April 10, 2024

Growing Up, I Never Knew a Woman who was at Ease with Herself.

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When I was growing up, I knew plenty of selfless women.

I knew plenty of productive women.

I knew many successful women.

But I never knew a woman who was truly at ease with herself. 

When I was younger, I knew plenty of apologetic women.

I knew doubtful women, anxious women, and uptight women.

But I never knew a woman who listened to her body’s needs and prioritised rest when she needed it.

When I was growing up, I knew plenty of women who were stressed out, burned out, and fearful.

But I never knew a woman who listened to and trusted the wild wisdom of her body.

And I’ve spent several years wondering why. I have some thoughts.

As a woman in my mid-30s, I find myself straddling two generations.

One is the generation of women, who, like my beloved mother, felt that they didn’t really have much choice in anything. They were taught that their place in society was to bring up children and sacrifice their aliveness, happiness, and creative expression like a good, selfless woman is supposed to.

The other is the younger generation of women, who as far as I can tell, expect much more from their lives. They don’t want to be defined by their jobs or confined only to the role of mother. They want to be fully expressed and feel alive.

I think my generation is somewhere in the middle. We were the generation who were told that we could have it all. The career. The family. The relationship. The body.

I certainly believed it, which is why I chose to climb the academic ladder until my late-20s. When that didn’t work out (too stuffy for my liking), I pivoted and threw myself into teaching yoga and then went on to build a coaching and mentoring business, believing that this was the route to freedom.

By my mid-30s, however, something unexpected happened. I looked around me and saw that all the women I knew, including myself, seemed frazzled.

I’d worked extremely hard to get my PhD. I then fought tooth and nail to build and grow my business, all whilst also trying hard to be a great friend, partner, and daughter.

From the outside I was “crushing it.” But at what cost? Behind closed doors, I was starting to feel exhausted, resentful, and a little lost.

That’s when I had a huge realisation: I’d been lied to.

I’d been told I could have it all, but the truth is, we can’t have it all. Not if we’re expected to do it all.

We human beings aren’t machines, after all. We’re complex biological organisms with limits and capacities that fluctuate across time and space.

Since those days, I’ve been on a deep journey of deconditioning, one that’s helped me to release many of the “shoulds,” and embrace much more of what it is to be a wild, mystical, cyclical, and creative woman.

To better become the kind of woman who’s attuned to the wisdom of her body, who feels safe enough to slow down and remove herself from the treadmill of achievement, who whispers to trees, knows the land intimately, lives with the seasons, and makes medicine from petals, roots, and leaves, I’ve had to unhook from the demanding expectations that I didn’t even know I’d internalised. Not only that, but I’d had to acknowledge and hold space to digest the deep shame I’d felt for not living up to the version of myself that I thought I should be.

My life is different from what it was a few years ago.

I have much more of a balance between work, hobbies, friends, family, and fun. Some days, I spend hours hiking and foraging, or reading novels, or writing, just because I feel like it, and I have to compassionately ignore the voice in my head that tells me I’m lazy and undeserving. Other times, I’m in a work sprint, spending hours “getting sh*t done” and I have to be mindful of when my body says it’s enough.

There’s a sense of ease I feel within myself that I didn’t have in my 20s, and I believe that this is in part the wisdom of ageing, but also because I’m much better able to listen to and honour the limits and capacity of my body.

In doing so, I’ve slowly begun to redefine what I believe success is. For me, it’s not chasing status, or receiving accolades, or gathering praise. It’s living my life in accordance with the wild, sometimes chaotic, but infinitely wise inner knowing of my body. It’s being well-rested and nourished. It’s being boundaried, yet open. It’s being self-expressed and deeply in tune with my authentic needs and desires.

As I’m writing this now, all of this feels like a radical f*ck you to the messaging I received as a young woman, the message that so many of us were given. And yet, what a liberation it is. Because to accept yourself—your power and your limits—is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

And it really does make life more magical.


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