21. I Am Woman

21. I Am Woman

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

I Am Woman

Self-trust is the first secret of success.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m standing at the front of a conference room filled with 100 mompreneurs, hard working women who just spent the day learning how to grow their businesses while juggling their family lives. It’s my turn on stage and I have eight minutes to get my message of radical self-love through to them.

I’ve picked the song “Woman (Oh Mama)” by Joy Williams to play, and I ask everyone to kick off their heels and get ready to dance with me. As the song begins, I take a deep breath and start the talk I have been practicing.

“I’d like you to place your hands on your belly and take a few deep breaths. Ninety-one percent of women have an I-hate-my-body moment every day, and our poor bellies get the brunt of that, especially for those of us who have been through childbirth. So let’s send some love to the belly.”

I hear a few giggles of recognition in the audience, and I know they are with me. I lead the women through some dance moves: Hip circles, symbolic of childbirth, represent the businesses they are birthing; Breast circles represent nourishing their businesses. This one gets a lot of laughs. I love looking out and seeing that they are having fun and not judging how they look. This is what I want for them to remember, that their bodies can be a source of joy.

“As women, we are constantly told to make ourselves small. But you have big dreams you want to grow, so you need to know that you have a right to take up space in this world. Take up space now, stretch your arms out and give your dreams wings to fly!” The room is full of waving arms and smiling faces, a beautiful sight.

The song is nearing the finish, and I ask the women to repeat after me: “I. AM. WOMAN.”

A joyful chorus of raised voices ends the song. It’s time for me to bring the message home.

“And now, I’d like you to take a minute to place your hands on your bellies again and close your eyes. Imagine you are getting ready for your day and you look in the mirror. What is the first thought that comes to your mind?”

“Ugh!” says a woman in the front of the room.

But you have big dreams you want to grow, so you need to know that you have a right to take up space in this world.

“Ugh? This is what I hear from many women,” I say. “But I want you to think about how you are putting that negativity onto yourself energetically, then going out into the world to promote your business, which is you.

“Instead, when you are getting ready in the morning and you look in the mirror, I want you to send love to the woman you see. Because she is worthy, she is beautiful, and she has big dreams. You need to give her love so she can go out and do her great work in this world.”

My time on stage is done, and I step down hoping that my words hit home. I hope that these one hundred women remember this moment the next day, as they are getting ready for work. Body love does not happen overnight, but the first step is paying attention to when those “ugh” moments happen. Often they have become so much a part of our daily routine, we don’t realize we are doing it to ourselves.

There is a line in “Woman (Oh Mama)” that keeps running through my head: “I am the universe wrapped in skin.”

I love the expansiveness of this image, how each of us contains beautiful multitudes and limitless possibilities inside our skin.

My wish is for every woman to embrace herself for the universe inside of her.

~Joyelle Brandt

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