I had been craving for quite a few years to leave my privileged, fast-paced, inner city lifestyle and make a tree change to the Dandenong ranges. I liked the relaxed hippy vibe and thought it would be a good place to raise kids. What happened when I actually made the move was that I met a group of women that changed my life forever. Not in the, ‘I’ll give you a makeover so good you won’t recognise yourself’ kind of way but in a much deeper spiritual way. Sure I’d dabbled in Buddhism for a few years but these women didn’t teach me about this, they taught me what it really meant to be ‘feminine’. And no, it has nothing to do with pink, frills, giggling and hair flicking or letting a man pay and all to do with understanding the beautiful strengths and qualities of the feminine nature.
After I moved, I experienced my first real women’s circle. If you’ve never been to one, it’s where a small group of women gather together in a circle and take turns sharing the honest-to-God truth about whatever they are dealing with in their lives. To be honest, the first few times it scared me – I had to bare my soul to women I had just met! That was just too confronting. However, I was also awe-struck by the honesty of the other members and the rarity of having the privilege of hearing these truths. There is also an element of mutual respect – if you are baring your soul to me, I’d better be respectful enough to share back, because you’re vulnerability and honesty has been so beneficial to me.
Through association with these amazing women I learned about what real feminine qualities are: not the media-constructed ones we are taught from day dot. Things such as openness, gentleness, compassion, collaboration, connection, nurturance, flowing, eroticism, dance etc. and even about the dark side of the feminine were discussed.
As a result, I felt a missing piece of my life had fallen into place. Then I felt angry that I hadn’t been taught about my nature while I was growing up and that my rites of passage as a woman hadn’t been properly respected or celebrated.
Then I realised how much women are forced to live within the masculine model in our culture. This creates so many problems for us – for example we are taught to push and push through (masculine) instead of going with the flow (feminine) There is so much focus on “doing and achieving” (masculine) as opposed to “being and connecting” (feminine). Yes, we all have both masculine and feminine qualities but I believe women need to lead and live life from their feminine natures to feel happy, fulfilled and satisfied. We need to work more with our qualities and biochemistry. In my book Killing the Perfectionist Within, there is a section I wrote about going with the flow and how it’s tough in the traditional work paradigm to do this.
I think forcing women to live within the constraints of patriarchy causes women stress, anxiety and low self-esteem. We feel we can’t measure up to impossible ideals so we feel low about ourselves. These ideals are so ingrained in us from an early age by culture and the media that they become unconscious but they still affect us. They are impossible because they are based on an unrealistic construct of a woman, or a woman trying to live and behave like a man. The perfectionist feels she is not good enough so tries to overcompensate by being perfect. She feels not good enough because who she is deep down is not fully celebrated and accepted by our world. I hope this can change and I am working, along with other feminists to be part of making this change. By celebrating women in society and honouring their unique needs and qualities.
Honor Jane Newman helps women overcome their perfectionism through her programme “From Perfect to Peace”. She also runs a women’s circle and has written a book: Killing the Perfectionist Within, a self-help guide for women suffering from perfectionism, anxiety and chronic fatigue syndrome. She practices out of rooms in Tecoma and Collins Street, Melbourne. She can be contacted on 0433 374 031 or for more information visit her website. You can follow her on Twitter @honor_newman
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