One of the biggest causes of shame in a woman’s life is her body. Somewhere around 90% of women feel – or have at some point felt – shame regarding their body. Although saddening, this is not surprising, as many of us are taught from a young age that even just being born into a woman’s body brings shame.
Think about it: when was the last time you got the message that being a woman was good? That the female body was good? Or that being sensual was good? We are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we are not okay as is. So we go out of our way to change things about ourselves. We morph our bodies, we lose weight, we paint our bodies, we get surgery. It’s not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves, but it’s that we feel they are necessary in order to be seen as worthy and beautiful. We do these things from a place of necessity, and sadly, as a result, our bodies become a storehouse of all the things we are trying to fix, adapt, and hide out of shame.
Because we have stored all this negative emotion in our body, we carry it with us everywhere. We don’t go around feeling powerful, or proud of ourselves. Instead, we take the weight of these feelings and we let it make us small. We try to be invisible, and to forget about our bodies and the shame we feel for not being good enough. We eventually become dissociated from our bodies altogether.
Dissociation leads to neglect
When we no longer feel physically or emotionally connected to our body, it starts deteriorating. We don’t give it any love, care, or affection; rather, we pump it full of chemicals and plastic instead of nourishment and restful sleep and exercise. This neglect and mistreatment comes from a deeper place of no longer feeling like we deserve proper affection and care as a woman.
In college, students often joke about the “freshman 15”, making it a shameful thing for people to gain weight during such a stressful time in their lives. It is hard to take care of your body when you are studying full time, maybe working on the side, and feeling stressed all the time. On top of that, the jokes about the weight gain, particularly for women, make it even harder to deal with all this stress, because we feel we are not good enough no matter what we do. We find ourselves doing unhealthy things, like taking diet pills or skipping meals, just to fit in and feel like our lives and our bodies have value.
There is a gross culture around dieting that ensnares young women and makes them compete against each other. Growing up as girls, we obtain these wounds regarding our body and our image from a very young age. We learn to be afraid of expressing ourselves, of feeling pleasure, of taking pride in our appearance. We live under the radar, and as a mechanism for self-preservation, we start tearing down other girls along with ourselves. Therefore we are not only subject to, but also contribute to, this cycle of women tearing each other down. We feel better thinking that, while we may not be good enough, at least others aren’t either.
Our negative body image as children leads to regret later
So what is at stake if we don’t address this issue? We start self-sabotaging our bodies. Our bodies are where we store and access intuition, so when we cut ourselves off from our bodies, we cut ourselves off from that intuition, and by proxy, our greatest gifts as women. We end up staying emotionally small forever, and we don’t reach our full potential as women.
It’s a disservice to ourselves and to the world: we end up regretting the life we didn’t live. We don’t give ourselves the love and attention we deserve, so later in life, when we are supposed to be finally enjoying ourselves and using our bodies to explore the world, our bodies are suddenly breaking down.
Change the narrative by taking back our bodies
We know we don’t want to live like this. Beneath all of our internalized shame, and guilt, and feelings of unworthiness, there is a longing to be heard, seen, appreciated, and expressed. So how can we address that longing, and allow ourselves to become unapologetically feminine?
We first need to identify those stories and narratives that we’ve taken on from society, about how women should look, act, and behave. We have to separate these narratives from how we actually feel. It’s hard, because these feelings have become so ingrained in us that they feel like a part of us. Often, we don’t even know where to begin.
We have to pick apart our identities to realize what is actually us, and what is just another layer of the mask we’ve been slowly building since childhood.
At COR, we talk about the Wounded Self and the Healthy Self, and this is what we have to differentiate within ourselves. We have to figure out where these negative messages are coming from, and realize that we can change them if they are not our truths.
After identifying where these wounds are located, we need to heal them – and not only do we have to do the emotional healing, but the somatic healing as well. It is so important that we include our physical body in the healing process rather than just talking about it. We have to create a new relationship with our body, built on our own terms, that reflects how we want to feel about our own body. We can’t do that without actually involving our body in the process.
This is a journey that takes time, and may be difficult, but it is also a sacred journey. It will ultimately lead us to a better life lived without regret or fear of being who we truly are.
One way of getting started is by joining our online Women’s Immersion Weekend. During this immersion process, we dive into all of this: our relationship to our bodies, our relationship to being women, and our relationships with the people in our lives as women. Join us to learn more.