The recent trends toward women's empowerment is a sign that now is the time to ditch traditional wellness stereotypes and embrace a new form of empowerment that can only come from truly knowing and loving ourselves…just as we are.
When my body broke down three years ago—a forceful and demonstrative physical strike brought on from years of over-giving, trying to prove myself, living in a constant state of stress and treating myself poorly—I started the long and painful road to recovery.
The road was paved with a lot of reading, an immense amount of experimentation and endless appointments with experts whose opinions I fiercely trusted.
I tried it all.
Detoxing, meditating, dry brushing, going paleo, Ayurveda, Reiki, spiritual counseling, colon cleansing, and juice cleanses. I saw doctors, acupuncturists, gastroenterologists, rheumatologists, functional medicine specialists, naturopaths, and kinesiologists. I took courses in shamanic breath work, yoga, Pilates, graded exercise therapy. I did cognitive behavioral therapy, amygdala retraining…just to name a few.
A gained a lot of knowledge from this experimentation, and an initial fascination with healing my body quickly developed into an obsession with finding wholeness, finding purpose, and escaping the fear cycles that governed my formative years.
And yet once I had completed all this work and incorporated the practices that had an impact and resonated—I still felt bereft. The gnawing hole in my abdomen was still there.
I had uncovered years of conditioning and limiting beliefs that I had slowly begun to rewire.
And still something felt awry. Having consulted with all the experts, having read all the books, and having rigorously intellectualized the process, I felt two overwhelming feelings.
First, I felt completely and utterly broken.
The more I tried to heal, the more "broken-ness" I uncovered. The more people I consulted, the more I lost touch with the inner reserve of myself. The more I strove to mirror the two-dimensional images being sold to me of the zen mother and the healthy nutritionist or the nature-loving hippie or the careerist who has it all—the more distant I felt from my inner wisdom.
Second, I felt disempowered.
I felt overwhelmed by all the information, adrift in a stormy sea of conflicting media. The more articles I read and people I consulted and approaches I tried, the more I began to question how it could actually be possible that one diet or one fad or one approach could help every body or mind or spirit. It seemed a tremendous irony to me that doing all the wellness things I felt I should be doing was leaving me feeling stressed and guilty.
It wasn't until I started to redefine success and well-being on my terms that the knot in my stomach began to unwind. My recipe—an antidote to the prescriptive diets, fads, and approaches—went something like this.
What worked for me? Do less rather than more.
Take baby steps and celebrate the tiny wins. Rewire perfectionism—focus on the journey rather than success or failure. Tune into your own intuition and feminine wisdom by spending time in nature. Connect with like-minded people. Strive for balance, not goals. Acknowledge your own strengths and traits and design a lifestyle built around things that light up your body, mind, and soul. Lose the focus on physical health and incorporate practices to improve your emotional and mental well-being. Foster self-awareness and self-inquiry—every challenge is an assignment from which to grow. Improve confidence by building new skills. Celebrate all the seasons and own all the feelings—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Above all else, practice self-love, self-acceptance, and self-care.
This approach—an approach I now teach to other women looking to get rid of the guilt and shame in their well-being journeys— uncovered an unexpected realization.
That without empowerment, well-being is empty. You can do all the self-care practices in the world, but if you don't think you are truly worthy of success or health, you will never ever attain it.
When the intention is to become empowered, however, you open up the door to self-acceptance. And when you accept yourself, you can go after what you really want with confidence and light-heartedness. It's not about getting the rock-hard abs and then loving yourself. It's about loving yourself first so that you can get the rock-hard abs, if that's what you really desire.
What powers your change?
I tried hating myself into changing. And then I tried loving myself into changing. And the results were vastly different.
Through my own journey, I realized that many facets of the wellness industry are by their very nature disempowering. They are designed to prod your insecurities and expose your pain to make a quick buck. But you are not passive.
You can switch off from the noise and learn to trust your inner guidance. You can put boundaries in place and keep a little bit of love and energy for yourself. You can take people's opinions on board without feeling guilt or shame or regret when you don't do what they expect of you. You can ditch the people pleasing and do what's truly right for you. You can design a lifestyle that lights you up through the simple act of doing more things that make you feel shiny, energetic, and inspired daily.
It's time to invite in a new wellness paradigm—one where you can see the interconnectedness between claiming your power as a woman and your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. One where the starting point is a knowledge that you are whole just as you are.