Body Image – Expectation or Conscious Choice?

Female Body Image - Expectation or Conscious Choice? - Photo copyright Ben Hopper -

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


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