As soon as we are of school age, we are taught to hone our skills and limit our field of interests. After assessments on 10 or so subjects aged 16, that number is quartered for our final set of exams. Next, it’s off to university to focus on one single subject followed by a career whose ideal progress is linear, direct and upwards. At this point, everything else must be excluded from public view, in case it is seen as a distraction. Why else would interviewers narrow the field by asking where you see yourself in 5 years’ time? Thus, we are groomed by a patriarchal society to prioritise our masculine energy over our feminine. We are taught that in order to thrive, regardless of our sex, we have to adopt a logical and analytical view of the world. We learn that to get ahead, we must be fearlessly determined, single-mindedly independent and driven towards a financially-orientated definition of success.
Until recently, I was the perfect disciple: intellectually assertive, in control and busy. I saw myself as the sum total of my skills, achievements and job roles to date, not as the person behind them.
But this didn’t always come naturally. I came across my first stumbling block just after university - that weird limbo between childhood and adulthood when you do not yet know what your purpose is, nor how you should present yourself to the world. Having favoured intellectual curiosity over the emotional kind, I had no idea who I really was. The arena in which the masculine had thrived no longer existed. I was suffering from a quarter-life crisis and my existential angst was not assuaged by hearing that “the world was my oyster”. Because faced with a quagmire of potential career options and no route map to navigate it, the oyster looked pretty bleak.
What I needed was some balancing feminine energy: something to ground me, to allow me to surrender and to be flexible. But with no tools to access it nor role model to emulate, I replaced intuition with strategy, took up a seemingly random job and continued to forge ahead.
I hit another such block in my late 20s, when the masculine model revealed a few more flaws: I was exhausted of doing rather than being, of pushing rather than allowing, of always striving for a better future or lingering in the past, of not feeling enough, right now. But still ignorant of an alternative modus operandi, I again dismissed these warning signs and struggled on impervious.
It was only when I became a mother and was forced to slow down, that the once small stirrings of my neglected feminine became a clamour. Mothering in my masculine had been successful for a while (Gina Ford offers an arguably acceptable role model), but a second, less ‘pliant’ infant and a demanding toddler in tow, made me see that children need more than just the essentials: they needed my full presence, complete acceptance and constant, unconditional love. In this arena, my masculine was revealed as impotent. I had reached my mid-life crisis.
And so began a difficult but rewarding journey towards emotional and spiritual balance. I took a long, hard look at my motivations, beliefs, reactions and triggers, at the people and situations I was surrounded by and at what makes me truly happy and fulfilled. Finally I met my divine feminine: I practised reconnecting to my body and intuition, I began to allow uncomfortable feelings and I implemented self-care. I balanced my yang yoga with some yin; I carved out time to be meditative and calm, and worked on cultivating patience and gratitude.
Don’t get me wrong, life is not now miraculously easy. But it is easier. For the first time, it includes centredness, joy, fulfilment and connection. And to quote Marianne Williamson, I would much rather endure the occasional, “sharp pains of self-discovery” than the enduring, “dull pain of unconsciousness”.
These days, I try to see the world through feminine-tinted glasses: to be more collaborative, vulnerable, soft and creative; to flow with life and allow unexpected, magical things to happen in the spaces I no longer rush to fill. Instead of pigeon-holing myself into the Linked-In mindset, I have embraced my multi-faceted nature. I realise that being authentically me means revealing more than just one of my many faces; that I can navigate different paths at the same time and that these actually enrich and enhance each other.
And I also want my children to value these feminine traits - just as highly as the masculine ones. To combine both energies in the way that best suits their unique range of skills. Which is hard. Because there are so few role models. Particularly amongst those who, like me, toed the academic party line. I can count on the fingers of one hand the women with whom I was hot-housed who are running their own, creative businesses. It seems that those who dare to step out of the intellectual matrix in order to shine their creative light, are few and far between.
For our current educational system promotes the story that the intellect and intuition/creativity are mutually exclusive and then trains you to exemplify this: the more academic you are considered to be, the more your passions are (subtly) repressed. You are taught to worship your powers of critical analysis, your prize a career that is “intellectually rigorous and rewarding”.
But what if we could be intellectually rigorous AND intuitive, driven and present, nurturing and successful? I want my kids to know that WHO they are and the WAY they are is just as important as WHAT they do.
So, I won’t ask them what they want to be when they grow up, instead I will ask them what they love to do. I will show them that they can be pulled in more than one direction. I will encourage them to be proudly multi-faceted. Because then, the world really IS their oyster…
Art by Christian Schloe
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