Returning to wholeness

Women Returning to Wholeness

authenticity

Stop feeling shame with Burnaby Sex TherapyWhy do I feel sad and angry when I listen to women talk about feeling inadequate in bed during  Sex Therapy and Intimacy Counselling? Usually these feelings of not measuring up are accompanied by shame and hurting self esteem, and very often they originate because of what is displayed in public media. Especially pornography has created an expectation for men and women regarding foreplay, arousal, capacity to orgasm and what or what “should” be enjoyable for women when we have sex. I feel sad and angry when I witness the consequences for  both men and women who have bought into what is being presented as “normal.” I don’t think it is acceptable that you may feel afraid to ask for what you want or need when having sex because you don’t want to be “difficult.”

When we have sex we are on many levels at our most intimate and most vulnerable. Feelings of shame or inadequacy can turn an wonderful experience into a nightmare.

Can you relate to Claire?

Claire came to my office because she wasn’t enjoying sex very much with her boyfriend. Even though in a previous relationship there hadn’t been any “problems”, with this particular partner she was experiencing pain during penetration. She also seemed to “need” more foreplay these days. What frustrated her the most about her own body was that it was always changing. If one day she enjoyed her nipples being stimulated with more vigor, another day that same stimulation felt uncomfortable if not painful.

She didn’t want to hurt her boyfriends feelings or make him feel like he wasn’t a good lover. Some previous requests about changing positions had been met with some defensiveness. This had left Claire feeling awkward and like she “was being difficult.” Her current solution to the problem was to “praise” the things that her lover was doing which felt good in the hopes that he would catch on…and to suffer in silence when she was experiencing pain. However after having felt pain during lovemaking she would often feel disconnected and sad. Then her inner critic would kick in and she would feel inadequate and ashamed.

Let’s dispel 3 major myths:

1. Your body should respond to similar stimulation in similar fashion at different times. 

Our bodies change thru the monthly cycle as hormones fluctuate. What may have felt fantastic 3 days ago may not feel so great today. Educate your partner and clarify that this is not about him (or her) doing something wrong. This is about you honouring the changing sensitivity of your body and inviting your lover to do the same.

2. You should be lubricated and “ready to go” in about 5 minutes otherwise there is something wrong with you.

When Glamour did a survey about how much foreplay and sex women were actually having over 50% reported a time span of approx 5 minutes. Let’s get real. There are those days where you are horny, for whatever reason, and most likely don’t need a lot of foreplay. But 90% of the time, between fatigue, lack of time, multitasking, stress and anxiety, your body needs foreplay and  a little time to slow down. You need time to connect and not only open your pelvis but open your heart space. As you relax and enjoy, your body responds naturally. But if you are worried about “taking up too much time” or BORING!!! your lover, then you will actually need more time. It is

3. If you don’t get wet, you’re not turned on.

I have listened to countless women express their frustration and embarrassment because even though they felt aroused, their vulva and vagina were not very lubricated. There can be a number of reasons from hormonal changes to stress that could be contributing to lack of lubrication. Remember – our bodies are not machines that respond in some logical and predefined way. But most of all – stop feeling inadequate or settle for painful sex. Use lubricants! They are not an indication of there being something wrong with you (or your partner for that matter). Here in the greater Vancouver area we have many good sex shops. One that I recommend in particular is Womyn’s Ware. You will be able to sample different lubricants and get knowledgable  and matter of fact advice from staff.

stop feeling inadequate and start feeling sexyStop feeling inadequate or ashamed of the beautiful body you have. No matter what size, what shape or what particular sensitivities it may have, it is yours for this lifetime. Every body is beautiful and a gift so we may go out and experience life every day. Asking for what you need sexually is an act of self care and self-respect. Practicing excellent self-care is a gift to your lover, because it will mean that you can show up, stay present and be authentic, which will lead to a deeper intimate connection. 

Are you wondering if you are a perfectionist?  Take a look and see if you can relate to these statements: how true are they on a scale of 1 to 10?

  • Nothing good comes from making mistakes
  • I must do things right the first time
  • I must do everything well, not just the things I know I’m good at
  • If I can’t do something perfectly then there’s no point even in trying
  • I rarely give myself credit when I do well because there’s always something more that I could do
  • Sometimes I’m so concerned about getting one task done perfectly that I haven’t have time to complete the rest of my work

If your total score is higher than 32, your life is undoubtedly being affected by perfectionism.

As a perfectionist you’re every employers dream. You’re usually willing and ready to work overtime and always go the extra mile. Your colleagues come and hand you projects they don’t have time for because they know you will take them on… even though your own to do list is stretched to the max.

You would think that with all this extra effort you would be particularly appreciated. Instead your boss has grown to expect you to be always available and the promotion went to Jane in accounting. Furthermore, your boyfriend, partner or family is not impressed. What is wrong with this picture you wonder?

As a perfectionist you’re also every employee’s nightmare. You can’t relinquish control over anything and your stance is: why bother delegating to get the job done with mediocrity when you can do it yourself perfectly the first time. Your team is used to receiving mostly criticism rather than praise and everybody has long stopped to come up with innovative ideas.

At home you wonder why you always have to do everything yourself. The truth is that others just don’t do it well enough for you. Because, didn’t you know, there is a right way and a wrong way to stack the dishwasher…

Perfectionists can be in the habit of engaging in a number of unhelpful behaviors to make sure that they continue to meet the incredibly high standards they set for themselves.

 

Difficulty in making decisions is one of these unhelpful behaviours that you might be engaging in if you have perfectionistic tendencies.

Let’s say you’ve had a long day at work and all you really want to do is have a quiet evening in front of the TV. The voice in your head however is of a different opinion. It is suggesting that really you should be going to the gym because otherwise you’re going to gain weight. Or, you should work for another hour on that report you have to present tomorrow. Or, you should have sex tonight because that’s what your boyfriend or partner has been hoping for. When you have all these shoulds going on, it can become very confusing and feel overwhelming.

In the end you don’t know what you really want to do. All you do know is, that you want to do the right thing, you don’t want to upset anyone and you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Every should has a whole chorus of voices advocating its validity.

So here you are, struggling to make a decision.

If the should virus has taken over your life and your trying to figure out what you really want to do, you need to go back to the body. Remember, while all the voices in your head are competing for your attention, your body already knows the truth.

 So the next time you’re undecided, take a moment and close your eyes. Take a few breaths to become calm and grounded. Then visualize each of the options proposed by the should voice. Finally visualize your original thought of what you wanted to do.

Notice how your body feels with each image that you produce in your mind. When your body feels open or relaxed, you have connected to what you really want to do and ironically what you should do.

The short-term benefits of allowing your inner truth to be your compass are authenticity and an increased ability to be fully present with what you’re doing.

Confronting the double edged sword of perfectionism isn’t always easy. It requires courage and a certain willingness to feel vulnerable as you show up in the world as your authentic self. The long-term benefits of this act of courage and of letting go of perfectionism are deeper connections with others and yourself.

 

Many years ago, when I was training in Dance Movement Therapy and Ritual Theater, at some point during the exercises I would find myself overwhelmed with feelings. At the time, that felt scary and “not good enough” and a typical reaction was to tell myself that I had to “get a grip.”

How often do you tell someone in your life…yourself perhaps… to get a grip?  To get it together?

Other versions of this are “What’s the matter with you?”

Because really and truly, what is the matter with you? Why are you unhappy or depressed or feeling anxious? Why are you unsatisfied with your life? You have no reason. You have a good life, a good partner, a job and a roof over your head. Think about all the people on this planet who are so much worse off than you are.

It doesn’t make sense!!

If this type of inner dialogue sounds familiar, then you also know that these kinds of thoughts and feelings are very unsettling. If like many, you manage uncomfortable or painful feelings thru emotional eating, you might find yourself standing in front of the fridge or cupboard looking for that special treat which will make you feel better.

But what if it did make sense? What if there was NO thing wrong with you?

What if you were able to stop, breathe and stop censuring yourself?

If you were to allow yourself to sit in authenticity, your feelings surfacing without judgment?

What would happen?

You could find a gateway to your true self. You would be able to still the longings that have somehow gotten on the “forbidden” list.

You would not have to go looking for food again and again until you decide to punish yourself with a diet.

Three things are needed for the process of “allowing it to make sense.”

You need to let go of shame and find your courage so you can cultivate self-compassion.

If you can embody who you already are rather than trying to be something you’re not, you’re on your way to uncovering compassion.

Be present with yourself and trust your knowing.
Accept the awareness of your feelings and allow them to be good enough, to be perfect just the way they are.

That is your first step towards letting go of shame and practicing self-compassion.

Initially, this place of authenticity can be scary and uncomfortable, because the old voices in your head telling you that your feelings don’t make sense and you should “get a grip” do not disappear quietly. However, a practice of mindfulness and loving kindness towards what defines you in this moment will allow you to linger more often and for longer periods of time in your place of truthfulness.

Remember, authenticity is not a quality, it is a collection of choices that you make every day and every moment. The more you can love yourself and who you are, the less you will need to turn to food to stuff down how you really feel.

 

This in turn will allow you to heal your relationship with food and your body and break free from the pursuit of weight loss thru yo-yo dieting.

I leave you with a quote from Oriah Mountain Dreamer:

“What if the question is not why I am so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?”
Warmly,

Ina

Eating Disorders Therapist North Vancouver, Counselling Burnaby