Body Image – Expectation or Conscious Choice?

Female Body Image - Expectation or Conscious Choice? - Photo copyright Ben Hopper - www.buzzfeed.com

By Jessica Crystal Joy

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

In my previous article Body Image, Social Beauty Cues, and the Empowered Woman, I discussed the issue of female body image and the challenges we can experience in our society. Specifically I brought to attention how our society can define what is “acceptable” and not with regard to our bodies, and body hair, the impacts, and ways we can change this.

The more we remember our nature and act from full personal choice, the more empowered we become. So today I would like to share my own perspective – One woman’s tale that might be very similar to something you yourself have experienced. This is my personal journey of moving from letting others decide how I feel about my body image to reclaiming authority over my body and learning to present my body in a way that is most natural and pleasing for me.

Expectation or Conscious Choice?

In college I started being me in brand new ways, with awareness and creative curiosity. I asked myself new questions such as: how do I want to dress? Is wearing my hair natural with kinks and coils an option? And what type of body do I desire? And for the first time I asked myself – why do I present my physical body in the way I do? What is natural for ME? What flows effortlessly, and what is an effort for me to do? And what of my appearance is based on others‘ expectations?

Most importantly, instead of Googling, asking for advice, seeking approval from my parents or others, or looking for answers in a magazine or book, I listened to my internal guidance. I responded from my instinct, and did what felt right to me.

Even though this approach was brand new to me, I heard my body’s response easily and loudly. I started from that day forward navigating from my instinct about my own body, and living from a space of following what I require to be happy, while still experiencing what my society shares.

My inner guidance spoke and shared with me that ‘the expectations of others’ was manifesting in my current presentation as the “need” to shave my body, such as under arms, legs, forearms, toe hair, and sacred space. The belief that I was reacting to, and acting from, was that no self-respecting, attractive, or ‘normal’ woman has body hair of any sort that is visible to others, besides their hair on her head. But that belief was inherited – handed down from outside, instead of inside my desire.

Understanding Social Norms

Unconsciously, my truth was shaped through the view of other peoples’ lenses.

Female Body Image - Expectation or Conscious Choice - Photo copyright Ben Hopper - www.buzzfeed.comI learned through TV and magazines, through my world as a child and as a growing teenager, and from the adult role-models in my life, that women who shaved were unhygienic; that women who do not pay attention to their physical appearance lacked femininity, and respect for themselves. Or so said my teachers, my parents, and the figures I believed to tell the truth. And I saw no one bunking these rules in my life. In the media, women who had “makeovers”, changing from ‘less than desirable’ presentations into ‘beautiful’ desired ladies always had their bodies waxed or shaved. The average woman walking around the street, in fitness classes, at concerts, even at “hippie” or “alternative” events had hairless underarms and legs.

The pervasive message was that, if I desired to ‘fit in’, be accepted, loved romantically and/or sexually, and exude respect, I must shave myself.

Yet, when I used to shave I put my body in a lot of pain. From scratches to burns to skin peeling off to emotional pain — all of this was done to fit in and be someone other than the natural me.

Riding the Wave of Self Empowerment:

In 2006 I started to research and grow and question all of this standard behavior. I asked myself “what if there is another way?” I said yes to my power, my authority, to my desires and what lights me up, and stopped shaving my body. For me, this was my best choice for my body and soul. I gave myself permission to be unique and create my own reality.

Since then, I have been on a journey of being a hairy female in a society that promotes bare hairless skin – in both subtle and obvious ways – as the norm and epitome of femininity. My journey has been amazing and similar to being a surfer riding waves of water; navigating high and low heights and experiencing bigger and more powerful waves as my years and experience grow by. Becoming the “master surfer” is learning how to navigate and balance, easily riding these waves.

Some of these waves include:

  • Experiencing and overcoming self-doubt after making my choice and finding my truth in relation to my body.
  • Experiencing shaming, pleas and continual demands to change my identity and shave; judgment for sticking to my high agreements, and bullying in hopes of “changing me” from my Mom – which eventually lead to her to accept my choice. She has even championed me within our extended family and supports my choice to be a natural hairy goddess.
  • Overcoming worry about others being able to see my armpits or legs, and their rejection of me on an intimate level because of my choice.
  • Learning to wear tank tops and shorts/skirts with pride, for me and only me.
  • Experiencing people of all genders staring at me intently with various looks of disgust and fear when they notice my hair on my body, but reclaiming my inner security by shining my light and continuing to honor my highest choice, regardless of what the outside world believes.
  • Moving from allowing these shaming stares to silence me from doing what I love – which is swimming and enjoying the water – to regaining and remember my authorship of my body and donning not only a swimsuit but a bikini for the first time in my life – taking back my body, my confidence and my enjoyment of water.
  • Claiming my role as a role model for other women who are afraid or scared to be their desired hairy selves, and occasionally receiving smiles of hope and joy or enjoyment from other women.
  • Experiencing solidarity with others who initially supported me when I first let myself become hairy, whenever I saw that lone other woman with visible underarm, leg, or unique hair on her face.
  • Questioning from romantic partners about my hair, and requests and pressure to shave/trim parts of my body for their ease, sense of security, or physical attraction, and now relating only with romantic and sexual partners who enjoy me and my body the way I am.
  • Becoming an advocate and educator about the importance of women choosing what their bodies look like.
  • Learning a big lesson in empowerment from once eventually giving into consistent pressure and discussion from one romantic partner and shaving my armpits, and experiencing a blow of my sense of self for allowing someone outside of me to influence who I am.
  • From this experience, moving back into the feeling of stubble and nakedness, and exploring the comfort I feel having hairs on my legs and face and sacred space, as they and I grow.

For more than 5 years this has been a luscious journey that I continue to experience on newer and deeper levels. And this journey all stems from these questions:

What is natural for me?

What of me now is based on others’ expectations?

These are the keys to the door of authority, power, and empowerment.

What is on the other side of your door?

Previous article by Jessica:

About the author:

Jessica Crystal JoyJessica Crystal Joy is a feminine empowerment educator that has been studying spiritual and self-improvement work since 2001. She provides articles, workshops, and presentations geared towards helping women become confident in speaking their desires and requirements in their life, using their intuition and deep connection with their bodies.

Jessica is known for quickly creating an environment of safety and expansion, to help her clients go beyond their past limited belief systems while explicitly and providing practical ways to be and live from a deeper empowered state of being. She has a B.A. in Psychology and is a Certified Tantra Educator, Certified Intuitive Guide, a member of the Holistic Living Network, a yogi, creative writer for New Earth Media, blogger, professional speaker, essential oils expert, and vegan, and incorporates many tools of Mastery Systems in her work.

For more articles and ways to work with Jessica, check out her website jessicacrystaljoy.com.

 


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  • Catherine Torres

    While reading this article I felt emotional. As a teenager remember seeing a natural woman at a laundromat and thinking how gross she was. Now as an adult woman myself who does not shave I think back and feel so lucky to be brave enough to reclaim my existence and be real who I really am.

    I too get even angry looking stares mostly disgusted expressions when men and woman notice, as if I should hide  myself from society.

    Even some folks who I would expect to be most tolerable with the fact that I was “born this way” look at me like Im the anti-christ.

    Most women are embarrassed to be seen in public with hair on their legs and under their arms. Well I am embarrassed to be seen without the hair in my legs! I feel like removing the hair from legs shows how deeply insecure I am and vulnerable to trying to please society before first thinking about my self.

    I probably have the same if not better hygiene than most men who have hair on their legs.

    &&&&&& I really appreciate this article being posted:)

  • I prefer natural women with hair in the arm pits rather than a woman with deodorant leading to breast cancer and possible breast amputation. Hair grows for a reason. Rememebr that our sense of smell is helping us to find the ideal partner; if they all smell of the same artificial deo, we’ll end up with the wrong partner ending in divorce and trouble. Go natural and stay healthy!

  • Dani

    Thanks for writing this article Jessica Crystal Joy!

    I have felt like a lonely voice promoting the natural option. My journey also began about five or so years ago, but it was husband who encouraged it initially. He asked me if I would be willing to stop shaving, plucking and cutting hair, as an experiment to see how I felt about it.

    I was a convert to stop shaving straight away…I immediately loved the feeling of stroking the hair on my legs, it was so soft…and..I do agree very much with Ralf about the importance of natural smell…my husband and I just adore each other’s natural smells.

    Well, it took me longer to be convinced not to pluck my eyebrows…a few more years of thinking I just looked wrong somehow, but even that gave way to acceptance of how i just look..and no longer thinking about my eyebrows as anything other than another part of my body…hair cutting…well, i don’t do it often, but I haven’t quite got around to accepting the way my hair just looks..I imagine it’s a matter of time.

    I do still have some slight embarrassment about showing my leg and armpit hair. I don’t do it in professional situations, which I find a bit bothersome in hot periods…but I understand that men don’t really have that option either..but I’d love to just wear a skirt, without tights and a sleeveless shirt, and everyone get over the potential body hair sightings..i don’t feel confident in that regard though. In personal situations, I feel fine about it.

    Any thoughts on that?