My mother’s portrayal of what it meant to be a woman kept me from realizing who I was for forty years.
It took some time to be able to separate fact from fiction in what was my childhood household.
When I came out around nineteen years old my mother said that I was “disgusting”. I had finally given her a concrete reason not to love me because I bared an imperfection in her eyes, and it nauseated her to consider what people would think or say about her.
But this isn’t the reason why I haven’t been in contact with her for the last sixteen years.
For context, my decision was ultimately hers. I had asked my mother to go see a therapist together. At first she agreed, but then retracted just before the first session, likely due to fear of exposure. When I reiterated that this was the only way forward for us — that we would either go together to try to work on our broken relationship, or we would not have one at all — she chose the latter.
I had come to the conclusion that if I wanted any chance at living a healthy life, I needed to disconnect from my mother completely. It was my most intense form of boundary setting to-date, and it saved my life.
In retrospect, I also subconsciously developed the need to protect my psyche, my ego and my heart from the ripping emotions of parental loss. Leaning into the more masculine expression of my identity offered that self-protection when I needed it most.
Uncovering True Nature
The first few girls I dated were quite feminine in appearance and persona, but it wasn’t long at all before the pendulum swung the other way and my point of attraction shifted toward more androgynous and masculine women. Over the years it meant pairing with women who were older and less soft than I, perhaps not natural caretakers, and some had difficulty identifying and articulating their underlying emotions. They were a bit sharper in their mannerisms, choice of verbiage and gestures than most women. All were beautiful souls and teachers for whom I am eternally grateful to have had in my life regardless of the length of time we spent together.
Being with androgynous women gave me permission to be as well. I was clearly a woman, adorned with boxy, dark-colored, men’s clothes and shoes. I put on a pleasant front, but my ego was easily bruised. I was a problem-solver without being truly collaborative because I had something to prove. I definitely never let on how stressed I was about anything — personal projects, money, work, relationships. God forbid I ever ask for help, or directions, for that matter.
But, here’s the problem: none of that was actually my True Nature. It’s why I’ve always felt so uncomfortable in my own skin, from as far back as I can remember up until about two years ago, when I dropped forty pounds.
When I was twenty-six, I had a breast reduction that was certainly not medically necessary. I no longer wanted my body to curve like a woman’s. I never identified as male or questioned my gender; I just didn’t want to be as female as my body conveyed.
I never realized until just recently that I equated femininity with a lot of negativity.
As I’ve been swan diving into self-discovery, it became clear that what I had perceived to be feminine from my mother’s inadvertent education was the opposite of the definition of divine femininity I’ve come to understand (and resonate with) through my spiritual studies.
False Judgments About Femininity
When my shadow work coach asked me to jot down the five judgments I had made about femininity based on my mother’s portrayal, they shocked even me:
1) Control is most effective when focused on other’s emotions
2) Manipulation is necessary to ensure the outcome you want
3) Appearance matters in all realms and at all times
4) The external perception of perfection should be protected at all costs
5) Reactionary, highly emotional communication (or silence) elicits action faster
When I finished this list, I looked down at what I had written and sat in utter disbelief. It’s no wonder why I wanted to be nothing like her: high-heeled, dramatic, irrational and master of all of the above. My mother was an egotist, and the very things I learned about femininity were more so traits of either Borderline (BPD) or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) — or a combination of the two — that had nothing to do with gender expression.
If you’re unfamiliar, BPD is “is a serious psychological condition that’s characterized by unstable moods and emotions, relationships, and behavior”. NPD is a “mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.” Although therapeutic treatment can help, neither can be cured.
Of course it took me a long time to pull all of that apart by stepping back, observing without attachment, and finding my own essence underneath it all.
Now that I can peel these untruths about femininity from my newfound understanding of truly divine femininity, everything feels more aligned, and I’ve been feeling quite comfortable in my body exactly as it is.
My True Nature — who I am at the core — is light, soft, emotional, empathic and empathetic, nurturing, transparent, communicative, vulnerable, collaborative, affectionate, generous, fluid and receptive. And though that last one is a work in progress, this is how my friends and clients see me. This is how I feel.
Over the last two years, I’ve slowly begun to embrace language, clothing and accessories, activities and thoughts that have a more feminine quality to them. It feels like coming home to a sanctuary that I’ve never lived in before, much like my new house.
While I’m not ready to be in a relationship any time soon, I have noticed a newfound draw to the more feminine aspects of other women. I’m attracting more of them into my sphere, and that’s only perpetuating the ability to embrace that aspect of my Self more each day.
It’s about being, not doing, as Buddhism refer to the feminine and masculine aspects, respectively.
Now, my focus is to notice when femininity is modeled in healthy ways as well as when I’m modeling it myself. The dual role of playing the observer and also giving voice to this entire journey has been incredibly enlightening.
After pushing against the grain of subtle integration for so long, this feels natural, purposeful, and divinely timed.