September 9, 2021

Why Women Raised to Perform can Struggle to Create Intimacy.


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“I am thriving in my career, but I feel disconnected from my body, my sexuality, and my femininity.”

This is a sentence I hear often from my female clients working in the corporate world.

When I ask them how this shows up in their life, they say:

>> “I feel disconnected from my body” is a little experience of any kind of pleasure.

>>  “I feel disconnected from my sexuality” means the absence of sexual experiences with partners.

>> “I feel disconnected from my femininity,” when we dig deeper, feels more like they don’t feel attractive anymore and they struggle to find a romantic partner.

I have little experience from the corporate world, but I was raised to perform, to be the best at school. I was a competing athlete too. And I know the damages all this had on my relationships.

My family, like many others I believe, valued achievements and tangible results. There was no space for emotional support or growth. As a highly sensitive child, I felt crushed by these expectations but hung there a long time. The internal bomb exploded in my early 30s when I left everything behind to live in a van and travel around Australia. It was the great reset I needed and it probably saved my mental health.

More than a decade later, and no coincidence, I still share my time between Europe and tropical islands where the rhythm is slower.

I love my performing self. She has a lot of agency and she helped me to create my dream job in the form of a Women Empowerment and Sexuality coaching business. But when it comes to my friendships, my love relationships, and even the relationships with my clients, she’s not allowed in the room.

This is why: her attention is too much on herself.

She comes from a world where thinking is the biggest value, but to the point that she will pressure herself to have to say the most relevant things during a conversation. So instead of meeting another person, she will “apply” to be the most interesting person in the room.

Relationships are living organisms, fed with the synergy of beings having a genuine connection. And connection happens when both are interested in one another.

The performer, without realizing it, is mostly present with herself. And the energy she is sending out here is, “I want to get something from you.” In the form of approval, attention, respect, and love.

It is unconsciously felt by the other person and it is repelling.

If you notice you are doing this too and it doesn’t feel good, here is how to take yourself out of it:

1. Shift your attention to the other person and stay curious.

Until now, your attention was inside yourself, overanalyzing what you say. Get it out there. You will be more natural. Curiosity is an easy state to access, you just have to decide to be there. Simple, but effective.

2. The pressure lands on body image.

Your performing self can treat her body as an object. She will be happy when her body is […], fill in the blank with the expectation.

A key to sensuality is to fully inhabit our body as well. A great conversation can be highly erotic, but at some point, we will need to feel and sense to embrace the full aliveness of that moment.

This is difficult when the body is a “never good enough” place to be.

If you feel that way, instead of focusing on what you perceive as imperfections, make a list of all the ways your body gives to you: vitality, joy, or pleasure.

Remember that, especially as a woman, if you wouldn’t criticize your body or your face, the cosmetic industry would collapse in six months.

Watch the critical voice coming up. Can you replace it with something you wrote on the list instead?

3. You live in your head and not enough in your body.

Performing is an energy that lives in the head. And too much energy in the head at some point creates some compulsive thinking. This is an invisible addiction but a real one. And one thing it creates in you is rigidity.

This rigidity can be experienced in the body.

Do you know people who give you this feel? As if walking through life is an eternal problem to solve? Would you spend much time with them even if they were super smart?

Reconnect to your sensations with a few minutes of this body meditation every day:

Lie down, close your eyes, and say out loud what you feel. Observe how fast you come back to emotions or stories (your thinking mind). And choose to come back to pure sensations—pleasant or unpleasant it doesn’t matter, don’t judge them. You are training your neural network to sense more and bring more presence in your body.

You will hold yourself with much more presence and openness after one week of this simple practice.

Sometimes, rigidity stays at the level of the mind. In this case, it tries to release itself through judgements.

Too many judgements about others narrows your world. And when your world feels smaller and less friendly, your body language is more inclined to translate closeness as opposed to openness.

If you notice yourself judging and comparing yourself a lot to others, take a moment to pause and try to play with it:

Instead of, “this person is too much this,” or “not enough that,” try, “What I envy about this person is…”

Let’s be honest, we usually attack people who trigger us often because they have something we don’t have. What this second sentence is doing is stopping us from “going against” them to making it about one of our conscious desires. And then we can eventually find ways to go for it.

“Go for” is more generative than “go against.”

4. She wears an armor of excellence.

She wants to show only the wins. And there is a good reason for that.

When she was little, she didn’t feel safe being imperfect.

So the nervous system, which is the driver of the strongest impulses in us, sends some overwhelming signals to stop her from stepping into two foreign territories: play and vulnerability.

But play and vulnerability are the biggest generators of intimacy.

And to make sense of what the nervous system, which is stuck in the past, is doing seemingly protecting our safety, the mind will come up with some stories:

Things like: “Anything playful is superficial, therefore we won’t prioritize it. Plus we want to be taken seriously. Vulnerability feels weak and no one likes weak.”

Playfulness for all mammals is super attractive and a way to connect. Because when we play, we leave the controlling part of our brain for a moment and put down our guard.

Vulnerability is also a pathway to intimacy.

This one felt like danger to me.

Surprisingly, it came up big time when building my business—when I thought it would be inspiring to communicate with my audience about my wins and my great lifestyle.

I tried to do that for a while, staying in the “fitting in” trap a bit longer.

Turns out my clients are no different than me.

They are more likely to connect with someone who gets them than someone who wants to be inspiring. They want the mess as much as the alchemy and the transformation. They want to know someone can be there with them, to help them stop judging their own mess and to help them shift it.

It’s the same in any relationship. Think about your circle and your favorite people. Remember when they shifted from just being people around you to being your loved ones. When you kind of clicked or “plugged” into each other’s worlds. Chances are it happened when one of you dared to bring something tender to the table.

Vulnerability is just showing the other person that we are being humans.

This is probably the most courageous of all: overcoming the freak out over revealing what our society, or the group we are part of, labels as “flaws.”

It’s worth it for the sake of connection.

So when I am tempted to wear the shiny armor again, I remember it’s still an armor and I repeat the mantra:

F*ck inspiring. Let’s do real!


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