one of my greatest joys and thrills in life was going clubbing. Music on full blast and dancing with people, flirting with strangers, being out with my friends was the thrill of finally being an adult.
But somehow, I got it into my head that once I reached a certain age and once I was married, going out dancing was supposed to stop. Like it was a flighty thing appropriate for young people only.
I’m not sure where I got, and why I had, that idea in my head. But those years where I stopped dancing were some of the most miserable in my life.
Whatever age you are, get yourself out to where people are dancing and dance. Find the safe spaces for this.
If you have ecstatic dance happening near you, please try that out. It’s dance as meditation. Dance for expansion. Dance for the sake of pleasure and as the name implies, ecstasy. No one else is looking at you, they’re dancing ecstatically themselves. If it’s done right, it’s a safe and supportive space where the new parts of ourselves we are uncovering can begin to emerge.
Dance and move with other people. Allow your self-discovery and emergence to continue in the presence of others.
We don’t fully heal alone.
Befriend and Spend Time with Women Who Love, Nourish, and Uplift You
And minimize the time with those who do the opposite (even if they say and do ‘love’ you).
Most of us carry deep wounding we’ve experienced from the behaviours or words of other women and we’re yearning for re-connection, trust, safety, and the love of female friends.
A good place to start could be to spend some time contemplating and even journaling on the women in your life right now who love and uplift you and those who do not. (And sidenote: if someone falls into some middle category between the two, slot them in the ‘do not uplift’ you category).
Make a commitment to surround yourself as much as you can with the positive, loving, affirming women. Create and attend gatherings. Make friend dates. Do errands together. Find your like-minded people and agree to support each other in the manifestation and creations of your life.
I think ‘Sex & the City’ is so iconic and enduring in part because of the strength and constancy of the friendships of the 4 women. This is something we need and want in our own lives. The thing is, we must be proactive in creating it. I think this is the mistake a lot of us make. If doesn’t really just happen, we have to make it happen.
It’s such a gift to have even one such friend, and honey, not uncommon, if you’re feeling you have no one. If this is you, you might like to think back to someone at some point in your life. Perhaps a kind, thoughtful teacher or an auntie, or someone who was kind, loving, and generous towards you. Someone who really saw you for you and loved you.
Remember how that felt and feel the gratitude of having had this person. Remember how they made you feel- comforted, special, loved, etc. Come back to this feeling, and the memory of this person often, as you go out and explore different ways of making new friends.
I’ve heard the lament that it gets harder to make friends as you grow older. I dispute that. I’ve made more friends, with ever deeper connections, in the past 10 years of my life than ever before. I fully expect this to continue.
Some of the places where I’ve found these friend soulmates: work, self-development workshops, trainings, women’s circles, in cafes, at parties, concerts.
We need the presence of people, and especially women, to reflect our beauty and light back to us. People who we can trust and have the best wishes in their heart for us. And like sunshine, we will always need this even as one day we begin to believe that yes, we are beautiful and wonderful.
Create or Make Things that Bring You Pleasure
(and that don’t need to serve any other purpose!)
This can be just about anything! We are creative beings. I know I’m not alone in drifting away from doing things I love as I grew older (like in my aforementioned dancing story). Is this you too? Is there something you loved doing and creating, that brought you pleasure and made you lose all sense of time? Are you still doing it? Time to start!
We need generative, creative experiences.
When we make something with our hands and bodies, we are in some important way blessed with beautiful evidence of our wonderful existence.
Some women want to create babies. Some women do not.
But I believe we all have a drive and desire to make something. To see and hold something of ourselves beyond ourselves.
I love cooking food especially for others. I love singing and making up songs and sounds. I love writing words and creating transformative, moving experiences for others.
What do you love to make? Are you doing it regularly?
Or, what did you used to love to make that you no longer make time for? Or that maybe feels frivolous? How can you start again?
Choose You First
You may naturally find your way here after you’ve been doing the first four recommendations (dance privately, dance with others, befriend uplifting women, make stuff that makes you happy).
Chances are that you are now experiencing (or beginning to experience) what it feels like to feel good. To feel satisfied and at home with and in yourself.
Which can start you on a path toward naturally making choices that are right for you.
Not making a choice because someone else wants you to, or expects you to.
You choose for you.
One of the harmful ways we’ve been programmed to think is in ‘either/or’ terms. This has us pitted against one another as though for one person to be satisfied or happy the other one must be unhappy and dissatisfied.
Try on ‘and/both’ instead the next time you have to make a choice.
Instead of saying:
I can do ‘yyy’ OR I can do ‘zzz’ (the either/or scenario)
Try on saying:
I can do ‘yyy’ AND I can do ‘zzz’ (the and/both)
You can apply this re-frame to any decision you need to make. See how it feels to use ‘and’ instead of ‘or.’
At times, it may be that someone is going to be disappointed or frustrated or unhappy by your choice, but I say let that frustrated person not be you.
We have been conditioned forever to be accommodating of everyone’s needs before our own. The more we veer into sacrifice of our own needs, the most burnt out and unhappy we become. This, too, serves no one.
Get more practiced at choosing you.
Note I said the start!
Now that you’ve read the steps go out and do them. The juice is in the action. Do these steps. Expect to encounter resistance and dance/move through it.
It’s very easy to stay in the mind about this and be critical. Like, I don’t get it. Why would any of this make the difference? The point is not to intellectualize and figure things out. Do it and see what happens inside the doing of it.
Click the image to the left for the list – feel free to print and put it up where you’ll see it.
Practice it all. Do it! Have fun with it!
And by all means, add to it!
It’s not in reading this blog that you’ll have transformed into joyful woman.
It’s in doing these things.
Now, go dance.