It has been a difficult, and for many women, painful, couple weeks politically. I thought it would be a good time for a quick reflection on a couple things we can do in our own lives to more fully own our own bodies and how they are treated and to make it easier for other women to do the same.
First, we can focus on making decisions for our bodies that are based on what we want instead of what others want. As women we have a tendency to take everyone’s needs into account and that’s a beautiful thing, but what I often notice in my clients is that they take this too far and consider others without equally considering themselves. Equally considering our own needs and others would be a huge step up for women, allowing us to take better care of ourselves and ultimately give more to others in meaningful ways instead of through small concessions or overworking that lead to exhaustion and resentment. With our bodies, however, we need to take this even a step further and put our own needs first.
An obvious example is sexually, where my clients often report not having said no when they weren’t interested in sex or were too nervous about disappointing someone to ask the person to use protection. It can be scary to risk rejection or hurting someone’s feelings. I remember getting a massage once and having trouble telling the masseuse I’d like her to use more pressure! It seems crazy and I’m not sure why it is so difficult. It somehow feels rude to say our desires or needs but it is actually just helpful information for the other person.
There are many ways daily that we use our bodies to please others instead of ourselves. One is by repressing our feelings. So many people I work with put on a pleasing face even when their hearts are hurting. Over time this often leads to anxiety and sometimes panic attacks or depression. Letting out our own feelings, by talking honestly with others regularly about how we are really doing, and by giving yourself time to cry or open to feel daily, would make a powerful difference in reclaiming our lives and our ability to positively impact the world. Feeling our feelings allows us to care for our bodies and give them what what they need.
And then, of course, how we look is another area where we can switch from pleasing others to pleasing ourselves. Do we wear clothes that are comfortable or that make our pain our bodies so we can look like everyone else? Do we eat what is healthy and makes our bodies happy, or what we think we need to in order to look a certain way? Do we appreciate the natural beauty of having a miraculous body, or do we criticize it and focus on faults? We can empower ourselves and reclaim our bodies by shifting to what our own hearts want for our bodies instead of what others want for them.
Finally an important thing we can do to make a difference for all women is to not judge each other. Support women in feeling the way they want to feel and looking the way they want to look by proving they will still be loved and not judged. When you see imperfection in others, embrace it. We are all beautiful just the way we are, in our incredible faults and breath-taking diversity.
You might ask, “How do I accomplish these things—to prioritize what I want for my body over what others want, and to stop judging other women?” First, set your intention and put your focus there. Our minds are powerful and some of this is just a matter of intentional choice. Second, when you are pressured to please someone and are having trouble finding your voice, or if you have a judgmental thought arise toward yourself or someone else, search for the love. We all know love for something or someone—find it. Then focus on it and wrap yourself in it so you feel strong and full of support. You can lean into this as much as you need to, and develop your ability to access it more easily over time. The world really needs women to show up with our full voices, feelings, and compassionate hearts right now. Honoring our own bodies is a part of this. Think of some small ways to empower yourself and live authentically and go for it!