Thursday, May 31, 2012

Living Myself LARGE

The other day I posted an affirmation on my Women's Sacred Circle Facebook page. "I am willing to take up space. I am willing to be as large as I am. I am a vibrant, passionate woman, and I love and accept ALL of me." I received some emotion-filled responses from women who stated that they struggled with this one. Their responses led me to ponder the role of the Good Girl Archetype in our culture. 

When this archetype shows up in my life it often shows up as me playing small and feeling stuck in a prison of other people’s ideas. Many women, even today, grow up with the feeling that we have to live up to the idea of being “good.” This pressure to be "good" manifests in a myriad of ways. There are parts of us that work to keep the good girl persona in place: the judge, the critic, the perfectionist, the people-pleaser, the care-taker, and the limitless giver, to name a few. This pressure to remain a "good girl" often shows up just as women are about to expand and grow, just as they are beginning to use their true voice to speak up and be seen and heard. 

Society plays a large role in this "keeping us in our place". Below is an excerpt from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.


  • Take an original.
  • Domesticate her early, preferably before speech or locomotion.
  • Over-socialize her in the extreme.
  • Cause a famine for her wild nature.
  • Isolate her from the sufferings and the freedoms of others so she has nothing to compare her life with.
  • Teach her only one point of view.
  • Let her be needy (or dry or cold) and let all see it, yet none tell her.
  • Let her be split off from her natural body, thereby removing her from relationship with this being.
  • Cut her loose in an environ where she can over-kill on things previously denied her, things 
  • both exciting and dangerous.
  • Give her friends who are also famished and who encourage her to be intemperate.
  • Let her injured instincts for prudence and protection continue without repair.
  • Because of her excesses, (not enough food, too much food, drugs, not enough sleep, too much sleep, etc.) let Death insinuate itself close by.
  • Let her struggle with "good-girl" persona restoration and succeed at it, but only from time to time.
  • Then, and finally, let her have a frantic re-involvement in psychologically and physiologically addictive excesses that are deadening in themselves or through misuse (alcohol, sex, rage, compliance, power, etc.).
  • Now she is captured. Reverse the process, and she will be free. Repair her instincts and she will be strong.

Our feminine sensuality, our emotions, our anger, our ecstasy; these are all beautiful, powerful gifts, but when we’re taught at a very young age that these things are “wrong,” or "bad", or "naughty", we begin to repress them. We develop a strong internal judge and critic to keep us in line and in check. We are trained or programmed to play small, "know our place", "act like ladies", "shhhhhhh", "don't rock the boat". We become cut off from the very things that are large and vibrant and beautiful about us. 

Think about it. Anything large in our culture, when it is connected to women, is seen as "wrong", ugly, unacceptable. Our bodies "shouldn't" be large. Our voices "shouldn't" be large. Our emotions and our expression of those emotions "shouldn't" be large. Large is bad because large is un-ladylike and unattractive. And we all know that a women's worth in our culture is based, in large part, upon her appearance. You need look no further than any magazine or commercial to know this.

Is it any wonder that women struggle with taking up space? Lay on top of that, messages about scarcity and not-enoughness. If I am programmed to believe that there is a finite amount of love, attention, energy, money, etc., and I am programmed to believe that I am responsible for taking care of all others to the exclusion of myself, then I cannot take some (love, attention, energy, money, etc.) for myself! How dare I?! If I do, then I am taking away from what is yours. "No, you go ahead. Really. It's okay. I'm fine. I'll just sit here in the dark." And in that you can see how closely linked are the good girl and martyr. 

So, what do we do about this? I'll tell you. 

1. We make friends with our natural body, developing a loving and nurturing relationship with this precious being. Women in our culture are taught to hate their bodies, and to collude with fellow women in that hatred. We actually compete with each other in that body-hatred, "No your thighs aren't as bad as mine. I have way more cellulite than you do. I won't even wear a bathing suit in public!" 
We can reverse the process of being cut off from our bodies by embracing and accepting our bodies right now, exactly as they are. We can appreciate our bodies for bringing us all along the way of our lives to where we are now, our legs for the miracle of walking, our hips for birthing, our arms for hugging and holding our loved ones, our feelings for lighting our way. Look for things to appreciate your bodies for right now. Be intentional about it. Love her. Listen to her. She has a wealth of wisdom to give you, if you are willing to hear it. This inner voice is our instinct and intuition. Listen.

2. Begin the regular and consistent practice of saying "NO". Contrary to our programming, "no" is not a dirty word. Nor is it necessary to give lengthy explanations as to why you are saying no. You've probably heard it said that "No" is a complete sentence. It is. If you feel the need for more words, keep it short and sweet. Something like, "I'm practicing setting healthy boundaries, and I'm going to say 'no' this time". 
An excellent tool in response to being asked is to get into the habit of sitting with it for a time, listening to your own instincts about the issue. For example, when asked to give of yourself in some way, respond with "let me get back to you on that". It is absolutely invaluable to give yourself a bit of introspective time to check in with yourself.
Remember, this is a practice of learning to listen to our own instincts about how to respond to any given situation. The more we allow time to check in and listen, the better listeners we become. The more we will know that instinctual and intuitive voice as our own. In saying "no" to others, you are saying "yes" to yourself. You are saying "Yes. I deserve to receive. I deserve to give good things to myself."
Do not be surprised when the "you're selfish" message comes in creating resistance to change. It's your old programming. It's that internal critic and judge, and it's a signal that you are indeed creating positive change. You can say "no" to those internal messages too. You are the creator of your own experience.

In closing,
Take up space. Be as LARGE and as PASSIONATE and as LOUD as you are. However you are, be that. Fully. Completely. Unabashedly. It's a beautiful thing. You are lighting the way for the women behind you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Feeling Beautifully Large,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ask For What You Want

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there, myself included. I was looking at all the HMD posts on FB and remembered a gripe my mother has expressed on countless occasion. She tells the story of a time when she and my father were fighting about his lack of involvement around Mother's Day. They had five, yes five, children between them. Both theirs from their union. No blended families. So my mom is angry that my father does not honor her the way she would like to be honored on Mother's Day. My father's response, one he would never live down, was "You're not my mother."

Whew! Have you ever heard a more argumentative invitation between a husband and wife? Holy Shit, Dude! What were you thinking?! I don't remember what followed. I was either too young to remember or more likely, blocked it out. My parents fought quite a bit, and it wasn't pretty. What I do know is that my mother still, to this day, talks about that. In fact, I am about to call her, and I'll bet she brings up that story.

I do have a memory from about teenage years. I was in the kitchen with both my parents. My father had gotten some drinking glasses. They were packaged in a box, short glasses with birds on them. Not particularly interesting. Ugly, really. Not the particular taste of anyone in our family. My dad worked in the Automotive Trades division of 3M Company. He often got freebies of many kinds. I had the sense that these glasses were a "gift" from one of those exchanges. He brought them to my mother as a gift for her. I want to say it was Mother's Day, but I'm not certain.

SHE   WAS   FURIOUS!   And she let him know it, too. She let him know that this wasn't a real gift. It wasn't something she would want. He should know that, and if he paid attention, if he really loved her he would know that. On and on she went. I watched as my father's shoulders drooped. It was a familiar dance. I had the sense my father, on some subconscious level, set this scenario up over and over again. It was familiar. Still, as I watched my father, I felt sorry for him. I thought to myself, "If I were him, I would never give gifts. If that's what I got, I'd say F*** YOU! Get your own damn gift!"

As I remembered all this, while I sat sipping my Starbucks on my couch this morning, I wondered how many women were angry and disappointed that they were not honored for Mother's Day in the way that they wanted to be? Or forget Mother's Day, angry that they were not honored for _______ (you fill in the blank), or loved the way that they wanted to be. And out of these angry women, how many of them held the belief that "If he loved me, he should know". 

If you are one of those women, and I have been, I have a question for you. How is that working for you? Take a good, hard look at what that belief, that inner message has cost you all these years.  Isn't it counter-productive to getting your needs met? If you are willing to take a hard look, you will see that this is your part, your piece in creating this dynamic. This is one of the ways in which you, yourself, have perpetuated the problem.

Wouldn't it be nice to let that garbage go and replace it with a belief that actually helps you get what you want? What would it be like to ask directly, clearly and cleanly for what you want, with love and vulnerability? Sure, it will be new and awkward and uncomfortable, and even scary in its vulnerability. But isn't that why it's called a stretch? Isn't that the nature of "stepping out of your comfort zone"? It's not supposed to be comfortable, because you are in fact stepping out of your comfort, consciously and intentionally in order to grow soulfully and spiritually.

So I invite you, women and men, begin a new practice. Ask for what you want. Make it clear. Make a list. Make a list of what kind of behaviors make you feel loved, honored, seen, and appreciated. Make a list of your own personal love language and then make an appointment with the person you want to hear it. Yes. I said make an appointment. Set aside a time with no interruptions. A time that is honored as special. Be intentional about it. Set healthy boundaries around it. Take turns. Don't interrupt. Use a timer if needed. The point is, you create what you want. Step out of the victim role. You are responsible for your own happiness. That's a good thing! Enjoy.

With Love,