I think a lot of us have been indoors for too long and this has created an increased level of anxiety about who we are. It seems safer indoors in the comfort of our caves.
“The more you care about what others think, the more they own you” – Maria Forleo
The quote above stopped me in my tracks the other day as I began to think about how so much of the time we do care what other people think; not just the people in our immediate environment like our family and friends, but also strangers as they pass us by on the street, or even others we have never met or seen but have constructed in our imaginations; those people who are going to judge us when we step outside of our comfort zone; the soldiers of patriarchy. They are ready and waiting for us, or so we think. Everywhere we look we see the message that women are most valuable as objects; pretty things to be looked at and disposed of when their use-by date has passed. We have ingested these messages into our thought processes, those ones that go on repeat, 60,000 times a day, creating deep neural pathways revolving around the message; you are too fat, too ugly, too loud, too controlling. Each one circling around the big one: “you are not good enough”. Every day, we are losing control of our own bodies, our own thoughts and our beliefs are spiralling down into the murky depths creating a daily experience of shame; shame of our bodies, our faces, our expectations, our hopes; you are not good enough. And so we shrink and we give up control.
Let me tell you something important. It’s not your fault. This is trauma. Breathe it in.
We have these thoughts which come from our social conditioning; our family, our culture, our ancestral trauma and of course the systems that we live in. They seep into us, often when we are unaware and these thoughts become our beliefs, often without question. This idea that fat is bad, thin is good, to be valuable as a woman you must look a certain way and if you don’t, please hide yourself. Our thoughts become a form of self-objectification in which we then experience the world as though we are always being observed.
According to the super twins of Beauty Redefined, Lindsay and Lexie Kite:
“Self-objectification is the process of picturing what you look like, monitoring your body, as you go about your life. We visualize ourselves being looked at even when we’re all alone”.
It is a strange feeling to spend life as though you are on display. You are watching yourself as you walk through life, imagining that others are watching you and judging you. They are thinking bad things about you. They are thinking that you should have stayed at home. They are judging you for that thing you just said about that other thing. They are rolling their eyes behind your back. They are sizing you up. You can feel it, you are sure of it. They are thinking you are too old to wear that dress, that you should cover up your upper arms as the wobble is distracting the conversation. They are wishing that you would have stayed at home until you lost that baby weight as they don’t want to be seen with you. They are hoping that you do not join them on the dance floor as they are imagining how much that cellulite is going to jiggle around and they don’t want it near them.
Therefore, patriarchy has entered into brains and is shaping our beliefs about ourselves as we reduce OURSELVES to objects whose purpose is to be looked at. If we delve into any kind of science, from quantum mechanics to psychology, we know that when an object is being observed, it changes its behaviour. Therefore, even in the privacy of our own bedrooms, we feel that we are being observed, and this makes it very challenging to find out who we really are as our identity is forever being squeezed and shaped by self objectification. Add a handphone filled with social media to this bedroom scenario, and that joy filled woman dying to bust out and ENJOY LIFE is squeezed down even more.
When we care what the patriarchy thinks – and this system is all pervasive, then we have lost ownership over our own bodies. And it’s not only our bodies that we have lost control of, but also we don’t own our minds, we don’t own our money, we don’t own our own time. We have given it all up to a system which profits from us handing it all over. We feel disgust and shame about our own bodies. We spend our precious time and thoughts sinking into shame, seeking cures whether it’s a type of diet or some spanx to suck our “horrible” fat. We spend our money trying to make ourselves acceptable to the system; from anti-wrinkle cream (for women only of course) at a minimum, to an entire face-lift. We have lost it all.
Remember again. This is not your fault. This is trauma.
We feel such shame that we can’t even talk about it to our loved ones. Often we don’t even have an awareness of what it is that we are experiencing, it has just been our reality since we can remember and we don’t know it can be different. We feel isolated and that we are the only ones who feel like this. The imagined judgement of other people means that we don’t take risks. What it comes out as is: “does my ass look big in these jeans?” which is often met with an eye-roll in movies from the adoring husband as he hopes he gets the right answer from this woman who is clearly suffering from PMS and about to make him late for his pizza night with his buddies.
What lies behind this little question is always the big one: ‘Am I enough?’; ‘should I hide myself away forever?’, ‘Am I worthy enough to leave the house?’, ‘What will people say about me? How will they judge me?’.
This is often impacted by the ways that people relate to us. When we meet our families or friends, we are often instantly rated by our physical appearance. “You are looking well” or “You look a little tired” or my personal favourite “Wow you are looking chubby”. No matter if it is said with love or affection, what it does is reduces our entire lives and achievements to our physical appearance. It may be a compliment now but what happens next time; it puts us back on the treadmill of fear and self-objectification. I mean some women NEVER stop thinking about their physical appearance. It keeps women in their houses, wearing tracksuits 24/7 (that’s me), never venturing near a body of water for fear of being seen in a swimsuit, never venturing near a sports field for fear of having the body wobbles on public display. Women decline invites to social gatherings for fear of being seen with their post-baby body, they say no to a myriad of grand adventures because they do not believe that their bodies should be seen. They disconnect and they tell themselves that it is all ok, and it is justified, because they are not good enough.
What increases the fear is the ways in which women, working against each other without full awareness, start policing each other. We hear comments such as “God she has really let herself go” or “what’s with her grey hair?”. And when you hear others say those things, and even join in, then you imagine that they are saying those things about you too. Judging others often comes back to a judgement of yourself; you shrink them down while you shrink yourself.
What is the impact of this? You don’t think you are deserving. You take abuse. You don’t enjoy being touched. You want the lights off. You don’t date because you don’t think you are worthy of enjoying a romantic partner. You disconnect from your partner. You disconnect from your children.
And when we bury all of these feelings of disgust and shame and try to hide away, do you know what disappears with it?
JOY! HAPPINESS! SENSUALITY! WE ARE LOST IN A SEA OF SELF DISGUST.
We have lost ownership of ourselves. Our minds. Our voices. We keep quiet so no one will judge us. It is a great fucking tragedy. And it needs to be over.
What do you need to do?
The first step is always AWARENESS. Wake up. Notice yourself. Notice your thoughts. Your beliefs. Remember that they are NOT true.
Next you need to stop talking shit about yourself AND other women. Even if you don’t think it’s talking shit, just don’t say anything about how they look. Or how you hate your arms. It makes everyone feel like shit.
Next thing, don’t give women compliments about how they look, I know you mean well, but it makes everyone slip from comfort and joy into self-objectification again. And don’t make suggestions about how they could look better. In fact, just stop talking about physical appearance. Just STFU*. I am talking to you too, nenek (grandma). No, I don’t have a husband, no I am not a god-damned diet, NO I DO NOT WANT TO USE MORE SUNSCREEN. STFU.
We need to move beyond self-objectification and get back control of our minds, bodies, money and time. If you want to get dressed up and feel as sexy as fuck, I am so happy for you. But just do it for you. Don’t do it to get attention or a compliment because if no one says anything then you start feeling like shit. Just do it for you. Live from the inside out. Awareness.
It is time for women to wake up from hypnosis. Have you noticed? The world is falling apart. The world needs us.
Deep breaths. You got this.
It’s time to go out and play.
The best way to release your shame is to let it out, speak about it. If you want someone to talk to, email me at email@example.com.
Shame free hotline.
Share your shame. Get it out. Get vulnerable. It’s going to be ok.
And always remember:
FUCK YOU PATRIARCHY! YOU CAN’T HAVE ME! YOU CAN’T HAVE MY FAMILY.
*Shut the fuck up