I went on a course today called The Unf**kwithable Woman. What does that name conjure for you? Images of vaguely intimidating unsmiling women, standing with their arms folded, daring you to make eye contact before turning away with a haughty sniff?
There is something a bit scary about the term unf**kwithable, I agree, and when we were asked to define what it meant to us the first things people said were “don’t mess with me” and “being assertive”. But then other things were mentioned too. People spoke about being balanced, centred and present. About being self-assured and calm in the eye of a storm. About having presence, purpose and strength. All of this stuff really appeals to me and “unf**kwithable” seems like a state of being worth striving for.
We picked out some people that we regard as embodying unf**kwithability – Aung San Suu Kyi, Gandhi, Rosa Perks and Nelson Mandela to name a few – and then we looked at the things that cause us to become less self-assured, less balanced, more f**kwithable as our lives go on. We identified some of the messages that we picked up when we were growing up and the parts of ourselves that we deemed unacceptable and, therefore, suppressed – our shadow side.
One of the things we did today was to stand in front of a mirror, to really look at ourselves and say what we love about ourselves. This was a different kind of “looking in the mirror” to the usual “does my hair look OK?” looking. It felt more like looking at the essence of who we are and seeing the parts of ourselves that contribute to our greatness. I struggled with this. I spent 10 minutes being flippant and messing about so I could avoid doing the exercise. Finally, I did manage to stand in front of the mirror and what struck me was that I didn’t really know the person I was looking at. The features were familiar but the light behind the eyes felt unfamiliar. How weird to have looked at the same face for all my life and to discover now that I don’t know the person looking back at me.
Kensho is a word to describe the insights, or the gold, that come from the most challenging times of our lives. My Kensho moment today was the understanding that I need to reconnect with the person in the mirror and to give her back elements of her identity that have been lost along the way. Maybe the most important of these is self-belief.
In case you’re wondering, the way I dress did figure as one of the things I love about myself. It was a shortish list and that one came close to the top. So, what can I tell you about today’s little ensemble? Often I choose very bold, in-your-face colours but today I went for a softer, more subtle combination of pinks, greens, beige and gold with deep aubergine.
I really like this skirt. I bought it secondhand from Frockaholics Anonymous. It is by Papyrus and I adore the scalloped hem with its delicate broiderie anglais detailing. I am wearing it over a gold petticoat by Bohemia, with a silk and cotton cardigan by Out of Xile in a deep aubergine purple colour with silk ties at the cuffs.
The hat is by Helen Blamires. It was just plain beige when I got it (from Ebay) so I added the handmade silk flower brooches to liven it up a bit. The necklace was bought years ago from East. I think the stone is fluorite set into silver.
Finally, I put on this wonderful knitted scarf, created by a lady in Totnes whose name I don’t know but who spins and dyes her own yarns and then turns them into scarves and necklaces. I think she must use natural dyes because the colours are meltingly soft in a way that only natural dye can achieve. I found myself tempted to just gaze at the ways the colours blend from one to another in this scarf rather than looking into my eyes during the mirror-gazing exercise today!
Cardigan: Out of Xile
Scarf: Handmade by local yarn dyer
Hat: Helen Blamires