This post is part of our summer series on the Womanly Arts, in honor of our upcoming course, Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp! Alyce, a Mastery Grad from NYC, joins us to share her inspiring story of how she transformed her relationship with her body, self-care, and confidence, through her practice of the Womanly Arts!
Alyce, Age 29, New York City –
Researcher and Health & Body Love Coach
I began this journey as a woman crippled by fear. As a woman whose decisions were driven by guilt and shame, who self-isolated, who deemed myself unable to take the reigns of my own life.
Like many women, I seemed “fine” on the outside – with few in my life who understood that all this was going on below the surface.
I was highly functioning, but completely unfulfilled, finding myself in this deep well of perpetual funk.
My relationship with my body was toxic; I had never known any other way.
I came from a family of body shame, racking up years of critical messages. I remember in 10th grade, a relative bought me Slim Fast for my birthday – and she really thought she was being helpful. But experiences like that just taught me to hate my body.
Before coming to the School of Womanly Arts, I had sort of given up on feeling comfortable in my own skin. I had been through almost 15 years struggling with disordered eating, fad diets, and deadly friend-comparison.
Like so many other women, I “tried everything” to get myself happier or healthier.
I was constantly hopping on new trends. I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, raw, paleo, and pescatarian. I’ve tried yoga and pilates and stuffed pounds of kale into morning smoothies.
The problem was that at the end of the day, I just didn’t love myself enough to stop hurting myself.
Growing up I was taught that as a woman I come third – God first, family and friends second, and then me. Self-love? Self-care? They were self-indulgent. They were inefficient. They were completely foreign to me.
When I heard about Mama Gena’s from a friend a couple a years ago, I was curious, but seriously skeptical:
I thought, “It’s expensive, and seems like a weird secret club – I mean, what do they DO anyway?” Combined with their seemingly endless penchant for pink, I was not sold.
Fast forward to six months ago, when I finally said yes – Yes to myself, and yes to what seemed like a slim chance that this work could really help me.
Since then, this work has filtered into every area of my life, but the biggest shifts have been the deepest ones:
I have revolutionized how I care for my body, reinvented my internal dialogue, and reclaimed a profound confidence in who I am.
I’m honored to get to share some of my story with you here today, along with the ways I’ve personally integrated the Womanly Arts into my daily life.
After you read, I’d love to connect with you in the comments!
The Art of Owning Your Own Beauty
Really absorbing and learning to live the Art of Owning My Own Beauty was worth the tuition alone.
And the art is just that – owning MY beauty. Not society’s idea of beauty. Not my (well-intentioned) family’s idea of beauty. Not my self-loathing version of beauty.
It’s taking full ownership in the beauty of every single inch of this big bold beautiful body, exactly as it is.
And maybe even more importantly, it means owning the beauty of who I am, how I think, how I show up for the people I love, how I strive to contribute to this world, and every piece of that internal language.
Here are a few tips for how I foster the experience of feeling and living beautifully, on a daily basis:
- Dance often. Dancing is my go-to, to get out of my head and into my body. Anywhere, anytime. I can lock myself in the bathroom for five minutes at work, crank some Jill Scott in my headphones and remember who I am as a woman.
- Play more. I remember going to the clothing store in month three of the Mastery Program and looking at everything differently. Every whim I had could be fulfilled for no other reason than having fun and feeling beautiful in the dressing room. This goes for just about every environment – I’ll admit to frolicing around the park and taking big handfuls of leaves to my face just to smell them.
- Rethink limitations. I had always imposed so many restrictions on myself. I couldn’t wear a bathing suit in front of other people, I couldn’t show my arms in public, I had to hide any eating in public lest people point at the fat girl. Well, bare arms are my favorite now, and you’ll be hard pressed to find me anxious and starving at any party.
The Art of Sensual Pleasure
Wow, just that phrase alone – “The Art of Sensual Pleasure” – triggered my running-away response six months ago. I mean, we’re not supposed to talk about that, are we??
Now, I understand that this Art means taking advantage of every amazing sensation that comes with living in this incredibly gorgeous human body.
Really, again, it all comes down to self-love. Deserving pleasure. Deserving to feel good. Deserving to nourish myself, feel joy, feel relaxed, feel taken care of.
This Art is all about putting yourself first, and choosing pleasure over pain. I used to think Sensual Pleasure was all about sex, but that’s only one aspect of this Art.
Waiting in the rain at the bus stop? Pleasurable. Longing for a vacation? Pleasurable. It’s a beautiful twist on perception.
But I didn’t always feel this powerful about my situation. The more I heard Mama Gena talk about it, the more I flirted with it, and the more I watched other women experiment with it… I realized how incredible self-care and the pursuit of pleasure, is. I mean, it feels REALLY good. Who knew?
It takes courage to decide to take pleasure. Here are a few ways I practice this art, on a daily basis – these are small moments that add up to a completely different experience of living in my body . . .
- Beautiful nourishment. I feed my body fresh and gorgeous home-cooked food. If I go out to eat with my friends instead, I eschew any guilt and partake in that experience, just as self-satisfied. I always make an effort to actually take my lunch break, or sit down at home and really enjoy my food and all the delicious things it’s doing for my body.
- Affirmation. Sometimes I just need to hear that I am beautiful, I am whole, I am important, I am doing good work, I have plenty to give, and it’s completely unnecessary to wait for another person to come along and read my mind. I write these and other saucy notes on stickies and leave them around the house, repeat them to myself on smelly subway rides, and even write them on my mirror in lipstick (which currently reads “You are delicious”).
- Moving. Curious about what my body could do, I started taking sensual movement/dance classes with some other women in this community. I was surprised by how incredible and tapped-in they made me feel. It was like my body was always supposed to move that way but I’d never let myself bypass the anxiety of getting myself into the room.
The Art of Whetting My Own Appetite
The Womanly Arts are connected, fluid, and related – one leads to the other, and back again.
My desires for my life started rocking steady once I was experiencing a higher level of self-care and self-love.
I was growing my stock in myself, and everyone around me could tell I was in a better place. I began to heal my relationship with my body and love it for the incredibly wise and beautiful vessel that it is. I began to fully acknowledge my vast range of emotions by embracing the tools I learned from Mama Gena. And that led to a whole lot of clarity about my desires around my professional life.
For me, a big part of embracing my appetite – in the deepest sense of the word – was giving myself permission to want what I want.
In other words, The Art of Whetting Your Own Appetite means believing that you actually deserve what you want.
When I really got this, not just intellectually, but when I really felt this truth, unbelievable things started happening.
The funny thing about authentic confidence is that when you start owning up to what you want, people pay attention.
First, I got clear about my desire to be a health and body love coach. I have multiple degrees in nutrition and health, but have often felt ashamed of my field because I felt like my body didn’t match the work. I’ve watched myself accept jobs with little to do with my passion because I knew I’d be less likely to suffer judgment.
But Mastery helped me realize that all of things I’d seen as “missteps” or “mistakes” were actually things that would allow me to more authentically help the exact audience I was designed to reach.
This past April, I put out a desire in this community that I wanted to attend a particular health coaching program. I had no idea how I could pay for it, but I knew it was the right next step, and stood in that desire. A few weeks later, a woman in class had read my desire on the online form and approached me with HER desire to gift me the entire coaching program. I was so shocked by the love and generosity – things like this don’t happen! But as another Sister Goddess said to me, “in this community, they do.”
There is such an important connection between Appetite and Sisterhood. And that’s why the courses at the School work.
The world we live in does not make the Art of Whetting Your Own Appetite easy – it requires incredible vulnerability, questioning, and emotion.
When you take up this process in a community full of like-minded, huge-hearted women — that desire is nurtured to grow, and then it actually has the ability to take off.
I know for me, reaching out for and receiving support was a big edge for me. I used to try desperately to be the strong, silent type. I thought there was this weird dignity in it, but all it left me feeling was depressed and alone.
Sisterhood and community have been one of the greatest gifts – and I access them often. I’ve learned there’s no shame in needing/wanting to be seen and heard by another human being, and have your journey witnessed.
I reach out for help and support and it’s always waiting there to steady my hand.
What I really want you to know . . .
I used to read these posts. Part of me was always a little inspired, but a larger part of me balked at them, thinking they had to be written by the staff, or at least disingenuous. It seemed like a “drink the kool-aid” situation.
It’s easy to be skeptical; it’s easier to accept less. It’s easy to stay stuck and miserable. And I was amazing at it.
For a long time, paying money and doing work like this never would have crossed my mind. I really believed that people who seemed happy were secretly broken at the end of the day, just like me. They were just better at faking it.
I wouldn’t have said it then, but all of this cynicism was just a manifestation of fear. Fear that happiness actually was attainable, and if it was, then I must be a failure. A failure for not being happy, for not trying hard enough.
And the truth is – Mama Gena and the Womanly Arts are not magic, and this work isn’t just a 24/7 pleasure-fest. At all. Life can be incredibly hard and incredibly raw . . . and that’s part of what makes it so beautiful.
We all have hard days, really hard days, whether you have tools or not. But now, I’m able to reach for things that move me through those days, that honor and celebrate all of me (not just the pretty, shiny parts). Now, I can invite other women to witness my lows and love me up exactly as I am while I’m in them.
Despite the avalanche of pink feathers, there is real and courageous work being done here.
I have always struggled with being truly heard and seen. Part of me fantasized about it, but deep down I was terrified of it. I always felt that if the people in my life knew what was really going on inside me, they would judge me and leave me.
I jumped at the opportunity to write this post, but not long after had a major freak out. It’s one thing to tell this story in the safe container of The School of Womanly Arts’ classroom, but on the internet, with my name and picture attached? What if people see it? What will they think? What if my family sees it? What if they hate me?
And then I realized this is part of it. Being afraid of being seen is being afraid of my potential. Being afraid of being heard is being afraid of the power of my voice.
Thank you for being here, for seeing me. This very post is me owning my story, owning my body, owning my voice. And this is exactly the kind of inner language I have on my side now, with the help of the Arts.
Now, I want to hear from you – it would mean so much to connect with you in the comments! Have you, too, struggled with body image, self-care, confidence? What’s worked for you? And, what’s one way you can love yourself up today?
This summer series is our way of pre-partying for Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp, which is currently open for enrollment! Boot Camp is a distance-learning program that takes a woman deep inside each of the Womanly Arts. It includes live teleclasses with Mama Gena, carefully crafted weekly exercises, and a thriving online community. Click here for all the details!