Femininity means what to me, exactly?

When I gain weight, a part of recovering from my eating disorder I find difficult, it hits the female body parts first. My breasts and hips and thighs show the weight gain before it appears anywhere else. My body type is on the curvy side and I’ve always hated that fact.

Bones and angles have long been my goal. Nothing feminine to see here folks, so move along. I doctor years ago suggested that for some, an eating disorder is a rejection of being female. I mocked his assertion but now I’m not so sure.

But why?

Why do I resist being feminine so much?

What does it mean to me to be feminine, anyhow?  I’m struggling with both a definition and an execution.

I believe people are equal. I believe we have different qualities in different amounts but none are inherently better. I believe we can choose to be as masculine or as feminine as we want. At least, that’s what I’d say if someone asked me about other people. Talking to my counsellor made it clear that I have different rules and definitions for myself.

I struggle with being feminine, at least being my definition of being feminine. For me it seems to be about wearing dresses and taking care of myself, about wearing makeup and various and sundry adornments. But I struggle with doing these things. I even struggle with changing my earrings. All things I kind of want to do and yet resist. Part of it is due to depression – it can make it challenging to do anything, especially things that come under the umbrella of self-care – but part of it is definitional. What do I think it will mean if I embrace things that are seen to be feminine?

The conversation with my counsellor revealed this little gem: I equate femininity with weakness, vulnerability, and availability. Somewhere inside of me is the belief that to be feminine means you can’t say no.

Apparently, I have tied a boatload of negative associations with being feminine, at least for myself.

I wondered if I would enjoy being a feminine if I didn’t think it would lead to disaster?

I wonder if my rejection of the feminine is why I hate my breasts? The desire to be sticks and bones that comes with my eating disorder has an element of androgyny to it.  

I also fear being mocked for my efforts. Who am I to try and look nice? My eating disorder tells me I’m not thin enough to wear what I want – shapeless sacks, only, if you please. I’m not worthy of wearing pretty things. I’m not pretty enough yet, not thin enough yet, not perfect enough yet.

So, with respect to being feminine, I’m afraid of what it means and afraid of how people will react to the change in my appearance.

You don’t have to wear dresses to be feminine. You don’t have to avoid them either. There isn’t a preset list, a correct way to present, though that would be nice. Everyone can define femininity for themselves. I need to learn to define it for myself in a positive way. I suspect that in the appearance category, there will be an element of pretty attached to my definition although as yet, I’m loathe to clothe myself in that manner.

Weak, vulnerable, afraid, and available. If that’s how I define being feminine, why would I embrace it?

As for what I want it to mean, I have no idea. I just know that I want to be able to enjoy getting a pedicure or buying a dress without feeling like I’m betraying something fundamental about myself, putting myself at risk, or risking being seen as foolish, ill-suited to my clothes.

This is going to be one of those “sit with it and work through it” kind of issues. The challenges make me wish I hadn’t mentioned it to my counsellor and opened that can of worms. But I’ve shared a secret and acknowledged a problem which means I now have to do something about it.  

6 thoughts on “Femininity means what to me, exactly?

  1. This world is so colorful. There are so many cultures that define femininity differently than each other. Start by studying their women’s customs, dresses, makeups, etc. You’d be happily surprised, I promise 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Those deep rooted beliefs are so hard to relinquish even if at your core you know they are harmful to your growth and self actualization. I try not to categorize or define myself. I am just me. Uniquely me but it helps me to recognize that my thoughts and feelings are shared by many. We are all trying to master our humanness and make the most of life.

    Liked by 1 person

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