The Invisible Woman

Have you ever had one of those days where no matter what you put on you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t feel radiant, you don’t feel beautiful? Nothing seems to fit right and the longer you go on trying to organise the ‘right’ outfit the more piles of clothes accumulate on the floor and the more increasingly frustrated and insignificant you start feeling. The fear starts creeping in that everyone else is going to be looking perfect, happy and vibrant and you will be the invisible woman that no one takes notice of.

I recently had a moment of being that invisible woman. I had spent an hour trying to build up the confidence to go out to a friend’s special event, trying on my best and favourite clothes to reflect a poise that would hide my self-doubt and disbelief. After giving up on my clothes choice, knowing that my indecisiveness was just a reflection of my internal state that couldn’t be changed by what I was wearing, I settled on something that made me feel comfortable and casual.

Within 5 minutes of arriving I realised that all of the things that I had been predicting were accurate. Everyone was dressed up in beautiful dresses, heels and lipstick looking radiant and beautiful. Instantaneous shame. I walked straight back out the front door and directly to the closest park, collapsing down onto the grass as soon as I got there.

Why was I feeling so weak and helpless? Why was I feeling like such a party pooper? Why was I even comparing myself to others in the first place? Thoughts were rushing through my head at a million times an hour but there were no answers to be found in the chaos of my insecurities. I took a few deep breathes and started to feel into my body instead, giving myself space to witness what needed to be seen.

The shame that I was feeling for not being social was nothing to do with the actual situation, I had just lost touch with myself and my own uniqueness. Running away was the easiest way of avoiding my own greatness because there was something comforting and safe about the sadness and staying small and insignificant. I knew that I had the option of going home right there and then but that was an action based out of fear and not love. Out of shame and not connection. A decision based on being invisible and not allowing my own unique and beautiful self to be seen. For it’s not how you show up it’s just that you show up. That you take the actions that count and reprogram the need to look and feel ‘perfect’ all the time.

As these realisations started to hit me all I could do was laugh at myself. What an elaborate and dramatic little adventure that the scared and insignificant part of me had created. To cause me to run away from the people I loved and cared about and instead isolate myself to a small patch of grass in the middle of the city. That was shame that was The Invisible Woman.     

I continued giggling to myself as I walked back up the stairs to the event and as soon as I reached the top I was greeted with a huge, warm and comforting hug from a dear friend who I could feel was genuinely happy to see me. I was visible, I was wanted, I was seen.

In-to-me-see

"Intimacy means that we're safe enough to reveal the truth about ourselves in all it's creative chaos. If a space is created in which two people are totally free to reveal their walls, then those walls, in time, will come down." - Marianne Williamson

During a new moon dance ceremony I was asked to set an intention for what I wanted to manifest over the next moon cycle. Usually when thinking about the future I like to analyse, reflect and rationalise what I’d like to bring forth to ensure I make the ‘right’ choice, however on this particular occasion as soon as words were spoken the word ‘intimacy’ kept coming to the forefront of my mind.

Now in theory this word excites me as it encompasses everything that I stand for vulnerability, self-acceptance and transparency amongst other qualities but on the other side of that was sheer fear of truly allowing myself to be seen. It is human nature to want to be witnessed in our uncensored and raw state, to be forgiven for our mistakes or short-coming’s and loved unconditionally for our very being. Actually putting ourselves in situations to express our own unique thoughts, feelings, dreams and fears is a whole other story though! Many times we hold ourselves back from connection because we fear the judgement and rejection of others, our mind goes through all the possible worst case scenario’s, many times stemming from repeated childhood wounds of not feeling a sense of belonging and so we convince ourselves of the inevitable future if we allow ourselves to be seen. However if you turn the tables and think of a time when someone has exposed their truth to you, how did you react? A lot of the time there is admiration and appreciation for the courage that it takes to step outside of the comfort zone and share. It’s through those authentic sharing’s that a deep and untempered connection arises. Those warm tingly feelings of the heart smiling, the body relaxing and the mind returning to the present moment.

To have intimacy we need empathy. To know we are here together sharing this human experience. To know we have a shoulder to lean on when we’re sad, a hand to hold when we’re scared and laughter to share when celebrating the joys of life. Giving ourselves permission to receive the special gift of intimacy is the true teaching that I received, the art of allowing. We are not in this human experience to just walk alone but to share the journey with the ones that we love and respect.

Through dropping into my body and expressing myself through movement I realised that my initial fear of the thought of intimacy was not around acknowledging and expressing my shadows, the doubts, the mistakes, the fears but embracing the light, my hopes, dreams and gratitude and sharing that with someone else. So as I danced for the new moon, I danced for my intentions, I danced for intimacy. Not just for myself but for everyone. For everyone to feel a sense of belonging, to have permission to be themselves without feeling like they need to wear a mask, to know that there is nothing that needs to be perfected or proven to earn or be worthy of connection and love.

Hope everyone’s next moon cycle is full of incredible, juicy intimacy!
Love and light
xxx

The Full Story of the NYC Self-Acceptance Experiment

As I walked into Time Square NYC at 8pm on a Saturday night, surrounded by conflicting messages on bright billboards of what beauty is in our society, I couldn’t help but feel nervous for what was about to unfold. Thousands of people from all different ages, backgrounds and nationalities congregated, taking selfies in the iconic scenery of The Big Apple oblivious to what I was about to do.

Although I had spent hours predicting all the things that could go wrong with the experiment as soon as I placed the blindfold over my eyes and was sitting in darkness a warm sense of trust washed over me. I had two friends, Stephanie and Peter in the audience looking over me but I also trusted the people of NYC to connect to the message of self-acceptance and not take advantage of the situation. Being a catalyst for change was a risk I was willing to take to start the conversation about our societal definition of beauty and address the shame that is often attached to the perfectionism we try to uphold.

I’d been reading Brene Brown’s work in the weeks leading up to the experiment which had sparked dialogue of the damaging role of shame in our society. Shame isolates us whereas vulnerability reminds us of our shared humanity. Through reflecting on my own life and the expectations I had placed on myself on how I wanted to be perceived by society, I realised that I had interwoven my sense of femininity and beauty with my long hair. I would spend hours trying to perfect my ‘look’, governing my sense of happiness on whether I felt beautiful on the outside. This created extreme high’s where I felt invincible and poised but withdrawal into shame and a need to earn my worth when I felt ‘ugly’. This continual judgement of my external appearance was draining and lonely. It separated me from the one thing I wanted the most, to know that I wasn’t alone.

As I knew the experiment was provocative I was prepared to wait for hours for the first cut to be made. I didn’t even have time to think about what was happening when all of a sudden the scissors were taken out of my hand. Snip. The first lock of hair fell to my lap. Soon after another person stepped forward and then there was stillness. The deep voice of an officer was the next thing to come. I was asked to move to a different location, which I willingly followed. Although I was not asking for money I was moved to the ‘busker and character zone’ where locals dressed up in a variety of costumes to provide entertainment and photos for tourists. This provided an interesting contrast but I was committed to following the experiment through to the end.

It took a long time for people to realise that I wasn’t asking for money, so I sat and waited for what seemed like hours. After a while doubt started to arise in me. I questioned if I was asking too much, if people didn’t understand my message, if they were offended by the message or if I was being perceived as a drama act for others entertainment. Whenever I got too carried away in my thoughts I just came back to my breath and waited patiently. Slowly but surely people started coming up, always choosing the scissors and taking off a very small amount of hair. I could sense the fear and hesitance in many of the participants as they were processing what they were about to do. When the first person picked up the electronic shaver a huge smile came across my face. After the wait I was ready to take a leap of faith with this stranger and am forever grateful to that person for taking such a courageous action.

Just when I thought there was momentum picking up, as I had already been sitting down for an hour or two, I was asked to move again, this time by the NYPD. I was led blindfolded by Steph to a new location, still in Times Square but on the edge of the busking area. Third time lucky. I intuitively knew that this was the last time, the next time I would move the experiment would be complete.

At one point a member of the public ran away with the scissors as a rebellion against the message. I remained in full trust that they would be returned to me as I understood that I was there to be a catalyst and evoke a wide range of emotions. It’s interesting that the human experience is so varied and when we start addressing issues that evoke shame, such as body image, people will respond in funny and unexpected ways. I knew in my heart that it was never my intention to offend anyone, what I was asking was for people to reflect on what they are attached to in their lives and ask where that attachment comes from, especially in the field of beauty. Thankfully the scissors were returned to me.

After over 3 hours of sitting on my little stool, my radical public hair cut was complete. I slowly removed my blindfold to reveal the crowd of friendly strangers that surrounded me, reflecting back to me the happiness that I felt inside. I had no idea what I looked like but I didn’t care either, I just allowed myself to be happy. Even though I was so scared of what I would look like without hair I now know that every time I look in the mirror I will see a courageous woman staring back at me, someone that I can be proud of.

Watch the full video here

The Story of the Girl Undressing in Public

As I stepped onto the streets of Piccadilly Circus with white board and markers in one hand and blindfold in the other, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of vulnerability at what I was about to do. Observing the members of the public on a casual Sunday lunchtime, oblivious to the fear-ridden chatter that was going on in my head. I’d seen a large number of families and individuals of different cultures in the area and was worried about offending them with exposing my body in the act of freedom that I was about to embark on.

As my clothes fell to the ground and I placed the blindfold over my eyes I could feel a shift of attention and confusion stirring in the air. My heart was racing while all the worst case scenarios were going through my head. I was scared that no one was going to draw a love heart on my body and I was going to be left out there in the open in my underwear on show to be ridiculed.

As the minutes passed it felt like hours. Usually during public experiments we have a couple of people planted in the crowd to act like onlookers and step in if nothing happens, however I knew that Elliot and Pete were the only ones out there and both of them were on camera’s so I really was putting full trust in the public to step up to the plate. All of a sudden I felt one of the pens in my left hand slip out of my grasp. The feeling of the felt pen was on my skin was one of the most overwhelming feelings of relief, gratitude and love that I’ve ever felt. I just burst into tears. I don’t know who that first person was but I am so thankful for their contribution. After that first love heart was drawn it felt like others were liberated to follow suit because soon all the pens were leaving my hands at a rapid pace!

One of the most moving and inspiring moments for me was listening to a Father explain to his children what I was doing. He was acknowledging the fact that everyone should love themselves exactly as they are and appreciate the bodies that they are given. It warmed my heart to know that his children and others would grow up understanding the impact of this global issue and have a feeling of contribution after drawing a love heart on my body. If everyone could know and appreciate how beautiful they are from childhood I think this world would be a very different place.

With the growing prevalence of eating-disorders and self-esteem issues around the world, this public act of self-acceptance aims to get people to question the true relationship that they have to themselves and body-image.

This was made as part of the Liberators International tour through Europe & you can watch the experiment here

What did the Police say?

The English police were supportive of my decision to stand and simply asked if I had others watching over me in the space for safety concerns. At the end of the experiment, i got dressed and was able to give a hug of thanks.

Where did the idea come from?

Body image and self-acceptance is something that I have always been passionate about endorsing after experiencing an eating disorder myself through high school and my early 20’s. As Richard Bach said ‘we teach best what we most need to learn’, so I believe it is part of my purpose for being here. One night I was watching Amanda Palmer’s TED talk ‘The Art of Asking’ and was truly inspired by her vulnerability and courage. She described how she had stripped naked to allow her fans to draw and write anything they wanted on her. That night as I was going to bed, the idea of linking the vulnerability of nudity with self-esteem issues in a public setting came to mind. Just the thought of looking down at my body and seeing it covered in love hearts from other people brought tears to my eyes. It was a reality check of how harsh we can be on ourselves, we really can be our own worst critics. The unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves can cause us to reject the love that others openly give because of a feeling of unworthiness. I knew this was a global concept that many people could relate to, so putting myself in that situation really was a stand for everyone out there that has been confronted with self-doubt in relation to the way they look.

Empowered Movement: The Story of Reconnecting

“Dancing is not just getting up painlessly, like a leaf blown on the wind;

Dancing is when you tear your heart out and rise out of your body to hang suspended between the worlds” – Rumi

 

The feminine energy within both men and women has been suppressed and constrained for decades as our society values the masculine strength of discipline, order and structure. This outlook leaves little room for creative expression. Instead perfection is glorified to the point where we can feel scared or ashamed to share atheistically imperfect artistic work, whether that be art, movement, the appearance of our body, creative writing or any other form of individual expression. Of course both polarities of the masculine and feminine are needed however we as individuals and a society are consistently striving to find a harmonious balance between the two.  

Like many, as a child I was deeply passionate about performing, singing and dancing. My childhood photo albums are filled with pictures of me wrapped in feather bowers, singing into toilet roles or hairbrushes pretending they are microphones and dancing my heart out like no one is watching. As time passed self-doubt and fear of others expectations of me started to creep in though. Slowly the arts were replaced with sciences and study books, dreams to become a dancer were replaced with academic commitments and free form expressive movement was replaced by structured, disciplined workouts that came with an obligation to uphold an appealing physical appearance and weight. Where had my innate passion for movement and play gone? Fascinated by this question I started exploring the motivation behind why people exercise, through both personal experience and through academic research with my PhD candidature at The University of Western Australia.

I became a freestyle podium dancer at various nightclubs in Perth for a number of years which involved being dressed up in exciting costumes and dancing my heart out to various resident and touring DJ’s. This free-form style dancing progressed to teaching at two dance academies and choreographing for music artists and Drag Queens while I was completing my university studies. However the shift from improvised dancing to structured choreography caused a strain on my relationship to dancing. Having to be creative on a weekly demand started placing overwhelming pressure and expectations on my art especially with my study commitments which in turn started turning a passion into a chore. Slowly I started to withdraw from wanting to dance at all until I stopped completely. 

This is the story that I hear often from people wanting to lose weight. They start turning expressive movements of healing like dancing and yoga into weight-loss strategies which over time start to drain them, causing resentment for the obligation to move their bodies. This in turn robs them of the enriching experience of connecting with the deep wisdom that our body’s hold.

After losing the motivation to dance, I removed myself from all facets of performance to focus on my academic studies. During that same time I experienced a deep compulsion to reject my own body which manifested as an eating disorder. Denying the feminine energy within me through depriving the basic human need for food and nourishment was an external reflection of the suppressed desire to flow and express creativity. It was when I started exploring alternative modalities of healing for the disconnected relationship that I had with myself that I was reintroduced to free-form dancing, specifically through the 5 Rhythms movement meditation.    Dignity

In just 25 min of dancing I dropped out of my mind, the should and shouldn’t rules and obligations that I had mentally constructed and instead surrendered into the feelings in my body. I was reinspired by a deep feeling of gratitude for how movement allows us to reconnect with the incredible vessel we’ve been gifted with in this lifetime and the unique expression that each of us has. In that moment I realised the significance of dancing in my personal journey and the immense self-healing capabilities that it embodies. By finding an inner stillness and sense of peace within my own body through movement, I was inspired to help others find that sense of home within them. Over the following years I was drawn to explore a variety of different movement styles and meditations including Chakra Dancing, 5 Rhythms, Ecstatic Dance and Osho. This passion for dancing led me to help facilitate interactive flash mob dances in public spaces. These flash mobs were not choreographed dance routines though, instead we purposely invited members of the public to participate in free form dancing and interactive games to reinspire a sense of community and freedom in celebrating the present moment. These social acts of freedom later developed into a now globally recognised movement known as The Liberators.

For those of us fortunate enough to have movement, may we remember the divine blessing it is to be able to dance. May we dance with our own unique flow, may we dance as it is our birth right to express our own individuality, may we dance for freedom for ourselves and our community and most of all may we dance to love ourselves and the body we have been gifted in this lifetime even more deeply.