There has been an increasing experience of mine in my own personal life as well as in the experience of the women I meet in my classes and courses of negative body image, comparing ourselves in negative ways to other women and the idea that the antidote is self love & acceptance and so I've decided to riff a few of my thoughts on the subject ...
As we all know, we are bombarded with imagery of women in our advertising and on our social media (if you choose to follow those brands/people) of women who are perfectly balanced and air-brushed. We also willingly play along and most of us post well filtered, well positioned, happy, "hot" selfies.
We are also bombarded with imagery of everyone's happy lives. And marketing and advertising that tells us its important to be happy ALL.OF.THE.TIME. We "know" that when people post the best of themselves on social media that it's not the whole story and that there are equal amounts of pain and suffering in their lives too. This is what it means to live. To be human. We "know" suffering is a natural part of life (or do we?).
We do "know" this, I am an intelligent woman and the women that come to my classes and courses are also intelligent, we even share this with each other in my courses, that we "know" everyone has human bodies and that everyone experiences struggle ... but it seems it's actually not what we "experience" amongst all the noise, so we forget what we "know" is the truth.
We forget because the perfectly balanced and air-brushed information we see often outweighs the information we see of natural bodies. We don't see both sides. And equally we don't share both sides. The "happy times" are posted incredibly more frequently than the times that we struggle. We don't see both sides. Life is both pleasure and pain, this is natural and this is totally okay and actually quite important, we know this but we've forgotten because we don't share both sides.
We don't share our struggles because we feel shame about them. No one else is sharing them. No one else is having a hard time. So we feel we won't be accepted. That we won't be loved. To struggle is to feel uncomfortable, to admit that we don't have it all sorted, that we don't have all the answers and we hate feeling uncomfortable. We haven't been taught how to be with the (naturally) uncomfortable side of life. So we don't want to share what may cause us to feel uncomfortable or others uncomfortable. We are addicted to feeling good, we've been shown over and over again how to feel good (and what to purchase to feel good) and yet this obsession with feeling good and denial that feeling bad is actually okay (and natural) leads us and others to feeling disconnected and shameful. That because we live normal lives of ups AND downs there is something wrong with us. Because we don't have perfectly balanced bodies, there is something wrong with us.
Again we "know" that to be human is to be unique, we "know" no two humans are alike, we "know" its natural to have unbalanced bits on our bodies, to have times that life is sh*t, but because no one is sharing, it tends to look like we are the only one. We are the only one with unbalanced bits and who struggles. We've forgotten what it is to be human because the predominant messages we see are only one side of life. But because of our shame, we are also perpetuating this message.
Because no one else is sharing, we also hide our struggle. Hide our stretch marks. Hide our saggy bits. Hide our ageing. Hide our unbalanced angles. Hide our pain. Hide our sadness. Hide our loneliness. Hide our fear.
I don't want to play a part in perpetuating this one-sidedness anymore. I don't want another woman feeling that she is the only one who struggles and I don't want to feel like I'm the only one either. I want to normalise human life and unique human bodies and play a part in this being the loudest message we hear.
So in my courses and classes, (and also in my friendships) I make a point of sharing my unbalanced bits and the pain I live and have lived and the answers I do not know because it offers others a safe space to do the same. And when a group of women come together and share what it is to be human, both sides of the story, the ups AND the downs, the light and the dark, whoah, the self-acceptance and compassion that this sharing perpetuates is phenomenal.
It's not about coming together to victimise ourselves or to complain and moan. It's about taking off the masks and sharing our true humanness. Our most natural state. We stop fighting ourselves and reveal "here's my human bits, the awesomeness, the joy as well as my past battle wounds and my current battles and I share this with you so you know you can be human too, you are human, and that's okay". Just to know that it's okay to have unbalanced bits, that others do too and that it is actually f*cking normal to have pain & struggle, to feel lonely, overwhelmed and sad at times, is incredibly liberating.
OMG I'm actually human and that's okay? And I don't need to be fixed and changed? I can actually just be me. Beautifully unique and f*cked up too? Like everyone is? Really it's okay?
I have been married, divorced, cheated, been cheated on, had numerous partners, had abusive relationships, been abusive myself, my parents divorced, I still struggle with expressing myself and my needs to the ones I love, I have abandonment insecurities and jealousies that sometimes I don't understand, I am strong and opinionated, and regret and dwell on many things I say.
I'm turning 35 this year and am angry feeling that I have to worry about fertility, my current partner is only 22 and I fear that we are at different stages and yet I adore him, I'm struggling with getting older (because I also forget I'm human) and seeing signs of it in my body, grey hair, sagging breasts, untoned legs and yet I do deeply desire to honour my body for the brilliant vehicle that it is, so generously taking me from place to place, allowing me to hug the people I love and graciously grow old and wise with it ...
I share this short snippet of my humanness because I want to represent and perpetuate both sides of being human, because I too don't want to forget that being human is natural, because I do not want to perpetuate being addicted to feeling good and protecting myself and others from being uncomfortable. I want to practice being at peace with the uncomfortable side of life and the unique, unbalanced bits of me.
How can we know the joy and gift it is to love and be loved if we haven't ever experienced the other side, loneliness?? Loneliness, which is extremely uncomfortable, is just as important to the equation of love and being loved. Why do we judge it as wrong and ourselves wrong for feeling it and try to fix and change it and ourselves? When we feel anything uncomfortable why do we judge it as wrong? When our bodies and our lives are both light and dark and will be for the rest of our lives. Why don't we take judgement off our bodies and lives and just experience the humanness of them?
I believe our judgment and trying to fix and change ourselves is purely conditioning, what we've been taught up until now, because of what we predominantly see and experience in the information we are exposed to and what we are sharing or not sharing ourselves ... we have forgotten the truth of what it is to be human.
So I want to do my bit and help you remember. Remember that you are meant to be unique and life will be a journey of awesomeness and sh*tty hard stuff until the day you die, it will be both, forever, and that is okay!!!
Here are a few little posts you can visit when you notice you've forgotten ...
"YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL" IS A GLOBAL CAMPAIGN TO SHARE WOMEN'S PORTRAITS AND AUTHENTIC STORIES
JADE BEALL PHOTOGRAPHY FACEBOOK POST ON BELOVEDS FOR OVER 20 YEARS
IMMUNE CELEBRATE YOUR UNIQUE VIDEO
Other actions I humbly suggest that we as a community begin to adopt if you also, like me, would like to cease perpetuating the forgetting and help people remember that it's okay to be human ...
To normalise the struggles in life and to break free of the addiction to always having to "feel good", sit with and allow yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions/sensations when they arise and practice removing the judgment that "this is wrong, something is wrong or I need to fix this" from those experiences. If this sounds quite challenging or you're unsure on how to do this (as I mentioned, we have never been taught), I have found Yoga is the best way to practice (especially I find Kundalini Yoga) and MEDITATION. It has given me the experience to sit with the uncomfortable and have courage to transfer this to my everyday up and down life!
To start practicing sharing, join some kind of Women's Group where you feel safe to openly share both sides of your life. There are LOADS of Women's Moon Gatherings popping up around the place and, as you probably know, I hold these too, CLICK HERE for more info, or our SPIRITUAL BOOKCLUB. As you begin to share in these safe spaces, you get to experience that we all struggle, that it's normal and okay and you grow courage to begin to share with loved ones in your life and eventually anyone with the intention that others also remember that it is normal to be human.
Once you've practiced sharing, share on Social Media empowering, human posts. Whether that's posting both sides of your own journey (although I know this is confronting, something I also find challenging), or at least other peoples' posts like the ones I shared above that show real bodies and real struggle (I also love HUMANS OF NEW YORK and please share in the comments below any that you follow that share humanness). Also consider unfollowing those people and brands that only share one side of the human journey, if you feel they disempower you and make you forget.
We can choose to do our bit to stop perpetuating what is only one side of the truth and start sharing all of our humanness, show others that its quite normal to have unique bodies and ups as well as downs equally ... its okay to be human!
It's actually all we can be ;-) xx