Last year, on this day, I blacked out on a cruise ship.
It was my 30th birthday. My mom had died the year before and I was still mourning a recent miscarriage. I was filled with resentment, judgement and anger. So, naturally, I was double fisting red wine.
Today, exactly a year later, on my 31st birthday, my life looks dramatically different.
I taught a yoga class this morning that included many women— women that have finished raising their babies, women that have become caregivers to their ailing mothers, women that have battled addiction and cancer, a newly pregnant woman and a woman struggling with infertility.
In the safe space of a yoga class, it is easy to see what we women all have in common. We’ve all experienced heartbreak, loss and disappointment. We’ve also known pure joy and contentment. We are strong for others and carry the powerful label of “woman.”
It’s when we leave the mat and go out into the world that things get messy. Instead of working together and celebrating the common threads inherent in being a woman, we often choose to separate, judge, compare and tear each other down.
This morning, Princess Kate Middleton had her baby girl. I saw endless Facebook posts about how “flawless” Kate looked while leaving the hospital, only a few hours after giving birth. Women were posting side-by-side comparison photos of how they looked after the delivery of their child compared to Kate, often with the intent to either make fun of themselves or berate the princess for looking beautiful.
This is just one example of the problem.
Who benefits from celebrity worship? Why are women programmed to look in the mirror and see flaws instead of beauty? And to highlight their failures instead of their successes? Why is there often an underlying feeling of competition even amongst girlfriends?
We’ve created this problem and it’s something we can fix.
I recently lead a yoga retreat and the entire retreat facility was void of mirrors. It was so liberating! With each passing day, I could sense that my female students were becoming less and less concerned with how they looked and as a result they looked more beautiful than ever.
Retreating also gave us a break from the constant media stream of body images. No TV, no magazines, no internet = no feelings of inadequacy. The women started to bond based on their common life experiences, not what they knew of popular culture.
This is the best part of being a woman! Communing with other women in a deeply loving way is one of the greatest gifts in this life. Genuinely celebrating another woman’s joy can bring more authentic joy into our own lives. It requires a surrender of the ego and to simply “be” in our culture of “do.” If we can be with each other instead of nurture the impulse to out do each other, judgements fall away.
Over the past year, I’ve shifted from self-medicating my deepest mourning into acceptance, clarity and contentment. The most important lesson I learned in the process is this:
When I cease to judge myself harshly, I stop judging others.
I am speaking to every single woman in the world— your beauty runs deep. Your beauty is your soul. The unchanging soul is what you have in common with every other woman. See the soul, not the story and you will no longer be a part of this global problem.
Love yourself and then loving others comes easily.