Author | DIAKADI Client and Life Coach Allegra Lucas As a female life coach and psychotherapist my practice has been dedicated to the empowerment, education and liberation of women and young girls. This month’s blog will initiate what I hope to be an ongoing discussion on female perspectives of health, career and community. So, what does it mean to be a 21st Century woman? We can recognize the progress that has been made regarding our civil liberties over the years but it is vital to create space to continue unpacking parts of the female experience that still go unacknowledged.
As a feminist, a woman of color and as a mental health practitioner I have a vested interest in the uprooting of the insidious nature of sexism in our society today. Our portable devices are getting smaller and more powerful and so are the micro-aggressions aimed to secure the imbalance of power between men and women. Frequently what holds us back are internal beliefs that were installed as a result of past personal or historic trauma. Generation after generation women have evolved to cope with these challenges. Time after time these coping skills erode into what can be described as maladaptive behavioral patterns. Ultimately the healing journey begins from within. Let’s Explore…
- ·How well do you know your own mind? Do you dance to the beat of your own heart?
- ·What is the most powerful thing you have discovered about your experience as a Woman?
- ·What are you giving birth to in this life? What is it that you want to create?
- ·How do YOU want to experience your female body?
- ·What are you going to do to step into and embody the woman that YOU have always wanted to be?
A Word About Women’s Health
When we think about women’s health it is useful to consider some of the statistics: The CDC reports that 63.7 Percent of American women are either overweight or obese and among the top five causes of death are heart disease, cancer then stroke. These results vary based on disparities related to race, ethnicity and class. Although the data is bleak we can use this information as an impetus for change, for personal improvement.
What can you do to live the healthiest most fulfilling lives possible?
- ·Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential to living close to your healthiest weight, preventing heart disease stroke and reducing the risk of cancer. Ideally we should integrate cardiovascular activity with weight bearing exercise or strength training to build lean muscle, reduce fat and strengthen bone density.
- ·Sleep!!! Sleep deprivation is linked with reduced metabolic rate and diabetes. Daily Exercise, removing electronic devices from the bedroom, eliminating caffeine after 2pm and changing your pillows annually are some ways of stealing more Z’s
- ·Mindful Eating and Healthy food choices. We strive for balance in this area but in general we want to limit Saturated Fats, Trans Fats, Cholesterol, Sodium and excess sugars.
- ·Stay away from Tobacco. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, various types of cancer, birth defects and decreases bone density in post menopausal women.
- ·Check in with your relationship to alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can increase physiological health risks as well as emotional, psychological and circumstantial risk factors.
- ·Laugh!!! Laughter improves circulation, boosts immunoglobulins, and makes us smarter, more creative and more productive.
She Works Hard for the Money
I was raised by a courageous and powerful woman. My mother worked full time, picked us up from school, came home to make us dinner, washed and folded laundry, bathed us, put us to bed and did it all over again the next day. The message I received from this model was that women could, would and had to do it all. Mom was also a professional dancer, she danced because she loved to dance but prime time commercial television often required that her sexuality be exploited and that her integrity be compromised. That example influenced my ideas around sexuality as a form of commerce. My father, the self-proclaimed feminist, refused to let me be a cheerleader because of the implied sexism of that enactment. I grew up with a mixed bag of messages in terms of how to navigate knowing when to use my sexuality vs. when to access my intellect.
In my work as a psychotherapist in a San Francisco middle school I became alarmed when I asked my thirteen year old client if there was a woman she looked up to in her life and she answered, Kim Kardashian. I had all sorts of preconceived ideals about her answer until I asked her what characteristics of Kim Kardashian did she want to achieve for herself? The answer was surprising. She Said, “I want to be famous, because I want people to love me and listen to me, I want to have a lot of money so I can take care of my family and do whatever I want.” It occurred to me that all this young girl wanted was love, a voice and freedom to go anywhere in this world. Who doesn’t want that? The question at hand is at what cost for women? How are mainstream values stifling the development and exploration of young women in our country and how does this translate in our adulthood?
Sheryl Sandburg addresses female internalized oppression in this passage from her bestselling book Lean In:
She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are- impostors with limited skills or abilities.”
There it is! That “not enough” voice again! How can we hear that voice, remember that it’s a lie and respond from a place of competence and self-acceptance? How can we eradicate that voice completely? It is crucial for us to acknowledge our accomplishments, to know our strengths and build our sense of self worth. A willingness to keep growing and seek out areas of interest that push the boundaries of what has previously defined us combats a sense of boredom or stuckness, and can stimulate creativity and innovation. Some food for thought in the area of professional growth and satisfaction:
- ·What parts of you feel fulfilled and nourished by the work you do?
- ·Which of your talents or skills is being optimized in your workplace?
- ·What areas of you career do you need further development in?
- ·Who at your job is supportive of your growth and values your contributions?
- ·If you are thinking of a career shift…a shift in what direction?
Where’s your Wolfpack?
I am blessed to find myself surrounded and supported by an incredible tribe of women in my community. We refer to ourselves as “The Wolfpack.” This network of women functions as my lifeline to serenity. They are surrogate sisters and mothers; we provide each other with unconditional love, compassionate listening and lots of comic relief. Sharing experiences, fears and victories with women whom we respect and trust is in many ways the foundation for building healthy self-esteem. My Wolfpack allows me to practice and exercise true intimacy without the fear of abandonment or rejection, We encourage each other and hold each other up through marriage, divorce, illness, academic achievement, physical transformation and provide each other with opportunities for spiritual development.
- ·Where is your WolfPack?
- ·How do they improve your life and wellbeing?
- ·If you find yourself without a pack what can you do to cultivate this community for yourself?