Tiffany Josephs asked me to write a story about how I related to my own femininity. She wanted me to share my words at her inaugural, Lioness Night in Denver last night. It was the first time I had ever been asked to read for an audience. This is the story I shared:
I read the invitation to this event carefully. “UNLEASH THE FIERCE LOVE OF THE DIVINE FEMININE”.
My initial reaction to hearing this kind of feminine practice, is one that I would have been afraid to admit in the past. I would have bit my tongue for fear of sounding unspiritual, closed-off or at worst unlikable.
Today I’m past those fears.
I realize now that harnessing my femininity means loving ALL of me, even the thoughts in my mind that contain shadows.
After I read Tiffany’s invitation, I recognized the little ache of anxiety creeping up through my chest. The words sounded unfamiliar. Unfamiliar enough to doubt myself. It felt out of reach for someone like me, someone so big and bulky, to try and unleash my feminine energies. My inner dialogue told me, You wouldn’t be any good at it. Why bothering trying?
This shadow voice is part of me. I’ve listened to her for most of my life. It took me a long time to realize that I had to start loving myself and start receiving love from others, in order to stop giving her power. It’s hard to admit to a group of mindful women that my gut reaction towards myself is sometimes negative, even after two years of eating disorder recovery. But I used to not admit it. Everything was surface. Everything was fine. I used to not say anything at all and I stayed stuck.
Then I read the words again, this time out loud, “UNLEASH THE FIERCE LOVE OF THE DIVINE FEMININE”.
I heard the call.
I knew that the invitation to be powerful through my own grace was possible and I embraced it. A tender and vulnerable voice whispered against my ear, “You got this Whit”. That’s the voice I listen to now, my inner Lioness. It’s the voice that knows the truth about me and loves me for finally being real and finally accepting the darkest parts of myself.
It’s been a journey to become publically vulnerable. I would have done it a lot sooner had I known this kind of power was inside me all along. I couldn’t stand the thought of embarrassment, pain, sadness or anger, so I gave it all away; my power was enslaved to my shadow voices. These are the thoughts that lead me through a 24-year-relationship with bulimia. Guilt and shame were powerful, familiar companions and they ruled my life.
Over the course of 4 years, I was a Catering Director for a popular wedding venue. I met with 1,200 couples during my tenure. The brides who showed up for site visits came to me with all kinds of over-the-top expectations and interesting personalities. Some were darling while others were just plain bossy. Some remained matter-of-fact about finances and others cried about their overspent budgets. Some were head-over-heels and in love while others were argumentative with their soon-to-bes.
The brides that made the deepest impression were the uber-feminine ones. After all, I was a Business Betty compared to their Marilyn Monroe personas. These were the women who waited for the conversation to become quiet before speaking. They led our walk-throughs with a softness that was foreign to me. These girls were able to make decisions without asking anyone for permission.
It was like they walked on clouds that floated a few inches above the ground.
Over the years, I told my closest friends about my fascination with my feminine brides. I was in awe of their softness and I felt envy towards their tender demeanors. I knew we must have been given different birth-rights because I certainly couldn’t see myself playing such a gentle role in life. I’ll never be like that. It’s just not in me. Know what works for you Whitney. You have to create your own success. Some of us have to work for it.
As my reliance on my Shadow Voice deepened and as my eating disorder raged in the background, I knew femininity wasn’t a quality a person like me could ever embrace. I let my shadow voice hold me down. I told myself a story that I had to be different in order to be feminine.
In 2013, I started my ED recovery. It started off slowly and relapses were part of the process. The biggest takeaway was learning to listen to the Lioness inside of me. Her voice became stronger every time I accepted my fear around expressing anger, sadness and disappointment. I began to love myself through that fear until it started to dissipate. I began to take care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually because I decided it was time shift my thoughts for good.
I had to peel off all the shadow layers and discover that revealing the most vulnerable parts of myself was the only way I would ever heal.
It was embarrassing to tell my therapist that I overate because my husband wasn’t home.
It was scary to tell my sisters, as an adult, that it still hurt to be teased for the same things I was teased about as a child.
I was trembling with anxiety when I voiced to my parents how I really felt about certain aspects of my upbringing.
It was painfully hard to get past the idea that there are certain unladylike topics that we’re not supposed to share with our husbands, because those kind of secrets were the ones that kept me the most sick.
It was heart-wrenching to think I’d stop being friends with people I’ve known forever because they never really knew who I was to begin with.
But this is the stuff that comes up when we’re in-tune with our intuition and when we give ourselves enough fierce love to make real changes in our lives. This is what happens when it’s time to stop giving it all away and to start receiving. A deepening took place in my relationships when I finally showed up as my truest self and together we learned that being vulnerable is what helps all of us to be seen.
About 3 months ago, in a room full of women, I was invited to stand up, take off my shoes and participate in a feminine body prayer. The facilitator, Lauren Sheehan, was dressed in a soft, flowing skirt and a form-fitting top. She was wore delicate jewelry and radiated the essence of the divine. She spoke in a calm voice with long, meaningful pauses. I was captivated.
My Shadow Voice began resisting: Look at her wear that dress like a goddess. I can’t believe you wore these old jeans tonight. You look so manly. I want to wear a dress and have to fit my body like that skirt fits her body. Face it, that’ll just never be you.
She described our womb space as being the center of our female bodies, our home. She asked each of us to close our eyes and place our out-stretched hands, wide across the tops of our lower wombs. Oh No! I don’t want to touch my gut in front of all these people.
She wanted us to take a few deep breaths and focus our attention to the warmth circulating underneath our fingertips. My resistance persisted: Do you feel how big your stomach feels, protruding underneath this sweater? You should have done more with yourself today. You ate too much this evening.
The facilitator guided all of us to connect with our feminine energy. She wanted us to breathe in love, grace and light. I secretly let my eyelids flutter open so I could see all the women around me. Some of them had subtle smiles on their faces. Unnoticed, I quickly closed my eyes. I continued to resist: I bet I have the biggest belly in this room. Everyone looks comfortable touching their stomachs. Oh, I hate this. The mediation was over and I didn’t enjoy a moment of it because I was listening to my shadow voice the entire time. From years of unmindful practicing, this shadow voice is usually the first to arrive in my head. It fades out the moment I become vulnerable enough to love myself and listen to my Lioness voice. I remind myself that I’m just hearing old patterns, patterns that I used to consider to be my friends. They’re not bad, they’re just there.
I had been unprepared for the womb exercise. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to cover up my belly with clothes, trying to position it the right way for photos and trying to hide it during sex. But I wanted to love it. Why can’t I love my gut? Probably because my shadow voice is still calling it a gut. The mediation had been an invitation to grow and I hadn’t been up for the challenge.
Over the long, holiday weekend, I tried it again. This time I put on my favorite Cantoma soundscapes, dimmed the lights and lit a candle. I relaxed my mind and swayed to the music. When the time felt right, I placed my hands on my lower womb and practiced breathing in patience, radiance, self-love and vulnerability. I breathed out sensuality until I felt the energy fill up the room like dancing lovers.
My flattened hands caressed the soft & smooth skin on my stomach and my Lioness voice appeared, “You got this Whit. Your belly is beautiful and your body is thankful for all the healthy changes you continue to make. Your story is part of who you are and sharing your truth keeps you healed. Voicing your shadows helps others make peace with their own stories. You are no longer alone. You have support and power with each breath you take.”
This is what it means to UNLEASH THE FIERCE LOVE OF THE DIVINE FEMININE. It’s about taking the time to love each and every part on our bodies. It’s about embracing all the silent conversations in our heads, even the dark ones. Most importantly, it’s about knowing this energy has been in each and every one of us all along.