The Weight of Women’s Worth

Vivacious Venus

I am wading into an extremely vulnerable subject here. This is a core wounding for most females, and my work is women’s empowerment. I am heart broken about how most Western women relate to their bodies and sense of self worth. I do not mean to disregard men’s issues with appearance and body image, they have also been reared in a culture based on separation and disconnection, but I have witnessed that there is a different field men are allowed with issues of body shape and value.

A series of events happened over the last while and a cascade of experiences and perceptions flowed into my mind about my life in this body and the other women I have known well enough to speak frankly about their relationship with their bodies.

Our bodies are our Temples, our homes, the way we bounce around in this pinball machine of life. They are how we play, experience, create, give life, make love to ourselves, others and the world at large.

If there is a perceived “difference” in your external form from the culturally dictated norms, it may cause a host of issues with connection, value and belonging. If one is albino in Africa, or in a wheel chair, or slim in a culture that values the Rubinesque women, it could cause a deep sense of separation and isolation. Our ego desperately wants to be valued, safe, and successful in order to feel good enough. Western culture at this time suggest success should look fame, beauty, wealth, and status. So if our body, our Temple, is different than the color, hair type, or proportions deemed superior and success worthy at this time , where does one find a healthy sense of self? If this year/decade/century women are to be rail thin, where do the Rubinesque women fit? Venus of Willendorf lives, even if she would be called obese at this time.

These same “differences” can also be the distinction that marks you as unique; as an artist, a visionary, the Medicine person in the tribe. But in contemporary Western Culture difference takes a lot of chutzpah and power to carry. Barbara Streisand made the nose her trademark. Lauren Hutton rocks the gap in her front teeth. Queen Latifah carries herself as the royalty that she is.


My relationship to my own body has been a long journey. Three years ago, when I was thirty-nine, I started a series of self-portraits on the land called “Earthen Body.” There were a variety of reasons I did this, but one of them was to witness my value, worth and beauty to myself, by myself. Not what the culture thought, not what men thought, not what my family thought, but how did I feel about this body I have inhabited for so many decades? I was also attempting to find a sense of connection to myself as I age.

What ended up happening over the year and half period with the Earthen Body process was a revolution within myself. I FOUND MYSELF, through the land; through adventure; through creativity; through surrender; through primal wildness; through dancing with The Spirits in ancient ways. I found my way back home. And it was in my body, nude, alone on the land with the Earth and Ancestral Spirits.

I am a different woman now, and I can still get caught up in cultural expectations of value and worth. Each time I have committed to being awake and incarnating more onto the earth-plane I have gained weight. This has happened recently. My jeans do not fit. I wear yoga pants all the time {thank god they stretch}. I have been struggling with the change in my form, judging it at times, feeling less valuable. This is so odd. It’s like a bad hair day. How can the way our hair sits affect our entire psyche? The first time this happened about 5 or 6 years ago I was going to a wedding and wanted a new dress. I went into the dressing room and started trying things on. The first dress horrified me. As I looked in the mirror, I perceive myself as looking  “fat.” I am an anomaly on this issue because I have not consistency battled my bodies size and form. Now I am not saying I was always deeply connected to my body, but I didn’t wake up hating it. But when I had this experience in the department store dressing room I got a sense of how other women feel all the time.

If we are in the middle of a cultural/energetic/spiritual revolution of reclaiming the feminine, where does women’s self hatred through their bodies come in? Where does the violent disregard and over-consumption of Mother Earth’s resources become rebalanced? How do we women carry the dignity and worth of our variant cycles, rhythms and seasons?

Dance has also been a major way for me to embody myself. I came to it in my mid- thirties and like the Earthen Body photography it has completely changed my life. I am taking Haitian dance classes now and have found that a little extra junk in my trunk is a good thing. Not all cultures have disregarded curvier women; Sir Mix A Lot made a career glorifying bodacious bottoms.

I am also forty-two, and single. There are entire books focusing on how I need to be less “picky” in choosing a man because my days of being desirable are over. If my body and looks are deteriorating I am “used goods” and no longer the choice of the litter. This is outrageous, and many women subliminally operate on this notion. Remember the statistic that it was more likely for a woman over thirty-five to be involved in an airplane crash than find a mate….wacky. What happened to our position being elevated by age? We mature women are in a different cycle than the maiden, but we can also be wiser, calmer, and for many of us more relaxed and juicier. If our greatest value still lies in our looks, what do we do when that power position is weakened?

Most women spend a huge amount of time judging their bodies. Worrying about their thighs/tummy/ass being too “fat.” This shuts women DOWN. This is a place of constantly not being enough, of being afraid to have the lights on when you make love, of fearing the foods you want to eat, of judging other women and how their temples are transforming.  A friend was talking to a group of men and women and it came to light that most of the men did not know what their butts looked like. They have not inspected, judged, and cataloged every square inch of their flesh for its {perceived} positive or negative characteristic. Think of all the time, energy and resources women are using to try to fix themselves when they could be exploring their inner worlds, having more rest from raising the children, or creating the next revolution.

I am part of this revolution, and my part is to find the places within me that shine and expand through my own challenges and gifts. I am also unpacking the messages I digested as a child about my value through money, a mate, a career with status, and a skinny “pretty” body {and persona I will add-be the nice accommodating girl…not the fierce and powerful WOMAN we fear. We ALL have The Dark Mother in us somewhere}. I write and dream and dance and laugh as I age, much more able to unplug from my younger woman’s judgments, and I still have days when I think I should have a washboard stomach. I am not willing to become a slave to these external ideas of worth, and I still have not made it out the other side of consistently holding my value beyond my package.

This week I am attending a women and girls rights of passage retreat on the land. I am thinking about what we teach our children, overtly and subliminally. How do we carry ourselves, how do we open their worlds to their beauty and brilliance for simply existing? How do we nurture their sense of worth and help them find the unique light within themselves? How do we honor the earthened beings that we are, and come back in to alignment with her beauty and wisdom? I mean this for our boys too. What is our responsibility as Elders and Wise Ones to create a saner and more sustainable world for all of them?

I will be off-line for a week, so if I do not answer your comments to these musings immediately, have patience, I am doing my joyful work…

Thank you to another woman of great dignity, Jeanne Abella, for these words of wisdom; may we all hold this vision of walking this way together.

IMAGINE A WOMAN

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is woman.

A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.

Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.

A woman who listens to her needs and desires.

Who meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s influence on the present.

A woman who has walked through her past.

Who has healed the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.

A woman who exerts, initiates and moves on her own behalf.

Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.

A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.

Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.

A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.

Who celebrates her body’s rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.

A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.

Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.

A woman who sits in circles of women.

Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

Written by Patricia Lynne Reilly, 1995

  17 comments for “The Weight of Women’s Worth

  1. Abby Soley
    July 20, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Amen Sista! Thank you for placing your eloquent attention to this! I, at 45, curvy and single am quite tired of the social/cultural demands that I see and hear. My body has created life and sustained my existence very well. I’m told I should start coloring my grey hairs, all 50 of them.
    As I’m too you young to start looking older. It’s crap, all of it. I could go on and on. You have done the subject great justice and I love you all the more for it!

    Like

    • mwsteele
      July 28, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you love, you are a Buddha in my life, and one of the few women I know who is generally loving, honoring and celebratory towards your body/shape/wieght. xoxxx

      Like

  2. Beegee
    July 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    This piece ROCKS! I will pass it out to the women in my women over 40 who never had children groups.

    Like

  3. scot
    July 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Thank, you, M. May the truth reign – each of our bodies is unique, extraordinary & beyond comparison!

    Like

    • mwsteele
      July 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

      and such a blessing that we get to play together down in these skin suits…and DANCE!! xoxxxx

      Like

  4. July 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Beautifully written, just looked in the mirror and loved my juicy, plumpness – thanks.
    xox

    Like

    • mwsteele
      July 28, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      love your juicy bodacious self…..xoxxxx

      Like

  5. Brent
    July 29, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Melissa,
    First, I am grateful that when I have a moment to read that it is one of your blog notes that catches my eye. I am so taken that when you write it is of your own experience and in your own voice. You have mastered a kind of memoir that satisfies the reader, namely, myself.
    Second, I am also impressed that it is not difficult to change the word “woman” to “man” or ” Person” in my mind. It is true that as a man, I have not assessed every centimeter of my butt or my belly, but I have glanced and decided, when I was younger that it was OK or even Nice and that as I age, it looks more like my dad’s butt and that is a hard reality to swallow. If I look at my butt now, I am reminded that it is not the same sweet thing it used to be and I put the reality out of my mind. Actually, if I look in the mirror at all, I try to focus on my eyes. If I do not see how big my belly is, or the middle age balding, or the inside of my thighs, then I can base how I feel on other things such as how strong I feel, how clear minded I might be. I noticed a long time ago that if I did not focus energy on what I looked like then I was, in general, happier.
    Third, I have found that the true beauty of a woman, from this man’s perspective, lies mostly in how beautiful she believes herself to be and how much she loves herself and knows that she is valuable and self assured, or perhaps the potential to be all that and someday to shine now and again eminating a fierce love that is not matched by any other. Bodies will age and change and decay, but the spirit has a chance to grow more brightly as it ages. It is true that we are conditioned to be aroused by the young and slender and well kept as we see in the media, Yet all that is fleeting. I prefer to look into the eyes. I prefer to recognise tenderness. I prefer to feel the spirit within, more than any vanity. And that is how I prefer to be seen and heard and felt.
    Lastly, What you have said is so profound for all of us to read and hear and let it sink in to our beings. The direction I go when I read this is that the more we love ourselves, the more we can see ourselves as beautiful then the more we will see the beauty in others. And it does not stop there. Yes, it continues to grow and spread to others. It begins from within. We do live among the flowers.
    Thanks for being the beautiful spirit that I see,
    Brent.

    Like

    • mwsteele
      July 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      Thank you Brent for such thoughtful and expansive reflections on this interesting subject. My friend Sonya Lea asked of this posting what if we chose to not look at the media images…how does that affect things. I agree with the vitality and life force being a magnetic energy that makes one beautiful..anyone. We have all seen the older women who have that spark in their eyes, They have fallen in love with life, are enchanted, are impassioned by the magic of the moment. THEY GLOW. Thats what I am going for. I am actually grateful that i did not base my worth predominately on my looks. That is one of the upsides to my younger insecurity is I had to go look for my core in my creativity, my courage, my connections to the earth, the Spirits…that which is me and yet beyond me.

      the cool thing about incarnating more deeply into my body is how grateful I am for it. Dancing makes such an impact on my life, it is one of my major joy sources, and I do it through my body….it really has changed my life to engage through the music, movement, flow; fun really is one of the greatest life enhancer. blessings to you until we go hiking here in my beloved New Mexico lands…

      Like

  6. August 1, 2010 at 4:22 am

    Society’s demands placed on the appearance of women are hurtful and ridiculous. I am all for scrapping the current system and emphasizing the inner beauty.

    Enjoy your time away.

    Like

  7. August 11, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Hey Melissa,
    Thanks for being so truthful about your self and thanks to everyone who has so many good things to say here. As a man I find that over time my sense of what is attractive has changed. Perhaps partly due, as Brent has said, to the changes in my own body/belly/butt over time, but I think more in expanding what my tastes were when I was younger and influenced by the pervasive cultural stereotypes.

    Now in my 50s, I find that I am more attracted to a fuller figure; I think when I was younger, thinner seemed more attractive because it was more like my body-type/less threateningly different/less female. The more I experience who women really are, the more I learn to align with the Divine Feminine and experience Her in all Her aspects, the more I find myself attracted to the kind of woman I can wrap my arms around and feel the curves/hips/but/belly/breasts against me, feel the solidity of the Divine holding the Divine. And I marvel time and again how, as you get to know the person behind the face, the face changes/softens/radiates until the Clear Divine Light starts to peek out from behind this bag of skin we all are.

    Love to you Abeja! You glow, girl…

    Like

    • mwsteele
      August 12, 2010 at 2:30 am

      John-HOW MUCH CAN WE ADORE YOU???? Did I send you the article about worshiping women and the gateways one goes through to reach the inner chamber of The Feminine-archetypal/Universal/timeless?? will send it on FB. It reminds me of you and your sage perspectives…You are such a gift, the men we are looking for to hold us, to see us, to MEET us. Great blessings to you and glowing K…xoxxx

      Like

  8. raVen
    August 15, 2010 at 4:37 am

    thank you for sharing your truth with us, melissa. i found your blog as a result of wanting to re-connect with the deep experiences i had with valerie wolf years ago, and although i found not her, i found her inspiration living through you…i love the magick! you’re an awesome voice, so many blessings for your continued contributions in the world…raVen ~**~

    Like

    • mwsteele
      August 15, 2010 at 6:58 am

      raVen-did we meet? In Seattle or Topanga? I can give you Valerie’s e-mail if you would like. I bless Valerie with being a part of my journey that opened me up. blessings on your transformations! Melissa

      Like

  9. August 24, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Melissa my darling,

    It has taken me waaaay to long to read this, but of course, I read it at the time I most needed to. Thoughts consuming me. . . of my own not enough; realizing that no one else, because of my own inability to be enough for myself, NO ONE else is enough for me. How’s that for an apple with a worm inside. I sit with that tonight as I contemplate my own desirability, how much I am loved by my partner and how he consistently shows it, and how I adamantly deny my own lovability.

    Tonight I was given the best advice from my dear friend; but it was advice from my own mouth that I had given her months ago. Wait, breathe, be. . . and see what happens. . . let him love me. Perhaps, through the opening. . . I will find the time and space to love myself.

    I adore you.
    Lyric Kali

    Like

    • mwsteele
      August 24, 2010 at 3:11 am

      You are one of the most vibrant, fierce, beautiful women I know. It takes great courage for all of us to release our old patterns of self judgment and find that true power within. So many of us, me included, are in the ballpark but have not hit the home run yet. The home run of consistently being in our self-love and acceptance. You have been a great gift through sharing insights into your romantic relationship. Your candid offerings on the blessings and struggles within opening to another have been so helpful to me on my own path of seeking a loving partnership. This is one of the places the disregard for the feminine has crippled both men and women in our deep and loving relating. I am grateful to have another kick-ass sister on this pathway…and I look forward to dancing our juicyness in all its forms, sizes and shapes into the future. love yah dearly darlin’ xoxx M

      Like

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