Growing up, I associated femininity with sexuality. A feminine woman, I learned, was desirable, sexy, slim, and could captivate anyone in the room by her sheer presence and hotness.
I was 12 years old, flat chested, awkward and a far cry from feminine, or at least, my interpretation of it. I figured I’d grow into this feminine body somehow, but I was a sporty kid who played roller hockey with the neighborhood boys, took martial arts, and read books about science for fun. Most of my friends were in the same boat, wondering when they would achieve our culture’s standards of femininity.
At 30 years old, I still can’t believe that the majority of women and men still associate the feminine body with sex, desirability and “softness”. Athletic women, curvy women or women that look anything other than Jessica Alba are labeled masculine. I think UFC champ Rhonda Rousey put it best when critics labeled her body too manly:
And, if you’ve followed the Williams sisters’ tennis careers over the last few years, you know that Rhonda is not the only female athlete criticized for her so-called lack of feminine attributes. This is our unfortunate cultural reality. Women are praised more for their feminine body and beauty than by their achievements. As a result, we have inadvertently taught numerous women and impressionable young girls that achievement – athletic or otherwise – is of less importance to society than our looks. We catapult the Kardashians and #belfie stars like Jen Selter to celebrity status because they represent our culture’s ideal of the feminine body.
The worst part about this is that other women are the ones spreading this misconception of what makes a body feminine. Recently, a girlfriend commented that female soccer players were too manly and she would not like her future daughter to participate in the sport for that reason.
Are we really selecting which sports our daughters will partake in based on whether or not they’ll have tiny, feminine bodies 20 years down the road? As a champion of lifting heavy things, I hate to admit that this is true. I’ve heard it as a kid, I hear it from friends considering children and new moms. “Ballet will help develop lean legs,” they say, not “ballet will teach her discipline, coordination and keep her active for life.” Even as adults, many of us have accepted the definition of the feminine body as long, lean, sexy, hot….all adjectives that have NOTHING to do with being feminine at all.
Your body is a feminine body
This idea that an ideal feminine body can be accomplished through diet, exercise, cosmetic surgery or pounds of make-up is delusional at best and harmful at worst. Harmful because exercise, nutrition and beauty treatments exist to enhance our wellbeing and/or our health. When we use them as tools to make ourselves “perfect” we get trapped in the illusion that perfection exists. And, if perfect is what we’re striving for, then we have branded ourselves “imperfect.”
We are not imperfect. It’s other people’s projected self-hate and insecurities that make us feel less than.
No one has the right to determine if your body is too masculine or too feminine. A small waist is not more feminine than a woman with abs; nor is a thigh gap more ideal than a woman with thick, powerful thighs. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, you have my permission to flip them the bird.
Regardless of what society things about the feminine body, we as individuals can change the paradigm simply by re-wiring our brains and accepting our bodies as feminine as is. Research has shown that we can retrain our minds to think whatever it wants. The ideal feminine body is therefore what we train ourselves to believe.
The Feminine Body Framework
So how does one make her body more feminine? Simple. It requires a daily commitment to re-wiring our thoughts and seeing our bodies as feminine as is. Here’s a 3-step framework to get you started.
1.) Look yourself in the mirror
What do you see first? Where are your eyes drawn to first? What is the first thought that pops into your head?
This is called, taking inventory. Whatever praise or critique that comes up, make note of it. Those are your thoughts about your body. Don’t shy away from them.
Now, close your eyes for a moment, reopen them and look in the mirror again. Except this time, look at yourself through someone else’s eyes. That someone should be someone that adores you or admires you. Think – your dog, your child, your little sister, your first-grade student, your significant other. The people that love or adore us likely see us completely different than we see ourselves. I doubt my dog thinks “Hey ma, you look bloated! Lay off them tacos!”. And I’m pretty sure the cute guy at the gym isn’t staring at you thinking “jeez, if only her thighs didn’t touch I’d ask her out.”
Of course not, because that sh*t is ridiculous!
What does the person that loves you most think about your body? Look in the mirror through their perspective and start calling out all the things “those” eyes or “that” person sees and say them out loud.
2.) Change your tune
Following the mirror exercise, you might come away with a number of thoughts – your perspective and someone else’s. Pick 2-4 awesome, positive, loving ones. The ones that lit you up, even for a millisecond. Write those down on 3 notecards – one for your purse/wallet, one for your nightstand, and one for the mirror. For the next 30 days upon waking up, read the notecard on your nightstand aloud. Every time you pass by your mirror, read what’s on the notecard. Stash the purse/wallet one for an emergency while you’re out. If notecards aren’t your thing then set up a calendar reminder on your phone with your new thoughts and say them aloud once in the morning, the afternoon and when you go to bed.
3.) Repeat for 30 days
Give this exercise 30 days. Studies have shown it takes 21-40 days of repeated activity to change a habit, and when you’re undoing 20+ years of well-established thoughts and ideas, 30 days isn’t much at all. If you can do a juice cleanse for 7 days you can repeat a few words to yourself 3x a day for 30 days. It’s. Not. That. Hard.
You have a choice
We have a choice in how we view ourselves. That view projects to how we treat ourselves and others. It comes through in how we raise our daughters to see themselves and how we raise our boys to view women. If you’ve ever wondered why women waste years hating their bodies, yo-yo dieting, and cardio-ing themselves to death it all starts with the belief that an ideal feminine body exists at all.
My body is feminine because I am a woman with a body and I treat that body with respect and care. My body’s sole purpose is not to attract men, reproduce or win Olympic medals. My body is a tool to accomplish the vision I’ve created for my life. I won’t keep my fear of too many muscles or thick thighs prevent me from lifting heavy, playing sports, wearing short shorts, and enjoying carbs. I have purpose and I choose to live in this feminine body to achieve that purpose.