‘The cultural power of the body is it’s beauty, but power in the body is rare, for most have chased it away with their torture of or embarrassment by the flesh.‘- Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The female form is exquisite. Not just SOME women’s bodies, ALL women’s bodies. Each unique in size, shape, colours, contour, and scent, our ever-changing bodies contain wisdom, pleasure, beauty, power, nature’s cycles, vibrance, memory, and most importantly- feeling. The female body is a sacred vessel through which we experience life as Woman. Our graceful and solid bodies hold life’s mysteries; our wombs: alchemical crucibles for healing and transformation.
I recently came across a book entitled ‘Her Mother’s Thighs: Helping our daughters to love their bodies even when we don’t love our own’. I was incensed, ‘That’s absurd and blatantly misleading! Grrr…!’ I raved on. ‘This is exactly WHY I work with mothers and daughters TOGETHER. Girls are deeply imprinted by their mother’s feelings, even, and especially, those that are unspoken. If a woman dislikes her body, her daughter will also grapple with that self destructive inner critique. Besides, every daughter CAME from her mother’s body, what messages would she then internalise? Where’s the gratitude and wonder for that physiological miracle?’
Fortunately, the intended message of the book is not what the title implies. Author Dara Chadwick focusses on the strong influence of mothers as ‘body image role models’, even in our media saturated culture, and encourages mums to be living examples of self care and positive ‘body speak’ to support their daughters’ healthy body image. Chadwick promotes good nutrition, exercise, and appreciation for the body’s capabilities.
In an interview Dara Chadwick said, “Mums can help and encourage their daughters to feel good about themselves by showing them – through our own behaviour – that it isn’t necessary to be perfect to be happy. We show them that whenever we cast aside our body insecurities and do the things we want to do, like swim at the beach, give a speech at work or get up and dance with friends – even if our bodies aren’t “perfect.”
Somehow, with all her good intentions, Dara’s words still reinforce the oppressive and internalised misconception of perfect. There is NO PERFECT! Let’s not dumb this down to make women afflicted by glossy magazine body image hell feel less intimidated. As long as we continue to hold ideals of perfection of the female form, regardless of what they are, women and girls will be forever sad, self loathing, disappointed, powerless victims, and distrusting of our bodies natural functions. We render ourselves unable to access the full spectrum of life force, the spark of creativity, Shakti, confidence, possibility, and joy available through and with our bodies!
We cannot ‘…cast aside our body insecurities’. We must embrace them, confront them in the mirror, and see them for what they are: self destructive habits, media conditioning, and generations of painful and shameful beliefs that we can choose to heal. It is not simple, but profound and essential for personal and planetary healing.
As women our connection to Mother Earth, and to the sacred, is through our bodies.
We pass our personal body image messages on to our children in utero and throughout the first two years of life while they are establishing their primary relationship to their bodies. Then the media steps in to reinforce the messages of the grave need to have the impossible stereotypical airbrushed barbie body, even in cartoons. Today we have girls with eating disorders beginning as young as age eight. Even six year old girls have been overheard in the school playground talking about dieting!
Whether you have already raised daughters, have never had children, or are parenting now, it’s never too late to take ourselves by the hand and visit the mirror. There you will see the daughter that you are, the genealogical product of many many mothers before you. Have a good look, the whole body. Choose to see the grace, the power, the beauty, the precious and precarious mortal feminine form. Even if tears obscure your vision. Choose kindness. Take an inquisitive approach. Soften your vision and see with your whole body. See yourself as a natural form, like a tree or a mountain or a flower. Would you critique it’s form?
Practice once a day for a week. Each day choose three different things you appreciate about your body. Quantum physics tells us that cells follow mind. Don’t expect to silence the critic. Instead turn up the volume on your practice.
And please, let me know your experiences. Thank you.
‘A woman can not make the culture more aware by saying “Change.” But she can change her own attitude toward herself, thereby causing devaluing projections to glance off. She does this by taking back her body. By not forsaking the joy of her natural body, by not purchasing the popular illusion that happiness is only bestowed on those of a certain configuration or age, by not wanting or holding back to do anything, and by taking back her real life, and living it full bore, all stops out. This dynamic self acceptance and self-esteem are what begins to change attitudes in the culture.’-– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with The Wolves.