I grew up believing it is a man’s world and that to succeed in the world I would have to be like a man in a woman’s body – adopt the same traits and styles of behaviour and temperament as a man. This started at a young age – I was a so-called ‘tomboy’, out on the farm as much as possible, working with the men on whatever task was needed; to me, lifting stones, bales of hay, driving tractors and getting my hands dirty in the muck and grime of farm life was definitely preferable to playing with dolls!
I picked up the belief that the man was the ruler of the house and his word was final. He was the provider, the money earner, the one who garnered respect for work done and for academic achievements, whilst women were consigned to the home and the roles of wife, mother and home-maker. Whilst I now appreciate the importance of those roles and their value, back then it seemed like a second-best choice – the real prize was to be out in the world, achieving and earning and working in a real job. This fed into my preference to have male hairdressers, male dentists and the like. Women you see – just weren’t good enough – or so I believed. Why, I wondered, would anyone want to spend their days raising children when they could be doing a proper job …and having the freedom to live life to the fullest? You see, in my book, children were more trouble than their worth – or at least that was how I felt.
No wonder then, that to override my low self-worth, I would instead seek to earn my worth and value through being intelligent, doing well at school and university and taking on the men at their own game in the field of surgery: one of the most male dominated professions. A profession recognised for its demanding training, long hours and lack of sleep, with attitudes of arrogance, superiority and domination. I took it all on – hook, line and sinker and more besides. Long hours? I can do even more – stay up later, work longer, and keep on going. Stamina was my middle name. I prided myself on my tough, strong, take no prisoners attitude and didn’t care if that resulted in a nurse dissolving in tears – she shouldn’t have been so incompetent …or so I thought.
I didn’t give any thought or regard to how the way I was behaving impacted or affected others. I could be as tough, demanding, arrogant or rude as any man, and I could drink more alcohol, and survive on less sleep and work harder than any of them. Late nights and early mornings were commonplace – burning the candle at both ends was normal. All of these factors I considered to be an asset, a measure of my strength, my ability to cope with whatever life could throw at me …I could survive no matter what and take on anybody in an argument if needed. I succeeded very well in being a man in a woman’s body – even though the type of man I became is not one I would aspire to be or to be with today.
The cost of living as a man in a woman’s body
But over time this way of living took its toll. The drink-fuelled fun nights became not so much fun but a needed anaesthetic, consumed to bury and deaden the rising tension and discontent and dis-ease with my life. I was not fully aware of the underlying reasons for this rising discontent – I just knew something was amiss, the work which had been my raison d’être no longer sustained and fulfilled me – instead I wanted out, or thought I did. That in itself was confusing – why, after all these years of dedication and commitment to my surgical career, would I no longer wish to stay in it?? Yet I could not hide or deflect the quiet whisper which repeatedly said:
‘There has to be something more to life than this.’
And so a journey of searching and seeking began – what was the truth about my life’s journey, why was I the way I was, could I change and if so how? What was the truth about the human condition, about life? I read and read, did workshops and began to explore the spiritual dimension of life that I had long before abandoned.
I found a way to understand life that made sense to me and encompassed understandings from science, philosophy and religion that provided a universal and unifying way to understand the human condition, life and God. I found a way to not just understand life, but how to live life that was true according to the truth of who I am and not fed by false ideals and beliefs, that made a genuine and lasting difference to the quality of my health and my life.
Beyond being a man in a woman’s body
Fast forward several years and today I am completely different to the hard-nosed, driven, abusive ‘man in a woman’s body’ I once was and can look back and see the fallacy of my errant ways. I’m now aware that that behaviour arose from a lost and deeply hurt little girl who wanted to not feel that hurt, that wanted to not be hurt again and so created this tough, hard, strong, no messing exterior where the illusion that ‘the best form of defence is attack’ was lived. The outer confidence, superiority and domination, betrayed an inner insecurity of never feeling enough, of not feeling valued or worthy of true love and respect. The truth of the latter was borne out by my lack of love and respect for myself displayed in self-destructive behaviours. Today all of that has gone …or is definitely well on the exit route …as the last remaining vestiges are let go.
Today I no longer aim to be like the men, but take full ownership of my womanly body and relish the stillness and sacredness it beholds and offers. I know my worth is not defined by what I do, for who I am is so much more than what I do. I know that even though I am in a woman’s body and that I am here to reflect her divine qualities, that in truth who I am cannot be constrained by any gender based definitions, ideas or concepts.
But for now, let’s stick with the fact that to succeed in the world as a woman we do not need to be like men, but to reconnect back to who we truly are as women and to bring forth those innate, true caring and nurturing qualities, to live the grace and beauty that we are and however they wish to be expressed, and to have fun and joy in walking, playing, working, relating, making love, or whatever activity we wish to undertake, simply because we are there doing it and we love who we are.
When we love who we are then it is natural to love what we do, wherever we are or whatever we are doing.
We are more willing to be open, warm, inviting, considerate and caring of all without losing ourselves in the process. We drop our guard, drop our protection and walls – realising that in truth they didn’t really protect us, just provided the illusion of doing so, for being in a prison of one’s own making is no protection at all, but a lifelong sentence that only we can free ourselves from. And free ourselves we must – for there is no greater treasure than re-discovering what was once thought to be lost or never even present – and that is the eternal beholding divine love that lives in the heart and soul of every woman (and man) and making that the foundation for life.
It is by reconnecting to this love, that I am reclaiming back my womanly body and soulful being where there is no space for the errant ways of the past and where if they arise, they are rapidly addressed and dissolved. I am rediscovering the fact that there is strength in vulnerability, in delicacy and fragility – all words I previously associated with being weak and feeble. I am rediscovering the joy of being me, unencumbered by hurts and traumas of the past, of loving the little girl who loved to laugh and giggle and play …who loves to work and who loves to love …and who loves the fact that life has been the most enriching, unfolding journey, way beyond any expectations of how life should be.
No longer do I need to be a man in a woman’s body to succeed, nor does any woman, but we have to realise that by playing such games we only feed the (false) belief that it is ‘a man’s world.’ There is another way – but this will only change when we all change and take ownership of what it is to be a true woman – to be a vehicle for the grace, beauty and sacredness of the divine. Welcome home.