Reflections on Self-Responsibility and Love by Jodie Niles
Growing up, I always felt ashamed of embracing my beauty. I started to grow and blossom and I believe I was the tallest girl in my class by age 12. I felt awkward, shy and embarrassed. I was ashamed of my bone structure and build. I also had learned that these features were noticed by my peers, and it made me very uncomfortable. I wanted to be like all the other girls, slim with no waist and no breasts, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to notice. For all I’d seen in adult relationships, when men stared at women it was for all the wrong reasons.
I became very protective of my body. I learned to hide myself as much as possible, and I disconnected myself entirely from my feminine presence, sexual energy and all. It wasn’t until I was in a program at the School of Integrative Psychology here in Milwaukee that I began to realize this area of my life needed some tender loving care.
I had read up on goddess energy and seen women of all sizes embrace their beauty, and I could understand it on a cognitive level, but I could never physically sustain it. When I went to Europe, I observed how freely and openly the women and men honor their bodies, and it opened my eyes even further. I began to pay closer attention to all sizes and types of women, friends of mine who are tiny and petite, super skinny or heavyset, all feeling okay with who they were in their body….and not only owning, but flaunting their sensual energy.
Image in our society is such a burden, and I had to come to terms with the fact that the way I look and feel is not about “them” – it’s about me. I am the one who needs to feel not only okay, but FABULOUS about who I am and how I look. I kept thinking that if I wanted to dress more fashionable, that was somehow going against my spiritual vision, and I would feel like a fraud.
When people would approach me to compliment me, it brought up all sorts of things for me, and it was hard for me to receive it. But after a while, it got easier. And the reasons that people told me they were telling me this…so humbling. It was as if they wondered how I could not see it and why I would not want to own it. What wonderful words to hear, and for me, such a “wow” moment! I truly felt a shift and began feeling able to receive these compliments without internally saying, “Yeah, right, what are they talking about” or “yeah, they’re just saying that because…”
For me, what was and continues to be liberating is the idea of letting myself be sexy and spiritual at the same time. I can be a seeker of truth and light and love and still enjoy high-end fashion and swagger when I walk. I can feel awful and cry and dig into the trenches of my soul through schoolwork and other life challenges, and still turn a head or two. And I can walk tall doing this (in my heels, of course), feeling good about the way that I look, and how I feel.
Why can I do this? Because I’ve finally accepted my outer beauty and my inner beauty as one. By enabling myself to receive, and to give of my beauty, both inner and outer, I AM being spiritual. And why sell myself short and not experience the joys and pleasures that sexiness and beauty has to offer? Every wo/man deserves to feel sexy and to shine, not hide, their beauty.
This awareness is a daily part of my journey, and while some days are tougher than others, mostly I feel more empowered. This is me, always will be me, just as I am. Twenty pounds lighter or not, clad in Chanel or a funky Bohemian hand-made skirt, in a spiritual setting or exploring a fabulous city… Whatever the case, it’s all a part of who I am. If I deny any part of who I am, then I am denying myself the joy of my wholeness. The biggest lesson I continue to learn from this is to not hide, period – end of story. Be who you are, embrace what you’ve got and don’t let anyone or anything take that away from you. Accepting yourself is the purest and most beautiful form of love there is.