Photo by Candace Smith
Being Seen as a Woman is Holy.
I’m not talking about “looking good.”
I’m talking about being seen for your internal beauty.
That part is holy.
It’s the truth of who you are.
Let me tell you how I learned this lesson deeply.
I grew up in a household where “looks mattered.”
Throughout my childhood, my two sisters and my mom devotedly braided our hair everyday, so we would look presentable at school. Meanwhile, for pictures, my dad preferred our hair to be down, because in his opinion it made us look more beautiful. I somehow understood that looks mattered to be liked by others or to be loved by those who I loved.
Despite my mother’s support in appraising or advising my clothing, and insisting on lipstick to ‘spruce myself up’ during my teenage years, she protectively showered me with explicit reminders to “watch out, because men will take advantage of women, especially attractive women.” My mom always ended this comment with “I know this from experience” and her voice dripped with unspoken hurt. Meanwhile, I learned from everyone around me that being sexy mattered, included my Dad who openly appraised and remarked on women’s bodies and their sex appeal.
My self-consciousness jumped into overdrive. Beauty felt like a double edged sword: If I’m too attractive I could be violated. But if I’m not attractive enough, I won’t be liked, or worse, I wont’ be loved.
It’s necessary to share another truth at this point.
I know my parents love me, and out of love, they wanted to protect me.
Fear sunk into my bones.
I was terrified of my very nature: being female.
Before I share how I busted through my fear, first I must share a short story of teenage turmoil…
In high school, there was guy in school who I had a crush on, and finally, I had the courage to flirt with him, which in my world meant not running away. He talked to me at a party, and led me into a bedroom and play wrestled me onto the bed.
My body froze.
The strength of his body on top of me terrified me. When he held my wrists down on the bed and tried to kiss me, I turned my head and I said I didn’t want to.
My only thought in that moment, was that he could rape me.
He said I was no fun. And he released his hold.
Ashamed for being a both disappointing him, and for being a coward, afraid that kissing him would give him permission to have sex with me, I wriggled off the bed, and left the room.
Here’s what strikes me looking back on that story: At that time, I truly believed a kiss would lead to rape. I never considered that my voice could hold any weight in my choice to have sex or not, especially if it’s someone who I was attracted to.
Feeling incapable of innocent exploration or pleasure, made me believe there was something wrong with me.
Why couldn’t I feel exhilarated and carefree that the guy I liked wanted to kiss me?
The answer was hidden between not trusting my voice or my body.
I became withdrawn, and only engaged myself with men intellectually, going deep into philosophical discussion. Expressing my feelings with men or physical intimacy remained terrifying, and out of bounds.
The more time passed like this, the greater I felt a sad separation with myself, and the more I felt trapped in my body.
On the outside, I’d put on a smile to keep within the barometer of doing what people will like, including keeping up the standard of ‘looking pretty’. But inside, I was living a slow death. Keeping my feelings inside was excruciating.
The pain that I internalized feeling trapped in my body, despite being told I was “pretty” led me to a profound and irrevocable wisdom:
Our inner beauty, sexuality and self-expression are inextricably linked.
The truth is that my story isn’t different from many other stories of women being raised to either protect themselves or ward off men as “predators.”
Not being able to trust our female nature entirely creates an inhibition towards intimacy, and trusting our men.
If we don’t heal these parts of ourselves, by letting ourselves be seen in our true feminine nature, and continue to perceive men as predators, as I did unconsciously, it prevents ourselves from the pleasure our bodies are built for.
In short, the predator-prey perception gives our power away.
I know I’m not alone in experiencing the repression of my voice and sexual desires, in direct relation to the ‘beauty’ that I’m perceived for through a barometer of wanting to be loved and accepted. These deep seeded cultural messages run deep in religions, family traditions and culture.
One close friend recently shared that she wasn’t allowed to sing in her synagogue when she was growing up. As a young girl, she would see and hear all of the boys sing solos, and my friend (who has a beautiful singing voice and is now a singer) felt jealous, sad and angry that they were allowed to sing in spiritual service in public, but that she wasn’t. The reason that women were not allowed to sing in service and in celebration in public was that men may be turned on by them, and then be tempted to disobey the guidelines of “modesty.”
When she shared this story with me, the lightening bolts busted through my brain:
And what would be so wrong if the men were turned on by the women singing?
The point is, if we don’t first recognize and free what has unconsciously held back our holy self expression, it stays repressed—coupled with the belief that we need to be constantly protecting ourselves from harm, which is the death of true self-acceptance and self-love.
I’m sharing this to shed light on these subtle tricky ways, that as women, even those raised, in my case, by a generation of loving feminists in their own time, there are these double messages that, if we are not vigilant, can creep into our minds and restrict our possibilities for happiness, and restrain our pleasure and the joy of experiencing and loving our glorious bodies.
Where we’ve been groomed to “be good” in our lives, may very well be at the expense of cutting out the heart of our inner beauty by either dampening our voice or hiding our sexual nature.
SO HOW DID I BUST THROUGH FEELING TRAPPED IN MY BODY??
Almost 20 years post high-school-hall-of-shame riddled with fear of what my beauty and my body could lead to, my self-rescue led me to meet a mentor, Praful Saracino, who invited me to a program called Path of Love, to experience somatic release from my body.
After trying so many other things to become more trusting of my feminine body, at last, exposing all the dark corners that I kept hidden, allowed space for me to be seen un-edited, which opened up space inside of me to feel, see, honor, and recognize my own inner beauty.
All of the protective reflexes that were jacked up in my muscles (specifically tension held in my erogenous zones), and all of the deep-seated beliefs, which colored the lens through which I experienced every relationship as “being taken advantage of” (not just in my intimate relationships but any male relationship—contractors, business colleagues, etc.), and all of the accumulated walls of mis-trust that I’d build up around myself came undone.
Letting yourself be seen for your fears, as well as your desires, gives you the freedom of accepting all parts of yourself, and the ability to deeply see and recognize your own unique inner beauty.
Through the act of being seen, I experienced a profound, humbling collapse of my protective mechanisms, and feeling the visceral love for something tangible within myself: My essence. My Inner Beauty.
Still, there was a missing link.
How could I share this inner beauty that I came to know?
How could I express it?
My main go-to was always hiding behind “being good” and ‘getting things right.’
Uncensored self-expression freaked me out.
I knew I needed to start in a safe space.
I knew it needed it to be visceral.
I knew I needed it to be an on-going dialogue of what I felt was true for me from the inside out, and not a super-imposed idea of what is true for ANYONE else, or what is even right or wrong.
My truth found its place in a room of 8 women practicing sensual moving meditation, and each woman was seen, one by one, for her own sensual self-expression.
Photo by Lori Berkowitz
Simply by following the emotional intelligence held in our bodies to express our sexual desires, we expressed our deepest emotion through the curves, thrusts, and undulations in our bodies.
Anger transformed to passion.
Self-forgiveness turned to love.
Lightness and vitality re-emerged from heaviness.
And fear turned to compassion.
When we find and reveal hidden parts of ourselves, the depth of our beauty becomes more apparent, more palpable, more real.
It glistens, it vibrates, it sings and soars out of our bodies, where we may have unknowingly suppressed or repressed it’s greatest glory for fear of it not being safe.
Photo by Lori Berkowitz
Compliments start to become celebrations instead of badges of self-worth, scoffs of disbelief or comparative appraisals.
It all starts with giving yourself permission to be seen.
My inspiration in creating Permission Sessions is to cultivate a safe space to express and celebrate your inner beauty through your voice and through your body, with other women who are doing the same.
Unshackle the prison of the lens you’ve been taught to see through.
Become a master of letting your soul’s beauty be seen.
Use your voice to express what others can’t see.
Know your own beauty and express it in celebration.
This is sacred. This is magic. This is reverent.
This is for always, and forever.
Jump on board here:
PERMISSION SESSIONS IN PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO
© Krista Kujat