How did we get so disconnected and judgmental with our own bodies?
For me, this topic has been a very powerful theme in my life.
We need to recognize that this is a universal theme across all genders, but today we are going to focus mostly on women. What has created, supported, and even encouraged these generations of women who don’t feel at home in their own bodies? And even at times, at war with their own bodies?
I believe this has been happening throughout history in different ways. If we think back to the Victorian age, they had the corsets and the “your body must fit and look a certain way within this culture of the patriarchy”…over 5,000 years of defining the image of women should be.
I remember when I was little, and Twiggy was suddenly the model of what women should be, which was a radical shift from the Marilyn Monroe stage of beauty for women. And then here was Twiggy, who was basically very thin, bony, no curves – this figure became the new version of what women should look like in the 70s. And of course, I was tall, curvy, and musculature. I had all these different body parts that made me feel very unfitting in the American version of beauty.
And then there was my mother’s generation. She grew up in the Audrey Hepburn period, which was also another version of beauty, with the super tiny waist and overall tiny frames of women—a little more curvy, but tiny. My mother was always aspiring to that as this ultimate version of beauty. What I learned from her (not verbally, but non-verbally) with how she was in her body, how she treated her body and how she would speak about it, was basically that it wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t good enough. She had eating issues related to that. She clearly had a lot of judgment and shame around her body, even though she was beautiful. She also had a lot of judgment around my body and how I should be. I was a larger person than her by the time I was 12, and so I very much didn’t fit her idea of what beauty was.
The reality is that with women who grow up in this dynamic of disembodiment is that we have a level of anxiety and dissociation with what’s happening. If your vehicle of who you are in your body is not acceptable, then you literally can’t feel at home in it.
And that’s huge—that’s a saying we hear about, right? Like, “Are you comfortable in your own skin?” It’s something that I recently have very much connected to in my work with reaching women who have identified that they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin.
We’re always judging ourselves. We don’t like our bodies. We’re constantly working with the body by how we eat, how we exercise, how we wear our clothes, and how we present ourselves. There’s a dissonance in almost every aspect of how we show up in the world along with not having and owning our own voices.
We have this connection between us of this loss of self, generationally and ancestrally, through the culture of the masculine patriarchy saying how we should be. But what also impacts us is trauma, oppression, and abuse, which also live in our bodies. For many of us, not feeling at home in our bodies is because we have experienced violations of our own personhood, of our own sense of safety and sovereignty of our bodies. So when we have that happen, we definitely often dissociate as a way to cope with that as a way to survive.
So as we can see, there are many, many reasons why we are where we are now.
As a humanity, as women, we desperately need to figure out how to come back into relationship with our bodies.
A lot of the Fearless Feminine Wisdom work is about recognizing the wisdom we have within our bodies.
Many women struggle with that because the initial place they hit up against is, “I don’t like my body, how can it be wise? It’s where all my trauma lives.” And yet, it is that very dissonance that is part of what we have to cross. We have to walk the bridge of understanding that the body is our consort. It truly has come as our greatest ally. And that’s how I’ve experienced my journey of healing with my body is to recognize how it has been with me through everything. It feels energetically, somatically, spiritually, a part of my soul, part of who I really am. This body has the map of everything I’ve been through.
So when we’re talking about befriending our bodies, we need to be able to hold all of that, and to recognize that our judgment, our dissociation and our disconnection comes from many different sources for each one of us.
And yet our journey back to this consort, this loving ally that we have, is an essential part of us. We need to recognize our difficulties with our mental health struggles, with men, with recognizing where we’re struggling in regards to well being or health, or our physical level, as well as how do we feel spiritually connected?
Again, in my frame of reference from what I’ve come through, they all come together in the body.
It’s like a calling right now—this return of the feminine that so many across all cultures, across the globe, are speaking to and relating to, this awakening of our feminine wisdom and energy and consciousness.
All of it intersects in our body, whether or not we’re just working on…
- I don’t want to be sick anymore.
- I don’t want to have this pain.
- I don’t want this chronic illness.
- I want to feel good and loving in my body so that I can experience a full expression of my sensual, sexual self.
- I want to feel capable of working with my own transformational journey, consciously and energetically.
Whether you’re in one or all of those areas in your life right now, the body is the place that we want to come into contact with. We want to begin to hold space for how we can begin to heal our relationship with our own bodies.
And this can happen very slowly, perhaps in how we begin to take care of ourselves: eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising (the gym, walking, yoga, etc.). Whatever feels really good for us!
Those things can begin to help us care for our bodies.
Then we can begin to do more of that emotional trauma healing work. We’re going to need to do that within the body as well as the mind—they hold together that experience. The most powerful trauma work I’m seeing these days is in this emotional embodiment work that I have found quite profound.
That basically involves us learning to stay present, to process what it is you’ve gone through that you couldn’t process at the time. What that does is it helps us learn to stay in our bodies in our present moment. This helps us to navigate in the moment rather than dissociating because it’s too difficult, and then having to come back to it. Somebody recently said, “Oh, so it’s like no longer procrastinating?” Yes, it’s kind of like that, and also learning to embrace and practice non-judgement.
What it would be like, as women, to wake up and not use the mirror to attack yourself? To not judge and degrade yourself?
This is an important place for us to stop repeating that learned judgment and to instead begin practicing self-love and acceptance. This is part of the befriending.
Would you ever judge your friend, who you love deeply, and tell her, “Well, I love you but you know, your legs are just a little bit too short, or too long, or too small, or too large, so I can’t really be friends with you.” No, you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t say that.
And yet we do it to ourselves. Right? We condemn ourselves, we judge ourselves, we criticize ourselves.
Part of this healing is coming into feminine consciousness—this wanting to embrace more and more of who we are from this loving place. The body is the best place to start.
We can start with having our hands sitting gently at the center of our chest, and breathing a loving breath at our heart center. We can come into contact with our body and begin to practice feeling and noticing the emotion, noticing our breath.
Befriending our bodies can take a lifetime, and the sooner we start, the better. When we start to really acknowledge how it feels to not be a friend to our bodies, but instead to be like an enemy, we can really feel what that’s doing to us. It’s painful. It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating.
And that’s what started me on this journey very early. I had internalized the judgment towards women, the judgment I saw my mom have towards herself and me, and I struggled with Body Dysmorphia now, but I was obsessed with seeing every part of my body as not okay, in one way or another, by the time I was 10 or 11.
It’s so sad for me to look back and realize how young I was, and already totally immersed in that self-hating culture that we had learned as young girls. We see this with younger and younger girls who have eating disorders and body dysmorphia—hating themselves, hating each other, putting other girls down. This is the outcome of all of these generations hating the feminine, hating the body, disconnecting from what is actually one of our truest, deepest resources.
So befriending our body can start as simple as, “Yeah, let me make sure I get my sleep”, or “I’m let me make sure I eat good,” or “Let me do some breath work meditation, sit with my body and learn to just practice holding love and acceptance and gratitude.”
Then it can continue to evolve with how we show up, and also in our mind with how we practice non-judgement for our own well being.
And then it can even go into that spiritual development of, “How do I connect deeper with that feminine wisdom that some would say is our intuition, or our own sense of spiritual guidance, or our connection with people or the earth?” For me, it’s all of those.
So the idea is, no matter where you are, if you’re in the thick of it, of judging yourself, take this opportunity to just sit with how that is possibly harming you or holding you back or keeping you stuck from being present. And then believing in yourself, being connected to your own confidence and your skills and talents.
But the body has to be invited along. We can’t just leave it behind. It’s part of the journey. This is our consort, our beloved. This is the part of us that came as an aspect of the soul to be with us, to remind us to carry our burdens but also help us come into the time of healing and wholeness. In a way, it’s a powerful teacher for us.
I hope this idea of befriending your body has felt helpful. Recognize wherever you are currently, and just start there. Take one little step, do one thing that feels doable.
You are invited to begin exploring more and more of what happens, what can begin to flourish, when we come into being friends with ourselves in this beautiful body that has been with us forever.
If you have any feedback or questions, come find me on my Facebook page, Dr. Kate Dow, and share it with me or ask me a question and I’d love to dialogue about this.
It’s your turn to find your voice, own your truth and claim your power.