Parading your power with love

Since the inception of Woman Uncut, I have been asked many times what parading your power with love looks like in real life. Divine feminine power comes in many guises and it can be difficult to pin down, to dissect and explain.

As I wrote here, I have felt myself teetering on the edge of this power, never quite fully grasping it and frequently losing hold altogether. I have struggled to maintain a clear vision of what it looks like, but I recognise it when I see it.

We live in an age when Western women have supposedly never had it so good with opportunities for education and employment, control over our reproductive destiny, sexual freedom, and legislation to ensure our equality with men. But despite this, many women who “have it all” feel a sense of emptiness and a lack of wholeness. We have become what society and the media has convinced us feminine should be, and in the main this is a masculine world view, devoid of the female energy so needed by the world today.

So what does a divinely powerful woman in the 21st Century look like to me?

In essence, the powerful woman lives without need for validation from others. She understands that external approval is a fundamental human need and is reassuring to receive, but that depending on external factors to feel good about herself is not the route to true happiness.

The powerful woman knows who she is and what she wants and expresses her authentic truth with courage. She has faith that it is safe to shed the masks and show her true self to the world because she knows that, no matter what anyone else may think, she is perfect just as she is, flaws and all. She understands that she is a unique creature with strengths and weaknesses and that she is, and always has been, good enough.

She draws strength and comfort from her relationships, which she nurtures with deep love, but she remembers that her wants and needs are important too. Certainty in her wisdom allows her to make positive choices for herself and for others. She does not feel it necessary to conform or succumb to that which is not in harmony with what she knows in her heart to be true.

She understands the need to nurture herself; to express herself creatively, to nourish and move her body, to engage herself in work or activity that makes her heart sing, to allow herself to dream big dreams, to revel in her sexuality, to explore her spirituality and sense of self.

The powerful woman knows that there is no need for her power to dominate or flow over others. She is instinctively aware that the intermingling of her power with that of others results in a force greater than the sum of its parts. She is not threatened by difference and understands that collaboration, not competition, is what will be required to overcome the challenges, big and small, faced by our fragile world.

She knows that womankind is at the very centre of the mystery of life, and that from the very cells of her body and core of her spirit,  life is created. She is the vessel of divine, unconditional love and she gives it freely and with joy.

My vision for Woman Uncut is that it become a community of women encouraging each other to shed our self-limiting beliefs and move into our own divine power at our own pace and in our own way. I am not there yet and some days I have doubts that I ever will be. I don’t have all the answers to exactly how you or I achieve this, but I know that this is a path I need to follow, and that the “how’s” will take care of themselves.

With divine love,

Claire x

 

What is your vision of a powerful woman? How do you parade your power with love? Share your insights and comment below.

Image by Jannoo028

A woman’s right to choose?

Discussion of abortion ignites strong views on both sides of the argument, and the expression of those strong views in judgemental and hateful terms is not uncommon in the debate. The activities of those supporting the “40 Days for Life” Campaign in London recently, who filmed women attending a clinic where terminations are performed, is an indication of how strongly held views can result in callous actions which seem almost contradictory to the underlying belief. I struggle to see how the message of respect for all human life is being conveyed by demonising and shaming women at a point in their lives when they are possibly at their most vulnerable.

Like many women, my personal views on abortion are often conflicted. With two children of my own, I struggle with the concept at a philosophical level and I can understand both points of view.  But fundamentally, I do believe that it is not my place to judge. Nor yours. Nor the Church. Nor the state.

I have a great deal of compassion for those women who find themselves unhappily unexpectedly pregnant, and sympathy for the difficult decision they are faced with. No one plans an unplanned pregnancy; not the rape victim, not the mother of four living in poverty with a partner who regularly beats her, not the 18-year-old just about to leave home for university and a promising future, not the woman who is just not ready to be a mother. For many women the decision to terminate a pregnancy will be the most difficult and painful one they will make in their lives. Women seeking an abortion need compassion and understanding, not vitriol and judgement.

It is widely regarded that the right to abortion on demand is enshrined in UK law. This is a fallacy. The 1967 Abortion Act provides a legal defence for doctors carrying out abortions. The law requires that two doctors reach an opinion that the continuation of a pregnancy is of greater risk to the physical or mental health of the woman than termination. The decision to that a termination is legal is a medical one reached by doctors, not the choice of a woman exerting her own autonomy. The law does not consider that the thoughts and feelings of an individual woman on her reproductive destiny are sufficient grounds for termination.

In September last year, Nadine Dorrie MP tabled a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons which proposed that abortion counselling services should not be provided by organisations which provide terminations, but rather by independent counselling services, many of whom are influenced by pro-life organisations. Her bill was heavily defeated, but the Government set up a Cross Party working group to explore the “spirit” of her proposals. Some of Nadine Dorrie’s biggest and most vocal allies in bringing her proposals are Christian pressure groups, most notably Christian Concern. Their website states: “At Christian Concern we resist abortion and aim to inform women of its dangers. We believe that every unborn child should have their right to life protected.” Christian Concern has financial links with the US-based Alliance Defence Fund, a fiercely right-wing organisation with significant financial backing, which campaigns heavily against abortion and equal rights for individuals who are homosexual.

A public consultation undertaken by the Abortion Counselling Working Group is due open shortly. If you believe that each woman has within her the power to make the right choice for her, and has the right to have that choice, whatever it may be,  respected without judgement, then I would urge you to make your feelings public, parade your power and contribute to the debate.

With an open heart and acceptance, regardless of your choice.

Claire x

Do you feel that reproductive autonomy is a fundamental aspect of female power? Do you believe that abortion is always wrong? Is it the place of the church to intervene? This is a sensitive debate and please be mindful of the Woman Uncut Comment Policy when leaving a comment below

Photo credit m_bartosch

I HATE PARTY BAGS!

This weekend was my darling boy’s 8th birthday party. I love the run up to the children’s birthday parties; picking the theme and making invitations weeks beforehand, the kids making crispy cakes for the big day and covering the kitchen, and themselves, in melted chocolate, making the birthday cake, which has to be kept as a surprise until the morning of the party. And then the big day itself; the dressing up and decorations, twenty excited kids running all over the place in their costumes, the silly games, the sound of unadulterated fun, and the large glass of wine when it is all over. But there is one thing about parties I hate.

Party bags!

Since the kids started having parties I have duly churned out the little bags filled with  plastic crap and the obligatory sweets, all the time knowing that the very act of doing so made me feel ill at ease. I hate party bags on so many levels; that we are teaching our kids that the getting of “stuff” is more important than the experience itself, that they are filled with cheap, environmentally disastrous  plastic tat made in Chinese sweatshops by kids not much older than my own; that really the only worth they have for kids is the sugar-laden, teeth-rotting sweets that we are conditioning them to associate with fun and happy times. Am I over-thinking on the whole party bag thing here?  Yes of course! And somehow no.

You see, despite my strong feelings about what party bags represent for me, for the last 5 years I have I doled them out anyway. Why? Because it is what is expected,  you must because it is what everyone else does. Who wants to be the social pariah who spoiled the kid’s fun for the sake of a higher purpose? Who wants to take a stand for what they believe in at the risk of gossip at the school gate?

Well, now that I am learning to tap into my power and trust my own instincts, I do. I want to be that pariah. This year I did take a stand and decided that not a single party bag would grace my house . Clearly a difficult discussion with my son ensued – at the age of 8 children are already programmed to do whatever it takes to fit in and avoid any behavior that might mark them out as different. But after my explanation of how I felt about it, he agreed that we would make cakes and he would decorate them all differently, one for each individual child to take home. How beautiful they all looked, in rainbow colours, fundamentally the same but each unique in its own way.

The kids loved it and one little girl said how lovely it was that my son had given her something that he had made himself. He glowed with pride and I didn’t apologise and didn’t explain and tried very hard not to worry about what the other mums would think.

We all have “party bag” issues, things that we do to fit in with the crowd because we feel it is expected of us, even if  it make us feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes you have been doing these things for so long that you can suppress the sickly feeling and pretend to yourself that it is ok to ignore the things that really matter to you. But in the process you lose something of your authentic self and take a step away from your full divine power.

But somewhere in your subconscious, you know. You know what you stand for and what you believe in, and you know when you are compromising yourself for the sake of social acceptance. Oh yes you do, and it doesn’t feel good does it? So, starting today, step into your power, stand up for what you believe, however ridiculous or small it may seem, and be who you are, not who you think others expect.

With love from a party bag-free zone,

Claire x

Being Brave

In the few weeks that have passed since sticking my head above the parapet and  deciding to share my innermost feelings about myself as a whole, authentic woman, I have been told many times how brave I am being. My feelings vacillate  wildly between pride that I have had the courage to even attempt to foster a nurturing community where I and others can move into all of our glorious, womanly power, and abject terror when the volume of my inner voice is turned up to the max and sneering “Who do you think you are? Who wants to read about the crap that floats around in your head?”

The most interesting thing for me is how these expressions of bravery have reached me; not one has been during a face to face conversation with someone. On a number of occasions, I have met up with a friend who has not even mentioned it to me at the time, and then later messaged me or emailed me to tell me that my writing resonated with them and I am so brave for putting it out there. Some have not even mentioned it at all, yet I know they are following.

Why is it so difficult for many of us to express our true feelings and be real with each other, human to human, in the flesh? One word – vulnerability.

We are conditioned from a very young age to view vulnerability as weakness. Putting ourselves in an emotionally vulnerable position elicits enormous feelings of fear; fear that if other people know our intimate thoughts and feelings then they will no longer like us; fear that we do not deserve to be seen as we are, because what we are is not good enough, and fear that our vulnerability will not be reciprocated and we will be left exposed and hurt. And so we avoid putting ourselves in situations where we might express our true feelings because of the possibility of appearing weak in the presence of another.

But here is the thing – I have made myself vulnerable by speaking my truth in a very public way, and that vulnerability looks like bravery to you. So why one rule for me and another for you? You can bet your boots that if you expressed your vulnerability you would look courageous to others too. Because you would be. It is in the sharing of our vulnerabilities that true connection happens between my heart and yours. Allowing someone to really see you with all your human frailties is the greatest gift you can give, and your reward is a real spiritual connection with an equally flawed soul.

So today, in some small way, have the courage to share your vulnerability with someone. Look someone in the eye and tell them how you really feel about them, or ask for that help you need, or leave a comment here and share your vulnerabilities in a safe space where you will be accepted with love.

Yours in vulnerability,

Claire

Note – since I wrote this, a friend directed me to the work of Brene Brown, an eminent research professor specialising in vulnerability. If this post resonates with you, then check out her blog Ordinary Courage.

“I don’t do fine!”

A few years ago, my mum was helping me in the kitchen preparing for a party I was throwing. I was having a minor hissy fit, stressing  over how the day would go, at which point my mum tried to reassure me with “It will all be fine“. My immediate reaction was to  snap back “I don’t do fine.

And back then, I seriously Did Not Do Fine. Fine was not good enough, only perfect would suffice. If perfectionism was an Olympic sport, then I would have been Usain Bolt. You see, I am a recovering perfectionist and my recovery has been slow and somewhat imperfect.

Perfectionism is an irrational belief that everything in life must be done with no deviation from how things are “supposed to be”. No mistakes, no weakness, no failure, no if’s or but’s. There is perfect, or there is worthless; there are no shades of grey. Who makes up the rules as to how things are “supposed to be” is never quite clear, but deviation from them is perilous for the perfectionist.

Perfectionism is an enormous burden, like a lead box filled with heavy wooden masks strapped to your back. You select the appropriate mask for the occasion –  the perfect mummy, the perfect wife, the perfect colleague, the perfect hostess, the perfect daughter, the perfect friend. But the weight of these masks of perfection oppresses your true authentic self to the point where you cannot even remember what lies underneath them.

And even although in your rational mind you understand the futility of chasing the illusion of perfection, still you are compelled, because it is the achievement of the ideal that gives meaning to your life. If only you could meet your own expectations, then you would be good enough.

But of course, you will never be good enough. Because that is the other thing about perfection – it could always have been better. For perfectionists, even perfect is not perfect enough; you could always have done it faster or straighter or with more pizzaz, or standing on your head while spinning plates and playing the ukulele. That voice in your head will never let up and will never be satisfied. The constant striving for the unattainable sucks the joy out of every task and leaves you frustrated and chronically dissatisfied with yourself and your life. Sometimes you don’t even bother trying, because if you can’t do it perfectly then what would be the point?

But what if good enough really could be good enough? What if you are actually human after all? What if you could apply the same standards you apply to everyone else to yourself? Would you recognise yourself anymore? Would hell freeze over? Would those who love you stop doing so?

For me, the first step in getting myself down off my superhuman pedestal was to accept that I had a choice in what I expected of myself. Although it seemed almost automatic and without conscious thought, I was choosing to subject myself to the enormous pressure of perfection. The reasons I was choosing this are deep-seated, but the simple realisation, after many years,  that it was within my power to choose differently was a revelation. So I started to make different choices and view myself through a different lens and guess what – hell didn’t freeze over and my loved ones still love me. It is not easy and I am still a work in progress, but life is lighter and filled with more joy now that perfection is not a full-time preoccupation.

Striving for the perfectly imperfect version of myself.

Claire x

What about you? Are you burdened with the perfectionist gene? How have you overcome your need for perfection? Share your wisdom and comment below.

Image credit – Scottchan