Women, like Goddesses, Come in All Colors, Shapes, and Sizes…by Vanessa Soriano



I wish I could have gotten this phrase tattooed on my arm when I started the serpentine journey into womanhood.  Like most of us, growing up, all I ever saw in media were thin female bodies with impossible proportions.  As one article put it:

Although body size and weight perception differ across race and ethnicity, women in western society are subject to images of women as not only thin, but also athletic and toned, with small waists, large buttocks, and large breasts, a body type that is largely unattainable.  Because of this ideal, all girls and women typically have weight concerns that ultimately shape body image, satisfaction, and appreciation.

Not only does this article articulate the struggle so succinctly, it also addresses the challenges that women of color face in consuming media that typically reflects thin white female bodies.  I want to pause here for a moment and say that thin white female bodies are not wrong.  Goddess figurines from across the world show us that the feminine form can be beautiful thin or corpulent in all variations of skin tone.

The issue is that most girls and women (and all genders, really) are typically exposed to the kind of beauty quoted above.  The majority of the time the images we see are edited, filtered, curated, photoshopped, and cosmetically enhanced.  They are distorted images of reality, whether in social media or media in general.  But, in our hypnotic state of scrolling, we forget that what we are seeing (and comparing ourselves to) is not actually real.  In the article, “Instagram: Becoming a Worldwide Problem,” researchers show that the excessive engagement with appearance-focused accounts increase body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and body dissatisfaction.  Moreover, women and girls become subject to self-objectification, which means that we view our bodies as objects that are only valuable if they are perceived as sexy, beautiful, and thin.  Naturally, these variables lead us to have a negative emotional attitude towards our bodies and can cause anxiety, depression, unruly insecurity, and the relentless need to be validated by others.

In the midst of this self-loathing and fear, we women forget about the narratives and images that actually do support us (read anything by Marija Gimbutas for scholarship on ancient Goddess-worshipping cultures and how they positively affected women and men, read Brené Brown to understand how shaming/hating ourselves never works, and read “Why Women Need the Goddess” by Carol P. Christ to understand how the Divine Feminine affirms female power).  We can transcend ideologies that objectify and devalue the feminine (and all other oppressive beliefs) if we are willing to pay attention to (and absorb) content that serves us.

In the midst of being at war with our bodies, we forget about the ancient statues, figurines, drawings, temples, and cave paintings that celebrated the diversity of women’s bodies.  We forget that in prehistoric times, most civilizations saw God as a woman in all different shapes, colors, and sizes.  We forget that some traditions still revere the wide-ranging beauty and strength of the Divine Feminine (Hinduism, Buddhism, Wiccans/Pagans, Yogis, Yoruba Religion, Native American Spirituality, Native Hawaiian Spirituality, New Age Beliefs).

When I’m in the midst of teaching a challenging yoga class and we are struggling to hold a pose, I often remind my students that we have a choice for how we show up to our practice: we can hate ourselves through it or we can encourage ourselves.  We can grow from a place of patience and devotion to our self-worth or we can drown in self-judgment and lies of not being enough.

I feel the same is true when we look in the mirror or when we scroll or when we [insert anything you’d like here].  We have to make the choice to remember our value, beauty, and worthiness without question (as the wise author Tosha Silver states).  We have to devote ourselves to befriending our bodies and stop the pointless war of comparison.  We have to take care of our bodies from a healthy mindset of self-care; not from, “I have to be thin to be loved” or “I have to look like her to be accepted so I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”  We also cannot shame women who do decide to cosmetically enhance their bodies.  I do believe you can make a choice to modify your body from an empowered space, and of course, that opposite is true as well.  We have to remember that beauty is a vast energy that has room for all colors, shapes, and sizes.  Just like there are thousands of images of the Divine Feminine that reflect the array of the feminine form, the same is true for female bodies.

The next time you find yourself treading the rabbit hole of comparison, self-judgment, self-objectification and the entire painful mess that it brings, ask yourself:

Does this thought or behavior lead me towards more fear?  Do I truly desire to feel more anxiety, insecurity, depression, and pain?  Where does that ever really take me?  To more disordered eating, destructive behavior, body dysmorphia and dissatisfaction.  Do I really want to continue this war inside that can never be won?

Or, do I devote myself to thoughts, behaviors, and content that cultivate peace, self-acceptance, and self-love?  It may take a lifetime, a dozen books, healing sessions, counseling, and limited time on social media to get there, but I’d rather focus my mind, body, and soul on things that don’t destroy me.  It’s a path where I can actually feel victorious and good enough.

 

 

Vanessa Soriano is a 500-hour registered yoga teacher who completed her yogic training in India. She also has a PhD in Women’s Spirituality (an interdisciplinary, multicultural, female-centric approach to the study of spirituality and religion) from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Given her educational background, she has discovered helpful (healing) content that empowers the mind, body, and soul. As an empowerment educator, Vanessa guides you on how to integrate beliefs and practices that invigorate and support you.



Categories: Body, Divine Feminine, Goddess Spirituality, Healing, yoga

Tags: , , ,

20 replies

  1. And do read, ”Myth of the Goddess” by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford.

    Like

  2. Thank you for these reminders of our inherent diverse wisdom and beauty. I am not a student of yoga but practiced Chi gong and Tai chi for many years. I started just was I was turning 50. One of the many gifts of this practice is to locate myself inside my body, that is I see from inside my body, not outside or through a toxic cultural lens. Thanks for your encouragement.

    Like

  3. Thank you. Wonderful article. As mother to four, I have watched them (or their peers — two older boys, two younger girls) be influenced by the dominant culture and social media. ‘Preening’ for the camera, that ‘kiss’ thing all the girls do, taking picture after picture until they get that ‘perfect’ one, using the editing to change things. They think these resulting pictures and appearances give them power, but oh, true power lies in being comfortable in your own skin, no matter the shape, color or appearance! To change!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent essay – we can never say enough about the destructive side of female objectification of our bodies… we are TAUGHT to do this by a crazed culture. As you say these barbie type images are ” are distorted images of reality, whether in social media or media in general.” So why do we continue to market and buy them? When I taught women’s studies we spent a lot of time unpacking what these childhood toys had done to so many…. and barbie is just one example – the obsession with thin is legion – I have gastric issues and happen to be thin and you can’t even imagine the people who praise this thin-ness until I say it’s not by choice – I have a disease. Ridiculous – I am 75 years old.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It would be great if women (and men) would go deep and decide to live from the heart rather than from the ego; to live without being under the dominance of the ego, the false sense of self; to not identify with anything of substance, but rather, just be a verb, the verb is love; to recognize that one serves oneself best by serving others. This is why I say, one could easily replace the word “goddess” with potato. Although I agree that to realize the divinity and sacred quality within all humans and all life is essential, the “goddess” idea seems to me to have a sophomoric feel to it, something egoic.

    To really escape the onus of having to be “beautiful” in order to attract a worthy mate, is to cultivate beauty within yourself by really being a beacon of love and light and then you may find someone who loves you for your inner beauty and not have to endure a superficial relationship. After all physical beauty tends to fade with time.

    Like

    • Thank you for your insights. While I love the word goddess and think that it represents Divine strength and diversified images of feminine beauty, wisdom, and Love, I can see how ego could use that term in unhelpful ways. But, I think that ego will use just about anything to serve itself. Either way, I agree it serves all people to do their best to live from heart (Love) and honor the terms/practices that get you there.

      Like

  6. Excellent post! Yes, we’ve been indoctrinated for centuries that the female body must be thin to be “perfect,” whereas the male body can be big and fat and “powerful.” That is, for boys, bigness = power (consider football players), whereas for girls, bigness = indulgence (in food), laziness, and powerlessness (consider the “supermodels”). Consider the “biggest loser” TV shows that “help” people lose weight but are actually about as sadistic as anything can ever be. Your photos of goddesses are excellent examples of what women can look like. And poor Barbie, who started out as a sex toy. Is it possible to change the social media?

    Thanks for writing this post. I hope people pay attention.

    Like

    • Ouuuu….I LOVE how you framed all of this. Yes….bigness=power for boys but not for women.

      There are some brilliant women on social media who are part of the campaign of #normalizenormalbodies and they show all the different editing tools out there to “get rid” of stretch marks, fat, acne scars, discoloration, cellulite, you name it. So, they bare it all in an effort to normalize what most of us deal with. I think it is a start to change social media :)

      Like

  7. Great post my dear former student. Sad that women and girls are still so burdened with this!

    Like

  8. The emphasis on being thin is (or at least was, TV and social media may have changed it) related to affluence. When I lived in South America, with people who often didn’t have enough to eat, the greeting was “you look great, you’re getting fat”. A large bodied woman was a sign of success for her father/husband. I remember the culture shock I felt when I got back to the US and everyone was talking about diets. Now, fifty years later, I am content to recognize that I have the body of an East European peasant, well designed for the famine to come.
    Re Barbie: My understanding is that her origin was actually feminist. Before she was introduced, girls were given baby dolls to practice mothering. Barbie provided (however unrealistic) other career choices.

    Like

  9. I love this so much. I completely empathize with this – I, too, internalized far too many of these beliefs and ideals about myself without any evidence proving it correct. It’s taken me years to even question that inner voice of doubt and mistrust and try to push her away instead of letting her in and giving her a seat at the table. I hope with so much changing in our media and culture future generations will continue to question and move ahead.

    Like

    • I love your comment so much! It’s quite the coincidence bc this morning I was doing a guided meditation by Tara Brach, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and practicing Buddhist for over 30 years, and she created this meditation called RAIN. It is all about inviting the wounded self to the table and ultimately nurturing it, but recognizing that it is not the totality of who you are. RAIN stands for: Recognize, Allow, Investigate w/Care & Interest, and Nurture. You might like the meditation and I think it’s lovely you and her have the same name :)

      Link to RAIN meditation here: https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-practice-rain/

      Like

Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: