9 July 2013, 11:57
I didn’t grow up in a “naked house”. I have never been skinny-dipping, and I don’t stroll around changing rooms in a state of undress. Simply put, public nudity is just not my thing.
So you can imagine my shock, horror and disbelief when I found myself in the middle of a self-confidence class during which everyone got naked and danced, one by one, down a runway…
It had been an unnerving day. Our teacher kicked off the class by removing all her clothes and simply standing there, making eye contact with each of us in turn. And, as always happens in a group of this ilk, there were tears when women spoke up to explain why they were there.
About a third of the women were struggling with eating disorders. One woman wouldn’t allow herself to be intimate with a man until she lost 20lbs. Another woman had divorced her husband of ten years after discovering she was a lesbian. The next girl had just moved to NYC and felt invisible. Every woman there was battling with her ego in some way.
Over a couple of hours, we learnt some meditations, and how to talk back to our inner critic. We had to write down the part of our body we liked least, then show it to one another. It was challenging for all of us.
As the end of the class crept closer, we were released for a bathroom break. When we came back into the room, our teacher smiled at us and said, “Okay. Clothes off!”
We blinked at her, flabbergasted. “You heard me,” she said. “Take your clothes off. You’re going to walk down this runway, and we’re all going to clap and cheer while you do it.”
At first I panicked, thinking, ‘There’s no way I’m going to do that!’ I glanced towards the door. And then I looked around the room, and at the women peeling off their undergarments on either side of me.
My inner monologue kicked off. ‘Radical self love revolutionary? HA! You talk a big game, Darling. You can’t claim that moniker if you won’t take your clothes off in front of these women. It’s time to literally walk your talk, girl.’
The voice inside me used to be unspeakably cruel, but these days, it mostly just calls me on my bullshit. So I took a deep breath.
‘I’m not going to be the only one who doesn’t do this,’ I resolved.
So I stepped out of my boots and pulled off my socks.
I lifted my dress over my head, and peeled off my slip.
I unhooked my bra and let my knickers drop to the ground.
Before I had a moment to feel self-conscious, we began. Nude women lined both sides of the catwalk, cheering and clapping for every other woman in the room as she sashayed along. I yelled and whooped and grinned at every single one of them. The louder I cheered, the less I cared about my own nakedness. It extracted me from my self-consciousness.
When it was my chance, I turned it the fuck OUT. I shimmied down the runway, laughing and dancing to the music. For the first time in ages, I truly felt like my own superhero.
And as all the other babes pranced and romped in front of me, I didn’t see body parts or feel the need to judge or assess. I simply saw them as who they were: women. Joyful, gorgeous women, multi-faceted and marvellous.
They were laughing and smiling and blushing. We were all a little embarrassed — none of us were accustomed to this kind of salubrious behaviour! But everyone looked so beautiful with their huge grins. In that moment, I feel like we were seeing their true selves. The real essence of each woman was shining through.
We were seeing, and allowing ourselves to be seen, too. We were witnessing truth.
The transformation that occurred in that room was rapid and real. I experienced a high that was so vivid and intense that I can only compare it to a religious experience. My soul wasn’t just shaken, it was stirred.
If you’d told me earlier in the day that, come sundown, I would be dancing naked — save for a necklace of stars and a swipe of red lipstick — in front of a group of women I had never met before, I would have died on the spot. That is so far outside my own spectrum of what is comfortable. And everyone I tell about this experience says, “I could NEVER do that!” But the teacher told us that in 15 years of teaching the class, only one person has ever declined to participate.
The idea of throwing ourselves into this exercise, our teacher told us, was to create a personal “courage reference”. In other words, when we were going through something difficult or about to attempt something risky, we could look back at this experience and feel strong. Hopefully, we’d think, ‘If I can STRIP NAKED in front of TOTAL STRANGERS and DANCE and actually enjoy myself, I can do anything!’
It has now been several weeks since I danced naked in front of 13 women, but the experience has stayed with me… And it has changed me. I feel emboldened within my body; I feel more brave and competent. I feel more beautiful.
You know how when you’re insecure, you look in the mirror a lot, to check that nothing terrible happened to your face in the last half hour? I feel like I don’t have to do that as much anymore. I have a sense of inner confidence and ease that eluded me before. I trust in my own beauty, and I’ve been reminded that the sexiest thing of all is a woman who is truly confident in herself; who can allow herself to be silly and messy, while knowing that it only makes her more gorgeous.
It has changed me in little ways, too. For example, I have started — just quietly — singing in front of people again. I love, love, love music. It is as essential to me as air. I grew up singing, and when I was about 10, had the starring role in a musical which ran twice a day, every day, for two weeks. But after hitting the awkward age of 13, I stopped singing in front of other people. I would happily trill behind closed doors, but sing in front of someone else? No thank you! But I guess after you’ve been well and truly naked in public, you care less about people’s reactions to you! I’ve been singing in front of my friends, and it feels so good; like a true expression of my soul. I can’t believe I wouldn’t allow myself for such a long time!
I would never think that public nudity could bestow me with such a sense of boldness and nerve. But it did.
I think the thing that shocked me most is not just that I didn’t die of shame, it was that I LOVED doing it! I felt totally emancipated from my own bullshit, my need for perfect presentation and a costume carefully constructed to reveal this or disclose that. It made me consider the ways we use clothing for psychological protection, and it reminded me that no matter how expensive your handbag or how perfect your eye make-up, at our core we are all gloriously imperfect.
It reminded me that no matter how much work we do on ourselves, there is always further to go; that no matter how well you think you know who you are, you can always surprise yourself; and that one of the most radically subversive acts is to love your body, and never be ashamed.
I don’t even mind that I had to get naked to remember.
Add “ecstatic nude dancer” to my résumé,
Photos by Made U Look.
24 June 2013, 13:31
If you’re in need of a little inspiration for your Radical Self Love Bible, girl, you are SO in luck today!
A little while ago, I received a really sweet email from Alannah, who wrote to tell me about all the changes in her life since she had started seriously applying radical self love and its concepts to her life. Almost as an afterthought (!!!), she included a link to her journals so I could have a peek… And when I clicked through, I was so excited!
She has taken the idea of an art journal and turned it into her radical self love bible, filling it with power phrases, pictures, assemblage and sequins.
In her own words…
“After spending several nights in bed with your self love posts, I decided to make a change. I’ve always been really into art journals, and after reading all about your self love bibles I thought I would start projecting more positivity into them. ... My journals have so much colour in them now, so many moments when I’m scribbling cute things that happened to me, sweet compliments I was given – it’s amazing to think how much has changed in 6 months.”
I loved browsing through her RSL bible because it’s such a great example of doing it a little differently! We’re not all writers, so if you’re more visually-inclined — and handy with a gluestick! — this is a fabulous illustration of how you can make your Radical Self Love Bible fit your needs.
Okay, enough babbling… Let’s get an eyeful!
So much love for this, it totally inspires me to step up my game and put more energy into my own RSL Bible!
From Alannah’s email…
“I’m happy now. I’ve realised that loving myself means I don’t need to hang around people who drag me down and constantly bitch. I have now an amazing little set of people who make me smile every time I hear from them and I’ve actually got up the courage to start making new friends. I wanted to let you know just how much a difference self love has done in my life. And so quickly! I wish I had known this was possible in high school; that your own approval was the most important thing, not everyone else’s.”
Overwhelmed with love,
5 June 2013, 17:08
This morning, I woke up at 6am and hopped in the shower to get ready for Jonathan Fields. He was interviewing me for his Good Life Project, and after a green juice and an iced soy mocha, I was raring to go.
I love doing in-person interviews because they are so much more real than anything text-based. With an email inteview, I can go back and rework and refine my answers until they sound like perfect little soundbites; in-person you have no such opportunity. Whatever comes out of your mouth is what will be heard, for better or for worse.
Jonathan is a sweetheart. We were laughing and having a great time perched on our matching chairs. And then Jonathan asked me about radical self love: where did the idea come from, and how has it evolved?
And I just couldn’t stop myself. As I explained it, a feeling of deep-seated anger swelled up inside me.
“As happy as I am to have stumbled upon something that women need,” I started, “It makes me really SAD. It hurts my heart to know that self-love is so desperately missing from our lives that we have to go out and educate ourselves about it; that we have to LEARN to love ourselves.” I took a breath. “Why are we not taught this in schools? It’s a fucking travesty that we’re taught sex ed but nothing about how to take care of or nourish ourselves. It’s so wrong. It makes me so angry.”
(I’m paraphrasing, of course. Rage makes me a little incoherent.)
I was surprised by my reaction. After all, I’ve been talking about radical self love for years, and not just online: I’ve spoken at venues as wide-ranging as Carnegie Mellon University and high schools in New Zealand. Often, I talk about the statistics: the number of women who stay in abusive relationships, or the percentage of women who believe they’re beautiful (4%).
But this morning, I was reawakened by my own anger and sense of conviction.
“The truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off.” (Gloria Steinem)
After all this time, I still can’t believe that self-love is something we’re expected to somehow magically discover for ourselves. It makes me crazy with rage and frustration. The number of women I’ve met who have never had an orgasm, who prioritise their looks above everything else, or who see women as enemies rather than allies, is a crying shame.
The thought of it makes me froth with seething and sorrow, but it also fills me to the brim with vast hope. I don’t plan on having children, but maybe you’ll tell your daughter about something I wrote. Maybe your own experiences with body image will inspire you to teach your niece to love herself more. The thought that the next generation of women could be strides ahead of us in this arena softens the edges of my sometimes stormy soul.
I don’t have all the answers, but radical self love — in all its guises, from style to spirituality, and lovers to life choices — is my cause. It’s my mission. For as long as I live, I want to show women that they have options; that pursuing their passions should be the rule, not the exception. I want to keep telling you about the things I’ve discovered that have helped me.
If you’re grappling with feeling not-good-enough, struggling with your body and suffering from a lack of self-love, I would always recommend traditional therapy or counselling. But therapy alone is probably not going to solve all your problems. Growing into ourselves and learning to become comfortable with who we are is an ongoing process, one which requires a lot of energy and attention.
Maybe, like me, you will have revolutionary breakthroughs using EFT. You might find solace in reflexology and Crossfit, or soothe your soul with meditation. Yoga could be the right way to reconnect with your body, while CBT might help you plow through your limiting beliefs.
There is no golden ticket. It’s likely that you will stumble upon a combination of techniques which teach you how to make sense of your emotions. Hopefully this will allow you to enjoy life, rather than perpetually feeling like a passenger on a runaway roller-coaster.
Whatever method(s) you use, just know that you are not alone. We are all wrestling with sadness, confusion, loneliness and apathy. We all feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated. We all have pieces of our psyche that are fractured and poking through the skin.
We hope that one day we’ll wake up and the fog will lift, but the reality is that we have to learn how to generate our own light.
I am evolving too. I have come a long way since I started on my transformation in 2006, and I am so thankful for that! My life isn’t perfect, but I can say that I am happy; that I am delighted more often than I am despondent; that I don’t want for much.
As one of my dearest friends said to me recently, “What more can you want from life? To be perfectly happy where you are.”
I love you, and I hope you love you, too,
13 February 2013, 17:24
I walked into Rite-Aid today & was horrified by the never-ending aisle of chocolates in tacky heart-shaped boxes, cheap teddybears & ugly tchotchkes. What could be less romantic than planning to be romantic?!
Two years ago, I wrote one of my most popular articles ever: Very Definitely Not Dinner & A Movie: 50 Alternative First Date Ideas! If you’re in a relationship, you might find something within that list that makes your Valentine’s Day a little less conventional & a little more cozy.
...But we’re not all in relationships. This one’s for all my single ladies… !
Yes ma’am! What follows are 50 ideas to make being solo not-so-sucky. In fact, being single is awesome... Embrace it!
Share it around, send it to your girlfriends or boyfriends, & enjoy the day!
Buy yourself a sex toy. My favourite is Jimmyjane’s Form 2. You will never need anything else, I promise! Spend the day relaxing. Put on a face mask, order some food & watch your favourite movies all night long. Go & get a massage… ...Or reflexology… ...Or a session of hypnosis… ...Or a glittery gel manicure… ...Or whatever else really makes you happy. Get really dressed up. Wear something fantastic on your head, like a flower crown or a pair of ears. Invite your BFF over for dinner, & have her/him spend the night. I love late nights & early mornings with friends. If you’re feeling bad, go for a really aggressive workout. Dance in public. Plan your perfect day, then go out & make it happen! Write love letters to all your closest friends. Buy yourself flowers… Not just today, but at least once a week! Clean your bedroom & rearrange it according to feng shui. Commit yourself to radical self love! Take a burlesque class, & smile at yourself while you shimmy in front of the mirror. Volunteer. Sleep in… & have wonderful dreams. Write a list of the things that make you fabulous. Stick it to your mirror & re-read it every morning. Bake heart-shaped cookies, write compliments on them in icing, & hand them out to your co-workers. Talk back to anyone who tells you “no”. Do a love spell. Celebrate the fact that you don’t have to compromise with someone else’s taste! Paint one wall of your apartment bright pink & delight in it. Buy a piece of art! Spend some time with a dog. Lounge around all day in a vintage slip, like a sultry sex kitten. Splurge. ‘Cause you’re an adult, & that means you get to do whatever you want! Take yourself out to brunch, like Skylar! Light candles & meditate. Start a magnificent project. Like Lady Gaga says, “Your career will never wake up one morning & tell you it doesn’t love you anymore.” A little cynical, perhaps, but she has a point. Invest in yourself! Re-read your favourite book. Wear bright pink lipstick. Drink champagne with your best friend & laugh until you cry. Write postcards to your long-lost buddies. Buy sky lanterns, make wishes & release them with your friends. Go on the hunt for your new signature scent. Decorate your bicycle! Wear a tutu. If not today, when?! Move on. Find a trampoline… & jump on it. A lot! Go to IKEA & buy yourself something to make your home a little more magical: fairy lights? A plant? Sequin cushions? Plan a trip to an amusement park with someone who makes you smile! Get rid of all that stuff your ex gave you. Get your tarot cards read. Start writing a journal. Read comics. Be your own valentine. Spend the day by yourself, doing whatever you want…
Have the best day ever. Tweet me & let me know what you get up to!
Photo by Lisa Devlin.
21 January 2013, 12:43
Illustration by Raquel Gonzalez.
Too fantastic not to share! You can pin it, too!
Make yourself proud,
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