Society, Women and Group Support

I co run an Eating Disorder Peer Support group with a good friend of mine. We met in an Eating Disorder recovery group a few years ago. We have been running our own Peer Support group for a few months now. It is such an amazing thing to be doing, always a blessing to be in a room full of inspiring women sharing their own stories.

What moves me and fills my heart with joy is that I look at this friendship and am so proud of what she has achieved and we have come through together. There is a strong feeling of being united and connected. Spending time with strong women has recently been something that I have been seeking a lot more of.

The world is in crisis and the shocking things I’ve been hearing recently have left me feeling angry and unnerved. I had a conversation with my friend and another woman and we were saying it is no surprise that it seems eating disorders and body image problems are on the rise. Yes, there is a lot more awareness and a lot more being done to understand these things better, more brilliant activists taking their stands but we are living in a society now where women seem to have less and less autonomy and control over their own bodies and voices, instead being dictated by an unraveling totalitarian society.

This week I have been reminded of stories that women have kept in and are starting to let out. I have seen women react and retract with a look of fear and uncertainty after they’ve used their voices, and felt myself retract through the comments of a particularly interesting individual who deemed it appropriate to comment on my image as opposed to my skills and experience within my professional life. I kicked myself for not reacting out loud with the words that were swilling around in my head but I literally lost my voice for a moment and that got to me.

 

Later that day I had to listen to Whitney Houston’s ‘I’m every woman’ about 3 times in a vague attempt to instill a sense of power I had felt I had lost in that moment. It helped only mildly for about 5 minutes. What really helped was being in a room full of women, each with a story that has been navigated through addiction, compulsions and primarily through their own willingness and hope for what they can each bring to the world, a love for themselves that may open and close in equal measures but nevertheless, is growing.

 

Something needs to change. I fear we have become so hard on ourselves, we are fighting with all our might. Fun feels like it is happening with a thick layer of dust and grime upon it, clouding the air each time we jump up and down to the beat of our own songs.

 

 

 

 

Feeling the feelings

When we feel something that doesn’t sit right with us, we may feel angry, upset, frustrated that we feel that feeling. Damn this sadness/ anxiety/ anger/ fear/ confusion!

But it is telling us something, perhaps that we are moving past something or have not yet worked through something. It is a signal to us that there’s a shift taking place or about to take place. Yet, the more we push it away or numb it the more it looms and grows within us, feeling like a shaken up bottle about to pop. And when it pops there can be a flurry of pent up words or unwanted actions unravelling before we even have a chance to screw the lid back on.

But, perhaps we need to sit in the comfort that whatever we are feeling, there is a signal behind it. For example, our anger can be telling us something.

 “Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life. Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one. Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly, anger is use-full. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests. Anger is not the action itself. It is actions invitation.”- Julia Cameron

I used to find it difficult to know how to express my feelings but over the last few years it has become more fluid, easier and less contained. With a solid support network and through the work that I do, it is really important that I can walk the talk and be in touch with what is going on for me before I can sit in somebody else’s world and serve them.

I now ask each feeling what it is telling me and usually the answer is sitting right there, with a bit of gentle questioning I can go back to the source and understand and accept that whatever I am feeling is okay.

A few thoughts on perfectionism

I have been contemplating the subject of ‘perfectionism’ lately. What does it mean? What does it mean to me? I have been weighing up the costs and the benefits of what perfectionism generally entails. I have been listening to friends, family and clients talk to me about what it means to them, what it leads them to do or more conversely, not do.

In the past I have noticed through patterns of my own, that actually the costs of relentlessly reaching for the best ends up being the catalyst for self-disregard through acute attention to detail and a constant worrying about whether I am doing “good enough.”

 The thing I’ve noticed is that if I bring meticulous effort and attention to control, shape and keep on top of these measures of success and self worth, I essentially become the rider of the force field and end up doing the opposite of what I believe in- which is to show up with as much of my authentic self as I possibly can. If I don’t do that eventually the energy depletes and I may find myself getting a little lost between being overly active (where I end up doing too many things at once) and being pro-active (where I find myself doing things for pleasure not perfectionism), finding myself with those little creeping burn out sensations. Balance is the word that comes to mind here, little and often, slow and steady…

 But what comes with showing up? Potential slip ups, potential knock-downs, disagreements, mistakes, a perfectionists recurring nightmare! But, these are all the things that keep us growing and moving. A question I was asked recently was: “What would you do if you didn’t have to do it perfectly?” I immediately thought: SO MUCH MORE! I would dance more, start playing drums again, write more often, join the circus (seriously), possibly learn to play the guitar/ukelele/any string instrument, play the harmonica (start a blues band?), write a book…

 So, I am going to start living a little more against the grain of that unattainable perfectionistic voice that still from time to time pops up… now, pass those drum sticks!

“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark”

-Agnes de Mille.