Today’s article is one I’ve been trying to write for some time, as it comes in response to a question I was sent a while ago from a reader.
The question she asked me was “What if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?”
I won’t go into the specifics of her situation, but this is a situation that many women face around the world every day.
Imagine you’ve spent your whole life feeling beautiful and womanly, you love your curves and every time you look in the mirror you connect with your body and how feminine it feels.
Then one day you’re diagnosed with breast cancer.
You have only once choice, to have a mastectomy, in order to save your life.
Thankfully, you recover, but the life that has been saved from death has been changed forever.
When you look in the mirror you no longer recognise yourself.
You wonder where the woman who used to look back at you has gone.
Wearing the clothes that used to make you feel good, now makes you feel self conscious.
Feeling good is no longer associated with feeling like a woman…it’s more about covering up and protecting the body that has changed so much.
Hiding from the world a body that no longer feels like your own…a body that no longer feels feminine.
I read, hear and watch stories like this all the time. The details might change…it could be relating to hair loss, an hysterectomy, or the loss of a limb that means that you’re no longer able to dance…but the essence is the same.
What if one of the things that made you feel most feminine is taken away from you? …or worse what if the thing that made you feel most feminine BECOMES the very thing that makes you feel anything but?
Well, I’m very lucky that I’ve never been through a situation like this personally, but I have shared the experience of many people who have.
So what do you do if you lose what makes you feel most feminine?
Well the first thing to do is to allow yourself to grieve.
Losing a part of ourselves that was tied to our identity is a big deal, and something that people don’t give enough recognition to.
It’s important to allow yourself to embrace, feel and experience the grieving process with regard to this aspect of yourself, and not deny your feelings around it.
You are likely to go through denial, anger, bargaining (or the “if only” phase), depression and finally acceptance. Sometimes we’re in so much of a hurry to get to the final phase that we don’t allow ourselves what we need in order to get there.
This has had a significant affect on your life, and it’s important to both acknowledge that and allow yourself to process it.
With regard to femininity specifically, it’s important to remember that (as I’ve always said) femininity has nothing to do with anything physical.
It’s not about your shape, your size, the colour or amount of your hair, what you wear, your makeup, your accessories, what you say or what you do.
It’s about who you are…and how you feel. It can be hard to recover from a knock to an important aspect of yourself…but it can be done.
This is a moment in your life where you get to play with and explore what connects you to your own feeling of femininity. Have some fun with it…try different things. It could be taking a walk in nature, a yoga class, spending time with animals or small children. There are a whole range of articles on the site that can give you a starting point to begin playing.
The key is to ask yourself the question, “What opens my heart?” …when you find the answer to that question, you’re deeply connected to your femininity in a way that a lot of women don’t usually discover.
All though it may not seem like it, this relates very much to a conversation that I’ve had on a regular basis with gay, lesbian and transgender friends.
As hard as this may be to understand when you’re going through something difficult, the fact that you’re going through it can put you at a huge advantage to most people who aren’t going through it.
For example, when you’re put in a situation where you are forced to face questions about your own personal feelings of femininity and masculinity (such as being gay in a society where it’s not always accepted, or losing something that connected you to your feelings of femininity) it brings this whole topic to the forefront of your mind.
It means you’re conscious of it, and when you’re conscious of it you can make the choices around it that are right for you. The vast majority of people walking the planet have never and will never stop to question what masculinity or femininity mean to them…which means they will never make conscious choices about them…and they will never get to experience what life can be like when you do.
I had an email a while back from a guy who was very upset because it had taken him 30 years to become comfortable with who he was as a gay man, and coming to term with masculinity and femininity and what it meant to him. The gift of his situation is that he had been figuring this out for 25 of those years…for me personally, I’ve only had the last 4 or 5 years to figure it out…and there are a lot of people who never will.
As hard as they are, these situations can be a gift…if you want them to be.
When you’ve gone through the grieving process and reached the point of acceptance with your situation, it can help to look back on what’s happened and see if you can find anything good that’s come out of it. Has there been an unexpected gift in your experience? What has it brought you? What have you realised about yourself? Who is in your life as a result of it? How could you use your experience to help or inspire others?
…and I’ll leave you finally with this fantastic quote by Jackie Morgan MacDougall which I think sums it up beautifully:
“I remember being asked shortly after my double mastectomy, “How does it feel losing everything that makes you a woman?” Funny, I didn’t know I had. My breasts didn’t define me before they were removed. My breasts don’t define me now. But every scar and imperfection does serve as a daily reminder of the strong, unstoppable force I am; ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes for the people I love. If that doesn’t make me a woman, I don’t know what does.” – Jackie Morgan MacDougall