12 May From Shy Girl to Spiritual Warrior
Anyone else sometimes feel shy and hesitant? But secretly want to be bold, brilliant and brave?
I have always been shy about being in the spotlight yet wanting so much to do my dance and let my light shine! In this blog, I chart my journey from a shy and anxious girl to empowered woman and instigator of a spiritual rebellion. The shy girl still shows up. I have come to adore her sweetness.
If something in my story resonates with you, I sincerely invite you to feel it, follow it and find out what’s moving in you
My parents were good people, but ill equipped to meet my emotional needs. Apparently, I was an inconsolable child, irritable and sulky. Clearly, all was not well. In the home, there was tension, dissatisfaction and no-one talking about it. I learned to be quiet and compliant. I was shy, sad and subdued. Underneath, I was confused, lost, fearful and no doubt angry. I became a secret eater, able to anaesthetise myself before even registering that I was upset.
Buried and Crushed
At school, I was bullied for being fat. I was called Bagpuss and Fatty. I took comfort from everything in sweets and biscuits. I even stole 10p’s from my dad’s coin jar then cycled up to the village shop before school to buy some sweet solace. Anything sweet seemed to soothe me and help me ‘forget’ my distress, confusion and hurt. With the best of intentions, my mum took me to a slimming club when I was 11, which just went to embed deep shame about my eating habits and weight.
My journey has really been about getting out from under the weight of my history.
I remember crying the day this school photo was taken. I dreaded being photographed, already worried about my looks. What I see now is sweet innocence and blue eyes, sparkling from the tears and fears. Secretly, loving the attention.
If Music was the Food of Love..
Music was also an escape for me. My father was a frustrated musician with great passion but little talent for playing. When I was seven, my parents hosted a cellist from a visiting orchestra. I was mesmerised as I stood on a stool, looking through the crack in the front room door where he was practising. My father immediately got me started with cello lessons. Turned out I was pretty good. I had ambitions to become a professional cellist. Or so I thought. I realised later that this aspiration was born of a wish to please my father.
This ambition soon fizzled out as two weeks after my 15th birthday, my father died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 47. I froze and am still thawing from this shocking ripping away of familiarity. A devastating rupture.
In my late teens and early 20s, I was sexually assaulted twice, once by a stranger, once by someone I knew. On both occasions, I was naive and got myself into situations I couldn’t get out of. I have given up blaming myself for this. I had not learned how to protect myself. I sensed danger but overrode it out of fear. On both occasions, I froze in terror, hoped I wouldn’t die, then went home and didn’t tell anyone for years.
As I write this now, my heart sinks with sadness for my fearful self-abandonment. And there is also gratitude for the trauma response that allowed me to continue functioning.
After these incidents, my reliance on food as a way of regulating my emotions became intractable. As I continued to put on weight and became morbidly obese, I sank deeper into crushing shame, self-hatred and despair.
A Life Changing Conversation
Age 25, after graduating from university, I lived on my own in London, working as an Admissions Co-ordinator in the NHS. I was searching, for what I didn’t know. What I found was a dance class for big women. For the first time, I felt understood, accepted, seen.
The teacher, an inspiring big woman herself, organised a long weekend away for us. We had massages, beauty treatments, Reiki, laughed and swam in the indoor pool with gin and tonics within arm’s reach. We had deep vulnerable conversations. I heard the other women’s stories of childhood sexual abuse, bullying and trauma. My eyes were opened to the objective truth of my own traumatic history. I got a first real glimpse of actually how lost I was.
During that life changing weekend, I had a conversation with a woman in her 50s. I shared that I was thinking about trying counselling. Her response was a game changer. She said, “Kate, just do it. I wasted fifteen years of my life thinking about it.” When I returned home, lifted up, inspired and finally with hope, I contacted a therapist and my life started moving.
Becoming a Psychotherapist
What followed was many years of therapy and personal development work. I became increasingly curious about how this counselling thing worked. In the late 1990s I made the commitment to train as a therapist myself. I tripped and stumbled, acted out a bit, struggled and also found deep friendships and an even deeper understanding of myself and my potential.
I won’t go into too much detail about this here to respect my ex-husband’s privacy. Suffice to say, despite a great deal of love and some good times, I was unhappy and I slipped further away from myself. I became distant to my friends, depressed and unable to assert myself. After a great deal of agonising and fear about what was to come, I left and began the next phase of my life.
I learned a great deal from that relationship. I learned to dig deep and keep going. I learned the importance of finding my ‘no’. I learned that I could get out from under.
After I left my husband, actually at his suggestion, I starting self-defence training with a wonderful instructor Rakesh Patel. This was another important turning point in my journey towards empowerment.
As I learned the attitudes, physical stances and defensive manoevures, I began to bring more and more attention to the felt experience of defending myself. Over time, I found the part of me finally able to feel and emphatically say ‘no, this is not acceptable to me’. I learned to evade danger, escape someone else’s clutches and if necessary to kick ass. It felt so good!
Creating the Life I Longed For
During the difficult times in my marriage, I would fantasise about what my life would be like when I left. I imagined myself as a wise long haired woman, living in a house full of plants, books and beautiful things. I would be a writer and work as a therapist in a hospice, have cats and ride a motorbike. And I would take lovers. (More of that in a future blog!).
It wasn’t long before this vision became a reality, mostly.
I did get another bike, having previously owned several before I got married. Riding a motorbike had always felt like some kind of act of defiance. I loved the feeling of putting on the protective clothing, the sensation of the robust leather and the armoured jacket. I loved the feeling of straddling a beast of a machine. I loved the feeling of power at my feet and fingertips. I loved the thrilling sense of mastery when I pulled off a perfect overtake.
I especially loved the moment when I pulled up, got off the bike, took off my helmet and swished my hair around! I always hoped men especially would witness this and be wowed by this blond haired woman who knew how to handle a 650cc motorbike! I loved the firepower and I loved my female power!
One of the things that enabled me to move on from my marriage was attending a Diamond Approach weekend workshop with the Ridhwan School. *
A dear friend had talked to me for many years about her experience in the school and I sensed that one day it might be right for me. The workshop I attended was on the Red Essence, exploring our natural capacity to embody the strong energy of our natural life force. Connecting with this energy helped jettison me out of a bad situation and back into my own heart. I have been a student of the Diamond Approach for thirteen years. Such beautiful heart opening teachings.
Feeling the Force!
I have always found it challenging to fully feel my life force. Whether it is joyful aliveness or the heat of anger, sometimes I fear I will drown in the intensity. It can feel like too much energy all at once. It’s vibration is too frenetic. It feels like there’s a big glitch in the system that needs resetting so that calm can be restored. I have habitually sought some rapid way to regulate my jangling nervous system at these moments. Eat something sugary, get lost in Facebook or some other less than healthy distraction.
From Inner Critic to Inner Authority
These ‘unhealthy’ patterns have been a consistent source of frustration and difficulty for me. I am an intelligent woman with good self-awareness. How can I still be repeating such self-destructive behaviours?! This is actually one of my Inner Critic’s favourite digs! Accusing, shaming, using my intelligence and self-awareness against me! Not nice!!
I have done a lot of work on my Inner Critic part over the years. I suspect the energy of my life force was co-opted for use by my Inner Critic in its desperate efforts to minimise emotional distress and conserve some sense of identity. As a survival structure, it has the potential to override any deeper knowing. Where the Inner Critic motivates by berating, shaming or scaring us, Inner Authority arises without effort when we listen deeply and honour the truth of our own experience.
Being Kinder to Myself
There has been much suffering in the stuckness and frustration of these patterns and this is where learning to be more self-compassionate came into the picture. In 2021, I began training as a Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher with the Centre for Mindful Self-Compassion. This has been another game changer for me. Like most people, I know that it would be better if I could be kinder to myself. Yet as for many others, it has felt so much easier to feel compassion for others than for myself.
Self-Compassion brings proven physical, emotional, relational benefits and does wonders for regulating the nervous system. Learning to self-soothe brings a sense of internal safety that supports us on the spiritual journey. I have learned there is a place in myself where I can land softly and drop into a deeper field of love.
I hesitate sometimes to call myself a Spiritual Warrior. I still sometimes feel like that shy girl. Who am I to call myself a Spiritual Warrior? .. asks my Inner Critic who, amongst other things, is worried that I’m getting too big for my boots.
Yet when I tune into the spirit of rebellion, my cells wake up. I feel blood running in my veins. I want to right wrongs. My body wants to move against the oppressor. My heart is set on freedom and justice. I am too big for my boots. I have outgrown them. It’s time to get some bigger boots!
If you feel moved by the spirit of rebellion or want to learn to be bold, brilliant and brave, why not book a Personal Soul Work Session. Let’s take stock of where you are on your personal journey, find out what’s in the way and what will support you to continue growing towards the light.
* “The Diamond Approach is a dynamic, evolving teaching that leads to openness, freedom, and realization of the many dimensions of our human potential—especially the amazing secrets of our spiritual nature” (from their website).