One way to foster self-love is to join a group of women or sister goddess mamas among whom bragging is not just encouraged, it’s expected. One key component of the training in the networking groups that sprang from the former Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership in Women, founded by Naomi Wolf, is teaching women how to openly talk about their accomplishments and strengths and to commend their female peers for doing so. They encourage speaking about one another by sharing their female colleagues’ assets and skills with another person. In other words, networking.
The ideology behind Woodhull and other women’s leadership groups is for women to achieve full equality in the workplace and elsewhere where they have to learn the same skills their male counterparts learn from an earlier age. For example: how to negotiate a salary, why competition can be a good thing, how to public speak, etc. Forcing yourself to talk about your strengths is a great way to start liking yourself. In Mama Gena’s weekly classes, we had to come with a brag each week. Anything from, I took a luscious bath or I bought myself some expensive lingerie to I got a new job, and then everyone would applaud. It was such a good way to boost each other up. That kind of stuff starts to seep in!
You do not need have to have experienced rape or sexual trauma to feel scared and anxious about how to protect your teenage daughter. You and I know all too well that my story and that of countless other females (and males) is far too common. Where is the middle ground between burying our heads in the sand and hoping our daughters emerge from adolescence relatively unscathed (which, sadly, means still probably experiencing an unwanted, demeaning touch, remark, or cat call in the street by virtue of being female), and being in a perpetual state of panic and policing our girls, forever anticipating the worst and sheltering them from every possible danger? The question remains: how do we protect our daughters? After speaking with experts, wise older crone mamas, and younger mamas—some trauma survivors, some not—and learning from my own healing journey, I’ve created a general roadmap with major landmarks to guide you and help keep you and your daughter on track.
Our desire to protect our young starts in utero. Even before our child is born, we parents are in protection mode, worrying about how to keep the unborn fetus safe from all the various evils, including unhealthy diet, BPA products, raw seafood, etc. While there are many different parenting philosophies rest assured that if you want some guidance, you can find a book to help you. You can find many books on how to parent an adolescent, too. What parenting experts, therapists, experienced mothers, and women survivors all emphasize is teaching your children boundaries and using their voice. Girls need to know that their voices will be heard early on, long before the teenage years.
On August 25, 2018, The Way of The Warrior Mama received the CIPA EVVY Merit award in both the Parenting and Family category and the Self-help category. The awards dinner was fun and a nice validation. I also connected with a fellow author. So over all, it was well worth attending the awards dinner!
Learn more about the book and how to stay connected here.
Sit down with your daughter and watch her favorite TV show, then discuss the issues raised in the show. Know what media she is consuming. When she is at an appropriate age, watch films and documentaries with her that address serious issues from human trafficking in films like Taken to the exploitation of teenage girls in the international modeling industry in the documentary Girl Model.
Joining or creating a mother/daughter book club is another way to select media that matters. It also makes it easier to talk about issues by talking about them through the characters.
In every women’s circle I lead, I find that creating a centerpiece altar is crucial. Creating your own personal altar is also essential. Perhaps you have heard meditation and alternative healers recommend building an altar. Does this seem like a nice idea, yet somehow you never get around to it? Here’s another way to look at it: if a sacred church were pillaged and desecrated by a raging group of bandits or violent lunatic fundamentalists from an opposing religion, what would the most devout group of followers and the leader of the church do once the bandits had left and it was safe to go back to the church? Most likely, they would return to the church, even if it lay in rubble, and pick up the pieces. For however long it took, they would sweep, dust, and repaint that church, and then they would lay down flowers and relight candles and grieve the destruction that befell it before decorating it and making it even better than before.
If you have experienced abuse, you may feel like you are damaged goods. There is no question you have been violated. But there is also no question that your soul, your beauty, your sacred goddess self is there, and you just need to build yourself an altar. Even a candle, a small object that has meaning to you, a rock, a leaf, a feather, your favorite gem stone, or a picture or photograph of you or someone you love or even someone you don’t know but who inspires you, or a picture of a rainbow or a beautiful beach surrounded by a lush forest, whatever it is, create an altar for yourself. You could create this altar in a passageway of your home so that every time you pass by it, you can touch your heart and say a mantra or a phrase that empowers you—or just pass by and smile. Or you could create an altar by your reading area or the place where you meditate or go to sleep. In fact, you could create several altars and see how creating physical manifestations of your own devotion to yourself and your life can start to deepen your self-love.
While Britney doesn’t find inspiration from goddesses, altars have played a part in her self-love. Britney began creating altars when she started therapy over 20 years ago:
“I do find it helpful to have small altars throughout my house. My first altars were where I would sit and meditate back in the early days. Now I walk for my meditations and have several altars scattered through my house. I have a shelf of women’s power statutes, an area where I have photos of people who have died in my life, a shelf of tidbits from my daughter’s childhood. I love walking by these areas—they keep my memories alive.”
Perhaps the ultimate archetype is that of Maleficent. I will be forever grateful for experiencing Kristy Arbon’s ingenuity in showing how we can develop mindful self-compassion by learning about the modern-day tale of Maleficent, the evil fairy in the Sleeping Beauty fairytale as told in the Angelina Jolie film. In the Maleficent archetype, we learn that she was an innocent child just as we all once were. In her story, her wings were ripped from her, a metaphor for a loss of innocence and also a common metaphor for rape, the shattering end of innocence that can haunt us until we face it and learn to heal it. For survivors, this story is particularly powerful because even if it is a fairytale, like all archetypes it comes from a shared experience. For Maleficent, as with all of us, there was a defining moment in her story, a loss of innocence and loss of naiveté. She hardens and tests her boundaries and power but then through looking after Sleeping Beauty her maternal and feminine side comes out. Kristy Arbon:
“She sees that innocence in this other young girl and she develops this fierce protection for this young girl. So, she mobilizes this power she has, this hardness, to protect this young girl. Towards the end, there’s this mobilizing to an even greater degree of her power and her strength, to extend her desire for protection to the whole land that she’s taking care of, so this maternal instinct that she has for this girl extends to the whole land. It’s like a social activist sort of piece she has there. The personal becomes political for her. There’s a forgiveness piece in there so she learns to rise above old hurts to a forgiveness piece. Then right at the end she gets her wings back.”
These stories remind us we are not alone because, as Kristy Arbon points out, many of these stories are hundreds of years old, allowing us to feel a kinship with women—sisterhood—throughout time. By feeling less alone, we feel more connected—an integral part of our healing.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Way of the Warrior Mama: The Guide to Protecting & Raising Strong Daughters. Sign up to be notified when the book is released. The book is a Finalist in the CIPA EVVY Awards.
We spend an inordinate amount of time teaching girls to be nice and respect others, and not enough time on how to respect themselves, their bodies, and their minds. If all we tell our girls is that they are made of sugar and spice and everything nice and that in life you have to smile, say yes, and be agreeable, then we are training them to be victims. Sometimes the answer lies in the ability to say yes or no to a hug. In writer, storyteller, and teacher Jamie Waggoner’s Artemis’s workshop, girls learn about:
“A goddess who is very empowered in her maidenhood, in her girlhood, womanhood, she’s all about boundaries, working with nature and putting your sights on what you want. Those are kind of her big three lessons and unapologetically going for what you want. Those are some pretty good lessons for girls, right?”
Jamie tells the story of Artemis, who, against her father’s wishes, chose her own path and used her bow and arrow to aim at her goals in life. Artemis’s story teaches girls that they can be independent and reach for the stars. Then comes the hugging exercise. Participants, both women and girls, pair up, and then one decides to be the person requesting the hug and the other the person being asked to be hugged. In front of the group, each pair does the exercise. The person asks something like, “Can I have a hug?” and the girl on the other end can choose to say yes or no. There is great power in letting girls know at an early age that they have the right to say no. Jamie of course teaches them that they should be polite and respectful in saying no, but that there is nothing wrong with not wanting someone to touch you if you do not feel comfortable or in the mood. The idea being that if a girl learns this now at an early age, it will be much easier for her to refuse an unwanted physical or sexual advance from a man or a woman later. As Jamie points out, this exercise is also important in helping build body memory. By practicing in safe spaces like a workshop or Red Tent, girls and women can consciously learn in a both a psychological and kinesthetic way so that when they encounter a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable their body and mind will respond appropriately. … more … “Learning to Say No to an Unsolicited Hug”
If you’re a mom, you’re worried about your daughter. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the question still remains: How do we protect our daughters? By tackling the subject of sexual assault head-on, The Way of the Warrior Mama offers a roadmap to navigating one of the most treacherous parts of the journey from girlhood to womanhood.