As women we are not encouraged to be in our authentic, mature feminine self. Most of us don’t even know what that would feel like. Yet it is possible stand in our natural power, and be the adult in our own life.
Being a mature feminine woman is heady stuff, and not for the faint-hearted. It takes some growing up, and being accountable. The upside is, it brings you more freedom in your relationships, more choices, and the capacity to feel a lot more joy. So how do you get there?
1. Admit you shut down and lose your voice.
The first thing you need to do is admit you do shut down and lose your voice. It’s hard to admit this, and much more difficult to accept. And yet, when you take this step, you are on the way back to your natural power. This is the first thread you start to pull and follow, and it will lead you back to when your voice shut down, and ultimately how to speak up for yourself.
In my own family I felt like the only people who were allowed to express emotions were my parents. My father had a hair-trigger temper and a very frightening six-foot presence that actually paralysed little me with fear sometimes. This is when my voice learned to shut down.
I was 14 when my mother had a nervous breakdown. I spent a lot of time being the care-taker for her emotional ups and downs. This is when I learned to shut down my feelings and prioritise her emotional needs.
It was hard to acknowledge that my own needs, wants and desires got buried beneath all this family dynamic. It took a lot of courage, but it was critical to reclaiming my capacity to speak up for myself.
2. Acknowledge your reactions are wreaking havoc.
My family patterns were wreaking havoc in my life. In my thirties I felt I was constantly chasing ‘love’, trying to work out what I had to do to be accepted and experience the smallest piece of affection. I was used to living in high anxiety, constantly monitoring other people’s emotions and responses to me. When you bury your emotional truth time after time, you start to lose connection to what you really feel. You also lose trust and confidence in yourself.
I had to get honest with myself. I had to face my passive-aggressiveness. I had to admit I hid away from the world when I felt emotionally overwhelmed. I was stuffing things down and being perky when I felt like rubbish. So, yes all of these were up for review.
3. Notice when it happens in the moment.
The next step is noticing when your shut down and don’t say what you feel or ask for what you really want. As you start to practise ‘noticing’, gradually over time you will be able to feel the shut down at the moment it begins. You may feel your chest tighten, and like your throat is constricting. You will probably become aware of the strong tension in your shoulders and maybe a headache. Feelings of emotional overwhelm may follow.
Once you get real with yourself, while you may not know what to do, you will be motivated to try and find a new way. It’s important to be gentle with yourself. Wouldn’t you do things differently if you knew how, and felt you had other choices? Would you love to calmly say what you need and feel, without being terrified of the other person’s response? What would it be like if you stopped asking other people if what you want is OK with them?
4. Find someone (a friend or professional) who can hold space for you.
I didn’t discover the mature adult power within myself through an easy, fluffy, ‘be your best self’ toolkit. An elder, a wise woman guided me into the heart of my own power.
You will need support to look at these places inside that are still very young and frightened. This is where you buried your real feelings, hopes and dreams. These places are desperate to speak: pain, grief, longing and desires. Often when you start to listen all of these feelings burst out in one ferocious package. Sometimes you need help untangling them to be able to connect with what you really want.
5. Start telling the truth and being accountable for your actions.
When I started sharing my raw truth, I had to bypass my tendency to either tell my story through hyperbolic enthusiasm or through the wailing of my inner victim. I wondered if the world was going to fall apart.
I took small steps to see if sharing my feelings, my boundaries and my desires made close friends recoil in horror. Shockingly, No. Did everyone like it? No. But the majority of people started to trust me more, and trust me with their feelings because they knew I was consistent, present and safe.
I remember doing this at work. A colleague was upset that I shared the news of her new job with another colleague before she had the chance. I had robbed her of the joy of the moment and she was rightly upset and angry about it. Instead of hiding out, or defending myself or collapsing into worry, I simply said “You are absolutely right, I did do that and I am sorry.” I was accountable for my actions and genuinely apologised. I thanked her for coming directly to me and letting me know how she felt.
Your mature feminine adult creates the safety and motivation for others to be honest with you. When you trust yourself more, you can handle other people’s reactions, both positive and negative. Courage and confidence are the natural by-products of your capacity to trust yourself. This totally cuts down on your ‘wondering and worrying what other people think’ time. It makes for a lot better communication and respectful professional relationships.
6. Be kind to yourself.
You don’t need to change overnight and have it all together. Frankly that sort of perfectionism is just another way to paralyse and shame yourself. Be gentle with yourself when you experience anxiety (at work, socially, in your relationships). Even if the best you have on any given day is “I would like to be gentle with myself when I feel this pernicious anxiety at this soul crushing job.” Hey – you have to start somewhere. When you have space to be kind to the parts of you that feel shamed, unloved and unlovable, then a lot less of you feels shamed, unloved and unlovable.
It’s a paradox that your messiness is actually where your power resides. So any effort you make to hear it, feel it and be with it is actually going to bring you the trust, freedom and love you have been chasing all this time. Welcome to maturity!
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