You have a good body. Don’t you think so?

Just think what your body has done for you today. Maybe you’re reading this from bed first thing in the morning, after your body has slept, regenerated and grown. Maybe you’re reading this over lunch, look at you chewing, swallowing, digesting, reading, thinking, and breathing, all at the same time! This isn’t meant to sound condescending, it’s just I think we rarely stop and appreciate our bodies for what they actually do for us, and spend too much time thinking about the ways we’d like to change them. I thought about this once after a pretty terrible hangover, how my body, all on its own, worked so hard to undo all of the damage I had caused it the night before. By sweating, purging, sleeping, my body was able to go from catatonic back to my usual healthy self. My body told me when it needed rest, when it needed hydration, food and finally when it needed to get the hell out of the house. I remember in those first moments of finally having energy back, how grateful I was for my body and my health. It wasn’t long though before negative thoughts about how my body looked started to creep back.

In Western society we all subscribe to a certain beauty standard, one that is defined by what we see on our screens, in advertising, TV, cinema and pornography – you can only be what you see, right? I’ll give you a clue as to what we predominantly see… it’s white. Oh damn, I just gave it away. So yeah if you’re white you’re all good, anything else you’ve got a lot more boxes to tick. The list of prerequisites for ‘beauty’ is of course longer than just ‘white’, however, if you are white you should know by now that you are widely represented and colorism exists. It is also important to note that what we see is largely determined by white, hetero, cis-men. Some of the prerequisites for their definition of beauty include; being thin, able bodied, if you’re a woman – feminine, if you’re a man – masculine, and depending on what trend is happening at the time eg thick eyebrows, big butt, small breasts, big breasts, whatever! You gotta have it. This standard of beauty is limiting and damaging, and without us even realising it we are almost powerless to it.

In my work I try to normalise sexuality, identity and bodies. I try to encourage people to see that who they are, what they like, how they present, how they desire, how they function is unique, normal and good! I try to follow my own advice. I am privileged to be white, cis-gendered, able bodied, average in size and dare I say attractive? But even in writing that, I have that sick feeling of judgement – of my self and fear of others’. I also don’t think that these are the specific qualities of a beautiful person, though I understand what these qualities afford me. What I want to address in this article is that the natural design of our bodies are incredible, in whatever form they come. And there is significant social pressure to often alter or ‘enhance’ our bodies, when really we are pretty bloody good as we are.

“There are influences in our society that make us seek a kind of ‘prescribed’ perfection, one that is not of our own desire or choosing.”
I often use female anatomy as a catalyst for discussing the lack of education around human bodies and human sexuality. I also believe that female anatomy is a great example of the ways we detour from appreciating what we have, what our bodies do for us and instead spend time, and lets face it money, on trying to change something that is perfectly normal and good the way it is. Now, it’s important to note that having female anatomy does not equate to being a woman, unless that is how you identify, and also you do not have to have female anatomy to appreciate what I’m saying, take from this what you will…

The vulva is a unique geography, one that has been metaphorised for centuries and misnamed countlessly (the vagina is an internal canal, the hole, not the w hole !). We talk around the vulva – ‘down there’, ‘lady bits’ etc, and although it is a place of power for some people, it is very much a point of shame for many. Take the hymen for example, it has no biological function, and yet it has become the indicator of virginity. This has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with controlling women. This is an out-dated narrative that has been told since women were considered property and their vaginas their most valuable real-estate. A lot of women aren’t even born with them, and some women will continue to have them long after they have had penetrative sex. And yet in many cultures women are made to have hymen repair surgery to ‘prove’ virginity/purity/chasteness, they have to ‘repair’ something that they may have never even had! And what about labia? There is an epidemic of labiaplasty happening around the world because women have been made to feel strange and inadequate about their unique vulvas because of the way pornography portrays them. Labiaplasty sees women having their labia cut and bleached to look more like the “conventional” and photoshopped porn stars (read ‘white’) that they see. So women are spending thousands of dollars to look like Barbie all because patriarchal porn and the media sells us a false sense of normal. Unless labia is causing you pain/discomfort, then you are perfect just the way you are. There are so many aspects of the vulva that demonstrate how humans are not taking time to appreciate the efficient and magnificent design of our bodies, and rather focusing on the things we want to change. I mean there is a whole industry dedicated to masking the natural odour of the vulva, or to “clean” them… but they are their own ecosystem, self cleaning – set it and forget it babe, geez!

There are influences in our society that make us seek a kind of ‘prescribed’ perfection, one that is not of our own desire or choosing. We are encouraged to use technology, cosmetics, fashion, chemicals and drugs to enhance, advance, reshape and redesign our already amazing bodies. And we don’t even question it! I’m far from being a naturalist, but I am a huge advocate for bodies as they are. At the end of the day it is your body and your choice. But, just for today and maybe a few more times after that, I want you to try to think of something you appreciate your body for. Think about the last remarkable thing it did for you. Maybe even educate yourself on how your body does that thing, I have no doubt you’ll amazed or at the very least grateful. Sometimes our bodies can let us down, sometimes bad things happen to our bodies, and all bodies are different in their look and ability, but they are all good bodies! The next time you think a negative thought about your body, or spend a little too long thinking about how to change it, try to remind yourself of what it does for you.

You have a good body.

This article was first published for neutral.love

“If you are not enough for yourself
you will never be enough
for someone else”
— RUPI KAUR

There have been many times I’ve felt ‘not enough’, and those times were usually when I spent too much time with other people – invested in their lives, and failed to nurture myself.

It is not an easy thing to say, ‘I am enough for myself’, or to acknowledge that you deserve to take care of yourself. We can mistake social occasions, acts of love for others, and work as fulfilling, because mostly they are. However, these are all times when you are giving, and without taking time to replenish or receive you can be left feeling empty, lacking, or not enough.

When you are single it seems like you have so much time for yourself, a bed all to yourself and a clear schedule with no co-dependents to consider. But your calendar can very quickly become full with first dates, going out, brunch with friends, more work because you’re “really focusing on a career right now” and hangovers. We fail to schedule ‘me time’, because we fail to see that we are enough. Often in times when we are single we expel a lot of energy in trying not to be single anymore, even if we do say things like “I’m not interested in dating anyone at the moment” or “I just want to do my own thing for a while”. We are human, we are social creatures and we rely on sex and intimacy for survival, so it is perfectly natural that we invest so much time in making that happen. But what would it look like to actually commit time to yourself?

When you are in a relationship it becomes even harder to commit that time to yourself, and part of you neglects to see the significance. This is when we begin to lose ourselves and stray far from the people we were before we got into the relationship. It is fine and normal to get wrapped up in a new romance – the date and time of day doesn’t seem to matter anymore and either does… say… wearing pants! But then reality sets in and when that happens all of a sudden your plans become “our” plans, and ‘me time’ becomes sparse or non-existent. What you are saying when you fail to value yourself, alone, is that you are not enough. We prioritize others because we love them and enjoy giving love, and receiving love in return – it feels reciprocal, and for the most part it is. But what happens when your person can’t give one day, or the next… or the next? Will you be enough for yourself when they can’t?

‘Me time’ takes practice and commitment.

A few years ago I was struggling to do anything creative, I had lost my motivation to write and had no confidence to perform. A friend gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way (this is not an endorsement) and although I never finished it, the one take away for me was the concept of the ‘artist date’. This means committing to one creative date per week, like visiting a gallery, seeing a play or reading a book, the only condition being you have to do it alone, just you and your artist-self. I had to value myself enough to make that effort, something I would have done easily for someone else, but struggled to for ‘just me’. Slowly I started to gain confidence and really enjoyed my own company, and eventually my creativity came back because I was nurturing that part of myself. I accepted that I was enough.

Before a lack of ‘me time’ becomes an issue for you, make that commitment to yourself right now.

Clear some space in your schedule just for you, make a date, and don’t compromise. Take yourself to that movie you want to see, that café you’ve always wanted to try, that band no one else likes, masturbate! Stay in on a Saturday night for some self care or get in your car and go for a drive.

Just for you. No one else.

This article was first published for neutral.love

At least once a year at Christmas or for my birthday, my mother will buy me a pair of pajamas, without fail. When I receive my soft-centered parcel, I immediately look at my sister and laugh, we both know what’s inside. Mum laughs now too, she knows it’s predictable. What she doesn’t know is that I don’t wear pajamas.

Actually, that’s not entirely true, I just don’t wear them to bed.

I am all for curling up on the couch in bed socks, flannelette PJs and a robe (only in winter of course), but when bedtime rolls around it’s time to get the kit off. There’s nothing quite like sliding into a freshly made bed, clean sheets pulled tight, your skin soft against an even softer thread count; all the better if there’s a warm body to nestle into.

Some people are of the belief that in winter it’s too cold to sleep naked, but the truth is that often we overheat ourselves during sleep by wearing too many layers. The body’s temperature naturally drops during sleep, it’s meant to do that, so by wearing pajamas you are disrupting the natural cycle and probably encouraging a restless sleep. I loath the transition from the cozy lounge room to the bedroom on cold nights, but a way to avoid the chill is by warming up your room and bed half an hour or so beforehand. A little portable heater to take the bite out of the air and perhaps an electric blanket or a couple of hot water bottles/ heat packs in between the sheets to make sleeping naked just that little bit more inviting.

To elaborate on why it’s important to allow the body’s temperature to drop naturally during sleep; this is when the body releases melatonin and the human growth hormone. These hormones will help your sleep and wake cycles, as well as regeneration; the human growth hormone is what will help you look and feel young and healthy.

What I like most about sleeping naked is the intimacy factor; whether I am sleeping alone or with someone else. There is a lovely sense of freedom, softness and vulnerability that comes with being naked. We spend most of our lives in clothes, often clothes that alter our true form; ‘something to bring you in at the waist, these will make you look taller, black is slimming!’ This paired with Photoshop and Instagram filters, few of us know or value our real bodies. Being naked for at least 8 hours out of 24 will give you the chance to get familiar with your most authentic self, and this familiarity or comfortability will no doubt help you to love yourself just the way you are. Being naked with someone else is a sometimes a scary prospect so the more time you spend getting comfortable in your own skin by yourself, the more confident you will be with someone else. Sleeping skin to skin releases Oxytocin ‘the love hormone’, so doing this with a partner/s will bring you closer and in most cases result in a more fulfilling love/ sex life.

Of course it is ok to not sleep naked if that’s not your thing – your comfort comes first. But if you have been curious about the benefits of sleeping naked now you have a few reasons to give it a try. At the very least, try sleeping without underwear, maybe just wear an oversized T-shirt or nightie. Underwear is restricting and can negatively impact the natural bacteria of genitals; for people with vulvas wearing tight underwear can cause or prolong conditions such as thrush or vaginitis which thrive in moist and warm places. It’s best to allow genitals and your skin to breath at night, as there is little opportunity to do this during the day.

This life hack is something I can credit my mum for, she may love pajamas but rule number one in our childhood bedtime routine was strictly “no undies!” So for that invaluable life lesson, I will always accept my annual pair of PJs with gratitude (a giggle and a little side eye to my sister).

This article was first published for neutral.love