be bold and vulnerable

at the end of my last entry i challenged y’all to be bold and vulnerable in your sharing.  and i was awed by the people who wrote in the comment section about their relationship to their bodies.  thank you for sharing.

and i was even more awed by what happened in class last week.  last week we broke into a new space together.  last week it was clear that we are building something with depth and the potential to change lives.  we started class by doing a pop corn sharing of the fun work that y’all contributed to last week.  and as we shared there was lots of interruption when we got to the things we didn’t like about ourselves.  the other girls would jump in and tell us that they loved the parts of us we clearly had a bad relationship with.  so we had instant challenges to our negative self messaging.  and that was refreshing.

but as the class spun out of the structure of the go around and we all started speaking up about different pieces of our bodies or the training we’d had that taught us to hate our bodies, something shifted.  one of the girls started to speak.  in a fierce but fearful voice, she said something about off handed complaints her mother makes and then she stopped talking.  she started blinking a lot and looking up to the left.  the thing she’d shared about her mother was harmless sounding enough but it was clearly hurting her.  we gave her a minute to breathe and then we asked how those comments from her mom made her feel.  then she let go and started crying.  she went into another share about how a smaller friend of hers will complain about being fat.  and she started crying more.  the other girls pulled in close and held her then.  they came to her and held her while she cried and her pain became our pain and her courage became ours too.  we asked again, how that made her feel and she spat out words through tears.  she said in a voice now a little broken but clear in its message: if she’s fat, then what am i?  the whole class stopped there.  girls held, women encouraged her, thanked her for sharing, reassured her that her experience of these two different comments were legitimate and worth honoring.  we held the space strong then and let all that pain and self doubt and hurt spill into the space.  we shared it all then, we knew it, we could all identify with the tears in her voice, with that deep rooted doubt.

i want more spaces like this.  i want intergenerational female circles that allow us to break down the stories we’re told, the selves we’re made to create, the self hatred we’re fed.  i want more circles where we feel comfortable crying in and sharing ourselves so vulnerably in.  and, again i will task the readers with sharing that messaging.  last week i read some of the body image responses with our class and i think it meant a lot to the girls, to hear that even other women and men had experiences of negative self image.  so if you can think of where you learn what is beautiful and what is not, i think we’ll be talking about the messages we’re fed about body image and how to dispel those messages, especially when they come from people we love.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paxus
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 16:06:31

    i got teary when you first told me this story and i am glad you are relaying it here. and i am sniffling and not completely able to see the screen as i write, because again i am choked up by what you are doing.


    • Sara Tansey
      Oct 31, 2011 @ 22:08:49

      oh love. i am emboldened by your faith and affirmation and constant encouragement. and i am glad we are making you cry. because it means, to me, that weve won a victory for the revolution. i’ll keep deconstructing and building in circles and telling the stories. thank you for pushing me to write this blog.


  2. joyce
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 16:57:17

    ..amazing…continue to hold you all in the light…as you create space for so many to be. reminds me of a favorite quote from gail sheehy; “with each passage of human growth we must shed a protective structure (like a hardy crustacean) we are left exposed and vulnerable, but also yeasty and embryonic again, capable of stretching in way we had not know before.”


    • Sara Tansey
      Oct 31, 2011 @ 22:25:54

      aunt joyce. it means a lot to me that you read my blog and i find myself constantly appreciating the shared experiences and values. it’s sweet, for me, that we can continue to connect and know each other in this way. and i love the quote and the bits of wisdom you share! your grateful niece, sara.


  3. Cerwydwyn
    Oct 30, 2011 @ 19:16:56

    Have you heard about the Red Tent movement? Based on the power of the novel and the women who shared the Red Tent so long ago, this modern movement is about creating women’s space. I host one in my home on the Sunday after each New Moon. I find that the timing is important as the New Moon is the time of creation and this is what we are doing, creating a safe space for women to be alone with other women and to share our stories, our pains and our fears. I think that our focus tonight, not that we generally have a focus because the free-flowing of talk is good, but maybe tonight we can try and channel our talk into this topic. I’ll let you know if we have any interesting moments. I expect we will. It’s a huge, pain-filled topic.


  4. horacio
    Oct 31, 2011 @ 20:23:50

    i grew up in a house where image and clothes were always part of the discourse, mom being a seamstress and dad being an athlete, as well as extremely concerned with his physical image, these things were always brought up. even at 26 my dad comes after me telling me i should work out to strengthen my upper body and my mom and sister criticize my old ripped clothes. while i have a rather positive image of myself, it was not always so, and it was something i had to work on.


    • Sara Tansey
      Oct 31, 2011 @ 22:02:04

      sweet horacio. i have a photo of you, standing at my wall in just your pants and shoes and paper boy hat, with your back to me, making magic. it is one of my favorite pictures and i find every bit of it beautiful. shoulder blades and all.


  5. Cerwydwyn
    Oct 31, 2011 @ 20:58:09

    Our Red Tent was poorly attended last night, so no great body-image stuff for you from the gathering. I was hopeful. Ditto what Horacio said, he could be my sibling if you replace ‘athlete’ with ‘body builder’ and ‘seamstree’ with ‘beauty queen’. I was never pretty enough but somehow came through the birth canal with enough attitude to never really believe them. I’m pretty happy with my body and looks. I wish all of my sisters (soul sisters) could be.


    • Sara Tansey
      Oct 31, 2011 @ 21:59:23

      @ Cerwydwyn, I am sad to hear your Red Tent was poorly attended but am hopeful y’all will have vibrant and vulnerable Tents in the future. When i was in south carolina, i organized rebel goddess gatherings once/week that sound similar to your Red Tents. We brought whatever we were carrying and laid it down in the circle of our trust and strength. We rarely chose a focus topic and often just had incredible organic conversation. We shared hurt, joy, art and the selves we usually keep locked in diaries and dreams. Thank you for helping to create that space for women in your area/circle. We need more of them. And i am giddy about the possibilities of cross over between womens spaces and girls spaces, and the opportunities to learn from each other!


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