by Bryony, London UK
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that until very recently I thought ‘nurturing’ was a synonym for narcissism, gentleness was for wimps, and sharing was self-indulgent.
I attended an Esoteric Women’s Group and just didn’t get it: ‘What’s with all this love in the room and talk of tenderness? Surely they must be faking it?!’ I rejected the people who were there – most of them just like me – because I thought that talking about yourself was either for people with enormous problems, or for people who had no problems, but wanted some anyway. It didn’t fit in with my ideas of working hard and getting on with it.
I thought: I have no issues, my life is so perfect and I’m so ‘healthy’, I do yoga twice a week and I don’t even have to give up smoking!
But in spite of my resistance I kept coming back, without knowing why.
Slowly I began to come down from my head and into my body, get over my arrogance and realise that actually, these women were not what I’d expected
- They weren’t riddled with insecurity and hung up on their own issues
- They were powerful and strong and just getting on with it
- They looked like they were having fun
- They were real.
No airy-fairy rainbow-clad paths to self-enlightenment here, this was about dealing with your stuff and getting over yourself.
Attending the Esoteric Women’s group, reading the blogs these women write, and hearing stories from other women has been like a mirror and a spotlight reflecting my own reactions right back at me and prompting me to look deeper within.
After I’d stopped hiding behind my cloak of judgment I realised that my fake façade of perfection was held together with old bits of sellotape – completely see-through to everyone but me – and was something I was clinging onto so dearly that I felt I had no idea who I was anymore. I began to consider
- What if I suspended my disbelief that tenderness and vulnerability are who I am, and actually paid attention to how my body was feeling in that moment, in every moment?
- What if all that striving, working hard, and pushing myself has served no other purpose other than to completely wear me out?
- What if I stopped expecting other people to act the way I want them to act (and then blaming them when they inevitably don’t) and focus on what I’m bringing to that moment?
What would my life be like if I stopped pretending and accepted myself for who I truly am?
I began to pay attention and noticed small but perhaps not insignificant things
- The way I pushed myself to go on long runs, then felt tired for days afterwards
- The way I washed myself in the bath was strikingly similar to how I scour really filthy pans
- How I react with frustration when a friend gets unnecessarily upset over (what I perceive to be) nothing significant.
Letting go of the image of myself of who I thought I wanted to be, and softening to allow other possibilities in, has been a bumpy road and very exposing, but ultimately awesome. I can start to feel me again underneath all those layers I added to myself but didn’t ever really need to.
I’m about to move countries, and for a while I was excited about a fresh new start. Until I realised that actually, I don’t want to re-create myself again.
I just want to leave behind what isn’t me, like the bag of old clothes that no longer fit me or feel like me, and return to the real tender me again.