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Time to get naked and comfortable with your partner

Do you find yourself trying to cover up when naked in bed with your partner? Are you racing to put clothes on after the shower? Is being in the nude nearly un-‘bare’-able? You aren’t alone.

Many women dislike being unclothed in front of their partners, and this is ultimately damaging to confidence in a relationship. Women are surrounded by air-brushed lingerie ads of women who are perfect looking, and this leads to damaging self-criticism. This discomfort needs to be destroyed. It is time to throw off the clothes and learn to love that naked body for exactly how beautiful it is. Feeling comfortable being naked in front of your partner will not only strengthen your relationship, it will ultimately make you feel better about yourself.

Embracing the nude isn’t a process that will happen overnight. It takes consistent effort and, if you work at it, slowly but surely it will become completely natural to hang out in the nude with your partner. Start by confronting your fear head-on, the dreaded mirror. After a shower, instead of avoiding your reflection, take a look. Instead of glancing at yourself with critical eyes, try to see what your partner sees. What is beautiful about your sexy body? What makes your feminine self desirable? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and self-criticism is not helpful. High self-esteem starts with yourself, and meeting that beautiful woman in the mirror for a post-shower ego-boost will adjust you to being naked and increase confidence.

Taking care of your body will promote a healthier relationship with your body. This does not mean develop a punishing regiment for daily exercise, but instead should inspire you to learn how to love your body without being fixated on trying to change it. How about a massage or even treating yourself to a manicure and pedicure? Treating your body as a temple will promote a sense of much-needed self-love. Exercise is important and creates a healthy self-image, so challenge yourself to move your body in ways that feel sexy and fun. Do you like to dance? Put on some music and bust a move! Do you enjoy hula hooping or swimming? Grab a hoop or jump in the pool! Moving the body in a fun way makes exercise enjoyable and will make being naked even more fun.

After some serious self-love exercises, it is time to test the waters and try to get naked with your partner. If you are still feeling nervous, enact a ritual to feel more confident like putting a bit of mascara on or putting coconut lotion on your body. If the lighting feels too bright, use a lamp, candles or softer lighting. It creates sexy mood lighting and will make your partner very excited. Remember, your partner wants to be there with you and your beautiful naked self. Men aren’t critically assessing your stretch marks or blemishes, but are simply excited to be with a naked woman they love. Good men are not looking at the flaws, but instead are looking at the woman beneath them. Try and see yourself through the eyes of desire, you will look pretty dang good.
Being naked with a partner will ultimately forge a more intimate relationship, with the added bonus of shaking up your sex life. Be brave, and love your naked body. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and that is precisely what makes women so beautiful. Embrace the body you were given and make it your temple — if only for your own benefit.

Valentine’s Day should be about celebrating women

Valentine’s Day is often about separating into couples or honouring your own self-love and independence, but this year I challenge every woman to try something a little different. Instead of giving power to the things that separate women from one another, whether it be by being with our partners or on our own, let’s use the holiday of love to begin building a community of women helping women. Let’s build a community of love, if you will.

January has been a painful month with a megalomaniac fool running the show down south (do I even need to mention his name?) and a relatively silent leader up north, who isn’t saying much to the big bully downstairs. It is a tough time to be a woman, a minority, a member of the media, or anything else other than an old white man. To add salt to the wound, the sun is rarely out and everyone is sick with the cold or the flu. Honestly, what is a girl to do?

In times of great trial, it is necessary to resist spiralling into a great depression by being positive. In an effort to be optimistic, women should use Valentine’s Day as an act of solidarity! Whether it be hanging out with a few friends, or getting your grandmother, mother, and sister to all go out for dinner with you, celebrate the collective community of femininity.

This is not the year for Valentine’s Day to be a comparison between those who have a boyfriend and those who don’t. Doesn’t that seem like such a blasé past-tense way to celebrate a holiday created precisely to celebrate love? By separating women into those two camps, it limits our potential to collectively unite and feel empowered and loved with each other. Let’s continue the momentum from the Women’s Marches around the world and foster a true sense of community and love. There are simply too many women who are not finding valuable connections with other women and are instead desperately lonely and wanting of men on holidays such as Valentine’s Day, which traditionally focus on monogamy.  Instead, use Valentine’s Day as yet another reason to enjoy the beautiful women in your life. Our women communities matter too and deserve as much time and space when it comes to celebrating love.

I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year by looking at my beautiful daughter and revering in her exquisite and effeminate existence. I will be celebrating my mother’s strength and sage wisdom, and thanking her for teaching me how a woman with integrity acts. I will be surrounded by various women influences who have stood by over years of tears and doubts, celebrations and all the mess in between.

Celebrate women on Valentine’s Day. I mean after all, who will be beside you laughing and reminiscing when you are old and bony in the nursing home?

Be a rebel: don’t try to change yourself in the New Year

So many people set unattainable goals for New Years. I often hear ‘I’m going to lose x-amount of weight and go to the gym every day’ or ‘I will obtain my dream job and become rich and famous’. Most people tend to pigeon-hole ourselves into unattainable goals carefully concealed as ‘New Year’s Resolutions’. Instead, why not abandon ship on the resolution boat to hell and commit to loving yourself just as you are?

The constant need for change and validation is a long-time tradition that goes back to the days of early capitalism. We can thank our early 1950’s grandparents for our deeply rooted love of the newest and shiniest next-best-thing. Whether it was buying a new car or working towards getting the bigger house, we were taught as western children to always strive for great material happiness. With the social media craze that has erupted and overtaken our lives, society has fortunately strayed from the material obsession with houses and cars, but a darker horse has emerged.  In the present day, the newest cool shiny thing is the commodity of a person’s identity and how they present themselves on a daily basis in our tech-dependant world.

On Facebook and Instagram, do you have enough photos with friends in them? Where are your yummy food photos that must be taken at hip restaurants (make sure to use a rateable app on your smartphone)? Do not forget your cute puppy photos, preferably with a pug sitting on your sexy boyfriend’s six pack.

Back to New Year’s resolutions. Due to the fact that we are literally commodifying our identities on a variety of intensely open social media outlets, New Year’s resolutions are no longer only a cute suggestion. Instead, they have become necessary in order to publically demonstrate that you are always striving to be better (with the hope of getting more ‘likes’ of course). So with that knowledge in mind, I say screw it! Abandon that four point agenda on how you will find your dream job, husband, dog, and white picket fence in the span of 12 months (when you really know four of those months will be spend crying (in private of course) over having failed to find any of the above). It is time to abandon your self-hating commitment to loss a ton of weight and dedicate yourself solely to exercising at the expense of all other pleasures.

On New Year’s Day, in an effort to be a rebel and abandon all New Year’s resolutions I vow to wake up (hungover no doubt) and look myself in the mirror to say, ‘hey, I love you girl’. Once we set aside our false expectations and fake online identities, it becomes apparent that we are all works in progress. I kind of suck sometimes. I fail to get to the gym on my lazy days, I have been caught eating more than one cookie after midnight and clothes do end up on my bedroom floor. But at the end of the day, I remember to commend myself for getting up and brushing my teeth earlier that day. I am growing and so are you. Love all the idiotic moments we will inextricably find ourselves in along the way.

New Year’s resolutions or not, I will continue to be somewhere between my very best and worst, living my life to the fullest and with my camera phone tucked away.

Embracing my vulnerability in “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown

I would like to begin by saying that I am not a fan of self-help or motivational books. I have nightmares of being the woman in that aisle of the bookstore crying, while searching through the stacks for a solution to my problems. I feel the same way about motivational speakers and the false sense of happiness that is often advertised. After saying all of that, there is one book that has snuck its way into my life and has undoubtedly changed me for the better.

Rising_Strong_by_Brene_Brown_Book_Summary

Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution by Brené Brown was purchased by my cousin and given to me for Christmas. I admittedly let the book become a coffee table decoration for about six months and, after an especially hard day, decided to take a glance. I began to read the book and found that Brown’s concept resonated very strongly with me. It didn’t advocate for the easy route out or a simple tell-all solution as many self-help books do, but instead demanded hard work and acceptance.

Rising Strong begins by explaining the importance of vulnerability. People are often taught to reject feelings that aren’t necessarily comfortable. They are told to tuck these emotions away by laughing it off or drinking it down. Brown recommends looking these feelings in the eye, and by doing so embrace our inherent human vulnerability. She also lightens the mood by saying “people who wade into the discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses”.

Once this idea of vulnerability is introduced, the idea of embracing it becomes overwhelming. How do I embrace such a scary emotion? How do I even begin to look at myself and my darker truths? How do I become this badass? Brown gives a set of steps to follow that are simple and direct. This is what appeals to me about Rising Strong: the path to self-realization isn’t ambiguous or complex. Instead, the presentation of the steps is straight-forward and unpretentious.

It begins with “The Reckoning”, which is the realization that if you are vulnerable, you will get knocked down. You will fail and life will hurt. This is the trade-off to living a fully authentic life. Brown’s next step is “The Rumble”, which is when you decide to embrace the uncomfortable feelings of being knocked down. “The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity,” she writes.

The book helps you to learn how to question the common self-damaging narratives we create and how to understand that parts of those stories are merely assumptions created out of insecurity and fear. “The Revolution” is when you rise up and are truly stronger for having faced some of your issues.

An essential component to Rising Strong includes learning how to question whether we judge others too often by asking yourself the simple question:

“Do you think people do the best they can?”

Brown explains that setting high expectations of ourselves in turn causes us to hold these same standards for people around us and it is bound to cause disappointment. Instead, understanding and empathizing with others helps to create appropriate boundaries and expectations in our relationships.

Brown has a Phd in Social Work from the University of Houston and has published a series of motivational books. The companion read to Rising Strong is Daring Greatly, and the series has sparked Brown to create workshops (including a free workshop on trust!) and a community to continue discussing her method. Brown was arguably popularized by her TEDx talks on vulnerability and shame. She has also been on Oprah.

Rising Strong is filled with examples and details of how to obtain a sense of self-assurance and an understanding of living an authentic life. I would definitely recommend reading this novel if you have often felt lost and afraid of your own vulnerability. There is nothing stronger than embracing your own emotions, and Brown will show you a way to do this that will make you a stronger and more badass woman.

How do you choose to heal from a break-up?

I want to start by saying each woman has their own way of handling a break-up. Many will sink into despair, keep their sweats on while digging into the baked goodies. Others deny themselves their sadness, move on quickly and efficiently, only to come tumbling down a week or a month later from the pressure of avoiding those terrible feelings. Some have mastered the art of letting go, and to those woman I commend you — and am admittedly also terribly jealous.

I recently went through a break-up and the amount of advice I’ve received has ranged from downright entertaining to adorably helpful. The amount of times I was told to go and purchase desserts immediately and load up on romantic flicks became funny, albeit a bit alarming.

wallow

Why is it that we must feed ourselves sugar and lament our lost loves so pathetically? Is there not a healthier way to be sad, where you still confront the deep dark blues with grace instead of tears and chocolate stains?

This confession is undoubtedly for other women who are going through a break-up or a loss on how to proceed. I feel I have stumbled onto a method of healing that could be helpful, though I still maintain the path to healing is subjective.

I’ve valiantly decided to not succumb to the bad habits and when I told my friends, they laughed at me because it is apparently an approach many take and fail at the break-up routine. Yes, there may be piles of Kleenexes, but they will not be accompanied by pounds of chocolate. I will probably experience painful realizations, but I choose the comforts of Patti Smith and Dylan Thomas rather than a romantic comedy that makes me wish I could return to a relationship that meant to end.

rumi-the self

Clean comforts are key. Tools of healing that will help usher in a new phase of beauty in your life could range from a new creative hobby to a run through a new hidden path in nature. Only you know the mechanisms that will make you feel alive again.  I want to feel the pains and sorrows, dig into it deeply and understand it. But at the same, it is important to support myself by providing healthy comforts to supplement this pain. A good start could be healthy fresh foods and outdoor exercise in a natural area for the body and meditation, books, music, photography and writing for the mind.

A common thread between these activities is they are all solitary activities. This is purposeful. There is an absolute empowerment in being alone if only we are courageous enough to face it. Loneliness is real and terrifying, but it is also a matter of perspective. It can easily turn from a broken feeling into one that empowers you to truly be on your own with yourself. Being alone helps you to move on from your pain fully because you have left yourself with no other choice and avoidance becomes impossible.

Finding a replacement man or woman to try to fill your heart will only leave you spinning further downwards because you cannot truly share yourself when you are in pieces. The demons from your last relationship will haunt the new one if they are not dealt with and that is not fair to your new and unsuspecting lover. Instead, being your own source of support and self-love is the first step to being ready to move on with someone else in the future.

In the end, it isn’t about distractions or isolation. It is about looking in the mirror and loving the person looking back at you no matter how hard that may seem. I ask, how will you love yourself today? What can you do that will make you feel grateful that you have your insightful mind, your beautiful body and your resilient heart? How do you choose to heal?

patti smith quote

When I get that feeling, I want self-love healing

Try mentioning masturbation at a dinner party and watch as silence sweeps the room, facial expressions turn to shock and eyes will lower in shame. The word itself evokes a discomfort in most people that is not often seen in other sexualized topics of discussion.

It is time for the taboo surrounding female masturbation to be chucked into the trash, joining 1950’s Chatelaine ads advocating for traditional marriage and anti-abortion. Women have fought for sexual liberation since the 1960’s and 70’s — now let’s celebrate and talk about the importance of self-love.

Though squeezing the peach or stroking the sailor is mostly seen as a recreational activity, done under the covers late at night, research shows that masturbation has positive physical and psychological health effects for women. It is also a great way to get in touch with yourself … by touching yourself.

According to a study on vaginal massage released by the Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark, “Existential healing is not a local healing of any tissue, but a healing of the wholeness of the person, making him much more resourceful, loving, and aware of himself, his own needs, and wishes”.

Vaginal massage addresses not only physical problems, but it also allows the individual to understand how their sexual organs are affected by emotions and physical health. This, in turn, promotes further understanding of what a person needs in order to be satisfied with their health and their sex lives.

Vaginal massage and acupuncture also helps with incontinence and urinary tract problems. “These techniques often used for healing chronic pains in the pelvis or genitals, and treating the highly inconvenient pattern of frequent reinfection of the urinary system,” the Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine found.

In addition, masturbation can lead to some pretty earth shattering orgasms with practice. Orgasms resulting from masturbation aren’t just pleasurable, but they also secret higher levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin regulates prolactin, a stress hormone which has been shown to cause breast cancer and brain tumours. It is also a natural antibiotic and helps to fight nasty bacteria. So, next time someone asks what you are doing with your hands “down there”, why not tell them you are fighting cancer.

“Masturbation is a great way to explore your body for its own sake, have an enjoyable and pleasurable time, and learn what parts of your body are most responsive,” said Isabel Carlin from the University of Toronto Sexual Education Centre. “It’s also a great way to get to know your body and feel more comfortable with it for future sexual situations with other people.”

Having the ability to get yourself off whenever you please can be empowering and beautiful. Unfortunately there are many stigmas around masturbation that prevent women from exploring the exciting world down below.

“Stigma around masturbation can definitely make people feel stressed and anxious when they do masturbate (or even get the urge to do so), which can stop people from masturbating entirely,” said Carlin.

Reducing stigma and empowering people to embrace their own sexuality is a primary step towards sexual healing. For women with poor self-esteem or who have been sexualized in their past, masturbation is the last thing they want to do, despite it’s  positive effects.

“When a woman begins to view herself as an object, the mental resources that are required to constantly monitor her appearance can disrupt her thought processes, thus disconnecting her from her natural internal cues,” writes Mels Van Driel, urologist and sexologist, in his book With the Hand: A Cultural History of Masturbation. “Body satisfaction can also influence a woman’s ability to orgasm, her willingness to explore novel sexual activities, and allow her to feel more comfort in providing sexual pleasure for herself”.

Many people shy away from their genitalia, thinking that self-love is a bit gross, disturbing, and inappropriate. But, it’s not. There is nothing wrong with hunkering down, grabbing some candles and mood music, locking your door, and beginning the process of understanding the inner-workings of your magic spot. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

When in doubt, remember the great words of Woody Allen, “I won’t hear a bad word about masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” Self-love is an important asset to understanding and loving your body. This Valentine’s day, take advantage, and enjoy one of the most satisfying ways to stay healthy and happy.