For the past two years, I’ve been quietly pondering to recover and heal in ways that I didn’t know I needed. I’ve been a hibernating pupa, sheltered by choice, just waiting for my thoughts to come together and for me to emerge fired up and ready to go. This is my Eat, Pray, Love story. It is series that is part of a conversation that I want to have with the world to shift the way we think about wellness and self-care.
Start at the beginning of The Cocoon:
Introduction: The Metamorphosis: Finding Purpose
Part 1: The Candle Flickers: Work Burnout
Part 2: The Start of the A-Ha Moment: What is Emotional Labor?
Part 3: Glimpses of a Career Rife With Emotional Labor
Part 4: Work Life Balance and Self Care
The conversation of self-care and emotional labor is not complete without discussing the world of fitness, nutrition and wellness that is highly emotionally charged. The expectation to look a certain way, be a certain weight, and to be told that the foods that you love are evil and you shouldn’t eat them, creates insecurity where none is really needed. We are expected to accomplish the impossible dream and instead feel if we are failing more often than not.
There are so many experts telling you that they have a solution that will solve all of your problems. You’ll finally lose the 5lbs that won’t go away, have no cellulite, and find the love you always wanted. And you may for a minutes, but then you’ll be told that you need to fix something else.
We have created issues that aren’t needed. And there are usually underlying problems that make us more susceptible to insecurity, especially the concept of the perfect wonder woman.
I worked with a woman whose father called her ‘Thunder thighs’ as a child. In her late 40s, this immensely successful businesswoman was still deeply impacted by this nickname and has created a lifelong quest to reduce her incredibly toned strong quadriceps. Why? And for what?
Our inability to talk about ourselves with love and compassion hinders us. When we look in the mirror and only see our flaws, we miss the wonderful attributes we bring to the world. Can self-care work when we don’t love who we are?
Part of it is this constant use of power to keep us from feeling our own strength, of planting a seed of doubt in ourselves to restrict us from speaking up. Our submissiveness is preyed upon though I’m sure it’s largely unconsciously.
I remember a discussion in a “Women in Religion” course in college about an article that we were to read. The concept of what it meant to be a woman for most of modern time, meant that we were bound to the males in our families from our fathers to our husbands. Women were regarded as child bearers and caregivers. The church was a way to turn away from marriage. Food was one of the few things that we could control and many women chose to starve themselves. In studying female saints, many of them had signs and symptoms of anorexia.
We always tend to think of anorexia as a modern design, but here it is hundreds of years previously. And it made sense to me that when nothing is in your control, whether in actual or by feeling, there is a need to find something that we can have power over. By resisting food, it counters our expectations. It is a way to be defiant from the status quo.
In the 60s women were gaining power with the sexual revolution. We were able to have sex without the risk of pregnancy and had been making significant contributions to the workforce. To counter the power we had gained, the rise of Twiggy has an ideal figure in the 70s, keeps women undernourished to obtain a svelte figure. This keeps us weak physically and mentally with cloudy thoughts. Instead of us controlling food, food began to control us.
Even the concept that women will get bulky if they pick up more than a 3lb weight limits our physical strength. Show me a woman who looks like a body builder just from carrying their toddler around and I’ll change my point of view.
The #metoo movement has shed another light on situations that women deal with day in and day out, sexual harassment and assault whether overt or subtle. As women, we are conditioned to expect to be victims and to position ourselves in a way to escape. Growing up, I was taught to be aware of my surroundings, to know who was around, and to be ready to run or attack.
When we spoke up, all too often, reports were brushed aside, behavior was excused, or we talked ourselves into thinking that it was our fault and we did something wrong. Sometimes we were told it was in our head and we were making it up. Even a few years ago, a friend was feeling depressed after giving birth. In asking for help from her doctor, he told that there was no such thing as post-partum depression and to go home. Another friend had several doctors refer her to a psychologist instead of talking to her about the physical pain she was in.
We lose our power, our voices, because it takes more energy to confront a system that is in place that is against us. When we don’t feel safe and/or feel ignored, we turn to what we can control: food, our bodies, and our homes. Leading to more stress and feelings of not being worthy. Creating an ongoing cycle.
No wonder women always are stressed out, exhausted, lacking sleep, and depressed. We turn to friends, yoga, wine, baths, retreats, and diets to gain back some of our strength, only to dive back into the deep end of the pool. All the self-care in the world can’t fix us, until the conversation changes. And it is.
We are sharing our experiences. We are speaking up and out. We are calling people out and demanding that they be held accountable for their actions.
And a shift is happening. The dialogue is beginning. People are starting to listen. We are being recognized.
Continue the conversation in Time to Soar: Developing a Company & Retreats That Matter.
Kate Hamm combines her 15+ years of experience in the fitness industry and high-end resort program development into sought after wellness adventures at AnamBliss. Visit www.anambliss.com for future retreat dates and locations.