Jen: [00:00:00] You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast. We're talking today about body image and taking up space energetically in the body that you have. Stay tuned.
Intro: [00:00:13] Are you ready to expand your soul's capacity for joy? Then this podcast is for you. I'm Dr. Jen Riday and welcome to Vibrant Happy Women.
Jen: [00:00:24] Hey, my friends. Welcome back. We're talking about our bodies today. What are your thoughts about your body? How many times in the past week have you thought, I need to lose weight? I need to tighten up my tummy, my thighs. There's no thigh gap. Oh, my gosh. It's pervasive. The thoughts, the abuse we think about and heap upon our bodies. This episode is for all of us who have a body so we can think about a new way of perhaps showing up in our bodies, showing up fully in the body we have without needing to change it. And showing up energetically proud of this body instead of shaming it. If your body were a child in your life, would it have good self-esteem based on what you think about it in your mind? Or would it have poor self-esteem based on the chatter and words and phrases you're using about it? So my guest today is Arielle Estoria and she does amazing work on Body Image. She's going to just talk. You'll hear about nude beaches. You'll hear about what happened when I was at Urgent Care and a male nurse was handling my breasts- it was getting racy, but not really – just planting the seed of perhaps showing up with a little more pride in the body that you have and perhaps wasting a little less energy and focus on always wanting to change it. What could happen? Also, teaching your kids, especially your daughters, how to show up in the body that they have. What would happen in this world if we truly accepted all body sizes? Oh, wouldn't that be liberating? What could we do with our mental capacity if we weren't wasting so much energy thinking about our body size and our appearance? Empowered, right? So much influence and difference we could all make if we could do that. So I won't give any more away. This is an important topic. I hope it gives you some great food for thought. Let's dive in.
Jen: [00:02:38] Hey there everyone. I am excited to be with Arielle Estoria today, who is a poet, author and actor. Her motto is, “words are not for the ears but for the soul” and this stems from her dedication to reminding anyone who encounters her and her work that words are meant to be felt and experienced and not just heard. Arielle has a special place in her heart for empowering women to feel at home in their own bodies. Arielle is the author of three books, just released her latest book, The Unfolding. Arielle, welcome to Vibrant Happy Women.
Arielle: [00:03:13] Thank you for having me, Jen. I'm excited to be here.
Jen: [00:03:17] So tell us a little bit about your journey and how you become interested in helping women to really feel at home in their bodies.
Arielle: [00:03:26] Yeah, I often think we become or we have a heart and passion for things that we didn't see or that we didn't have. I grew up in a house full of women, so I'm the oldest of five. Four of those being all girls. And then I have my mom. And I've always just been surrounded by really powerful, really, um, wise, really beautiful women. And I think that's kind of has created this safe spot, this soft spot in my heart. I'm also the oldest, so I have a very natural desire to be maternal and to take people under my wings. And I think for me, mostly, I grew up fairly just unaware of how to be in my body. I grew up really insecure, not able to take up the space that I know and that I've learned how to be able to take up now. And I watched a lot of other women also have that difficulty and inability to see how powerful and see how beautiful they were and how capable they are. And I just became part of making that my mission, that I was going to do whatever I could to unlock cages of insecurity and doubt and unawareness of self in the women that I encountered. And doing that through poems and through doing that through social media affirmations and graphics and, and seeing me in my swimsuit and my underwear and hoping that encourages other women to be a little bit more free as well.
Jen: [00:05:01] Ooh, this is so cool. You know, I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and there's a place here on campus called the Union Terrace. And there's, obviously all the college students are there. And I've noticed a shift over the past decade or so where there are large women, Um, I don't even want to use that word, but large women in bikinis. And I grew up in an era where large women were taught to cover everything. So, um, where do you think the shift is coming from? And I'm, by the way, you know, I'm super excited. You're a part of it. Yeah.
Arielle: [00:05:38] I think the I think there's it's not so much as a shift as we are just being where we should have been to begin with. You know, the average size of a woman like size wise is between 14 and 16. But that is not what we see in magazines. It's not what we see all the time on television or on runways. And so we're starting to see it more, this conversation of we went from body positivity to like, love your bodies and be with your bodies to this conversation that are really being spearheaded by specifically black and trans women of body radical acceptance, which is so much better than just positivity. And now we're kind of sitting in this neutrality space and I always say the neutrality space is sometimes I feel like a potato and sometimes I feel like Beyonce. And we need both of those moments, you know? And so I think we're in a wave where we're tired of not seeing ourselves represented in everything that we're consuming. And I think there needs to be more conversation because we are the majority, quote-unquote, bigger or fat or curvy or whatever.
Arielle: [00:06:49] People are actually the majority of society, and we've been made to feel like we're the minority. So I think it's just a matter of leveling the playing field, if you will, of bringing more conversations around all bodies. And I think Target has a really they've always been really great at doing that. And because they know who their audience is, they know their audience's families. You know their know they know that those families have kids with special needs and they and they've always their branding has always been on point. Curvy women, bigger people, bigger men even and, you know, male-identifying people. And so I think their branding has kind of always been like my tier of like, this is where everyone should be like we should be at this point and it shouldn't have to be this. Active conversation of like, we're being inclusive. You know, we're making space at the table. The table already exists and the table includes humanity. So there needs to be a representation of what that looks like.
Jen: [00:07:48] Yes, that's well said, Huh? You know, I feel like women across so many areas are having this awakening. But this this body image piece, it's coming, but it's also slow. And I still hear women talking about dieting and not fitting into things. And the shame and the pressure is coming from the media and advertisements and stuff, but also we're just believing something that's been passed down. So what steps have you worked through to shift that for you and that we might apply for ourselves?
Arielle: [00:08:28] Yeah, I think I really realized that. Sorry. I think I really realized how much of a tool for suppression and for smallness, the concept of body image even is, to begin with. If we think about that as a stronghold, for us to not be aware of who we are and to not walk like we know who we are, that's all that that, that that was. And I strongly believe that women were given as much as they were given to be put into boxes, to be conditioned because of how powerful and because of how capable and because of how, you know, amazing we are in a nutshell. So if we if they can give us these reminders of insecurities and being, you know, comparing ourselves with one another, and may get distracted and we don't realize how powerful we are. So I think for me, I had to realize this, me not being aware and me feeling small, that's not for me. Like my name literally means lioness. It literally means lioness. It's actually a male Hebrew name. So, I take namesakes. Very. They're very close to me. They're very important to me. So I'm living, I was not living like a lion. I was living very scared, very insecure. You know, I think of the elephant that Tori Kelly plays in Sing and just how just like naturally she was so big and took up so much space, and yet she hid so much. And then the moment she opened her mouth, the moment she started to sing, she took that was the space she was meant to take up. The moment she opened her mouth, it exuded. And I think about that when it comes to myself. The moment I open my mouth, the moment I stepped on stage, I realized the expansiveness I was meant to take up and exist within.
Arielle: [00:10:22] And I was living less than half of that because I didn't feel like I was worthy of it, because I didn't feel like I was, you know. I had been told, you're too much, you're you're too demanding, you're too this. And I started to take those on as if they were negative things when actually they were just part of who I am. And they're part of what makes me strong and what makes me capable and what makes me a lion, you know? And so I think for me, I just had to realize, like, this is not the fullness in which I'm meant to exist within, and then you start shedding those layers. But it's, it's a journey. I think there are some days I still wake up and I'm like, you know, I could be better, you know? And then there are some days where I'm like talking to myself in the mirror and I'm like, You look really cute today, so well done, you know? And I think it's just a matter of, you know, being gentle with ourselves and especially as women and female-identifying people, our bodies change more than anyone else's because of our capabilities and things that we can and cannot do. And so I think there's just so much grace for the space we have here and learning that my affirmation that I carry with me is I love and accept my body for where she is, where she was, and where she will be. Um, and giving myself the permission to just be with my body and all the spaces and waves in which my body exists. Yeah. Mm.
Jen: [00:11:44] Super interesting. Um, it reminds me of… I just, I follow someone on social media who is an American living in Denmark, raising kids. And she said, um, women feel safer there than she believes women feel in the US. And then the whole discussion happened in the comments. People came to the conclusion that it all comes down to body image. In Scandinavian countries, people are often doing sauna, there's nude beaches. Uh, and I've been thinking about it ever since, How can we, you know, keep making that shift? I suppose it's, the women in the bikinis is a good first step, but that's…
Arielle: [00:12:28] A good first step, I think. Um, I always love when I post something myself in a swimsuit or, or in my or underwear. And I'll get DMs from women sending me their pictures. They won't post it all the time on their page, but they'll send it to me and they'll be like, “You know, I saw you in your swimsuit, I saw your post and I bought this swimsuit the moment I saw you in one and I've been just sitting with it, you know, and six, seven, eight months a year now I'm finally wearing it.” And I think that's a first step. I think representation, like you said, is a first step. I think we there are actually, I'm in California and there are probably there are not many nude beaches, but there is one in San Diego that I just so happen to stumble upon. And it was a really freeing experience of just seeing people be bodies, you know, And then you realize how much pressure we put on it. You know, we realize how much, um, if you look at art, the conversations of bodies have always meant to be beautiful and to be expansive and to be inviting. And we've made it super elitist. We've made it a space to judge people and point fingers. But it would actually be really boring if we all had the same body.
Arielle: [00:13:46] Um, and, and I love seeing people live fully in their bodies no matter what size, you know, that they identify or that they feel like they are. And so I definitely think, um, stretching ourselves outside our comfort zones, obviously being a swimsuit model is not anything I planned for myself. And it's still something where I'm like, You want me to put that on and you're going to take a picture of it? Like it just still it's still a very strange space to me, but it's always been a space where it's been fun. It's been fun to like connect with my body in a different way and to feel great in it. And, um, yeah, So get, get the piece and it doesn't have to be a post, you know, It doesn't have to be a big thing. Just get the piece, and be with yourself. Just walk around your house in it. Just get, get to feel what it feels like. Um, and, and yeah. Do I think I would give the homework of doing something that helps you stretch or expand past your comfort level but keep it to yourself? It doesn't have to be public. Keep it to yourself. It can just be for you. Yeah.
Jen: [00:14:52] It's yeah, it's so interesting. I mean, the possibilities are really coming into my mind. My husband grew up in Europe and they went to nude beaches and I see a body is really just a body to him. There's not all the sexuality that's somehow attached in the US and many other cultures. And then his mom would walk around naked. I think that also helped. Am I going to take the leap and walk around naked? I don't know.
Arielle: [00:15:21] I definitely, I definitely do. And my husband is like, “Babe, the windows are open.” I was like, “Nobody's looking in the house.” Like, yeah, yeah. It's kind of, it's kind of freeing. It's definitely kind of freeing.
Jen: [00:15:35] I do walk around in my underwear, which my kids also find disgusting, but whatever.
Arielle: [00:15:40] Of course.
Jen: [00:15:42] Um, you know, another experience is popping into my head. I had an urgent care visit the other day and, um, had anyway, had to have a procedure where I had a male nurse and it was so, it was so nice. My breasts, he had to lift them. Yeah. And they were just objects. It was nothing to him. And I was like, “This is so amazing.” And I didn't care because he didn't care. Yeah. And, um. I don't know. I would love to see a shift if everyone listening could just think of something you can do to normalize body parts, right? Yeah.
Arielle: [00:16:19] And think of like, if we think of, um, like I'm trying to think of what we think is just so normal. Like someone breathing, someone sneezing, and you're just like, and you might make a little, you know, because of COVID, it might be a little like, you know, but for the most part, you're still like, “Oh, bless you.” You know, like or, “Oh, do you need a tissue? It's just so natural. But like if someone's out, you know, and assumes you're like, Oh wow, that's… you have and we make a thing out of it. And so I wonder how much we would get more comfortable and less pointing fingers at it if we just make it. So that's just something that is you breathe, you sneeze, you're a body. There's just something that is, you know, we definitely made it something, but it just, really is “call the thing a thing.” You know? It just it. That's what it is. A body.
Jen: [00:17:09] Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So you mentioned taking up space and I mean, it relates to the body, but it's also bigger. It's like an energetic thing. So I host women's retreats, and I'll tell you the truth, for my first few retreats, I was horrified because people only see me from the neck up usually, and I was horrified to think, “Oh my gosh, they're going to know how big I really am. And someone who's a leader can't be this big. They're going to think I'm a fraud!” And then the transition over the years to this last retreat, I just didn't care. And my friend actually noticed and said, “Jen, it's so cool, like you're presenting like a, there's an energy. But you don't present like you're shy and embarrassed of your body. The presentation makes you seem smaller. Not that it matters, but yeah, it makes you seem so much smaller.” So it's like taking up space in the body that I'm in. So I guess speak to taking up space, what that means for you and how you've seen it applied in various ways.
Arielle: [00:18:22] Yeah, well, obviously I'm, I'm like five foot eight. I've always been fairly taller than most of the people around me. Most of my friends. That changed fairly quickly. Now I feel kind of short when it comes to being around a lot of, like my husband's like six feet, to my brother, who's 17, is six foot six, my dad's six five. So now I feel I'm still the tallest woman, but I've always felt significantly taller and then already just physically that I took up a lot of space. I was always bigger than most of my friends. Um, you know, my development for boobs and Hips, all that came fairly early on, so I always felt like that made me feel like, you know, an outsider or that I just look too old. Even during my freshman year of college, no one thought I was a freshman. Everyone thought I just carried myself just way a lot older. I looked a lot older. You know, now I feel like it's kind of embarrassing. People don't often know that I'm in my 30s a lot of times. But yeah, I think for me it was just a matter of like watching these moments and just feeling like, “okay, I'm already taking up a presence.” And like you said, it's an energy to it. So my, you know, my presence of awareness of myself and confidence was actually walking in the room, um, as my body was. But then I went and suppressed it by being like, “Oh, I'm not taking compliments” or I'm apologizing, you know, for speaking my mind or for showing up in a certain way or for having an opinion.
Arielle: [00:19:59] And I just started to realize this is actually this is more suppressing, not taking up the space that I feel like I'm meant to take up. And like you said, being on stage and you having that confidence because why not? I think there's I think the double-edged sword to, you know, bigger people or curvier people being like, oh, “look at you! I wish I had your confidence.” You know, that's not actually a compliment because you're not saying that to a smaller-sized woman in a peacoat who's just there. You know, she doesn't really ever get congratulated for her confidence. She gets congratulated for being beautiful, and for taking up the space she's taking. So why then is it when it comes to curvier and bigger people, why does it have to be a recognition of how confident we are? Why can't we be confident? Why can't we take up this space? Why? Why? And so that kind of microaggression when it comes to like, oh, “I just love how confident you are,” or “I love how bold you are” is actually not as much of a compliment as we have been making it to be. So just remember that next time you tell a bigger woman that she's so bold for taking up the space that, of course, she was meant to take up. So I think, I really just learned how judgmental it was. And instead to be like, “What are you talking about? This is exactly who I am.”
Arielle: [00:21:27] This is exactly what I was put on this earth to do. Why would I do it any less? You know, then I know how to. Why would I not? Why would I not be that, you know? And again, it takes time and it goes in waves. There's definitely imposter syndrome moment and all of that. But all of that is what I learned from a therapist recently: Nadia Tawwab. She just wrote the book Drama Free Boundaries Within a Family. And then also her first book is called Boundaries, and she talked about how imposter syndrome is just a form of anxiety. And I was like, oh, my gosh, yes, it is. Because our brains are like, “I don't deserve to be here. I'm not good enough,” but we're already here. So like mixing in that anxiety to that situation doesn't help because we're already on that stage. We're already breathing and living, therefore we're already taking up the space. But now we need to energetically have the mindset that we are actively doing it and that we deserve to do it. And I think that's what it really comes down to, is reminding ourselves that we're deserving, that we're worthy of taking up the space. And I think that's what we have to convince ourselves before we're able to actually embody that in. And then to physically do it, we have to tell ourselves, I'm worthy of this, I'm capable of this and allow that to be our mantra.
Jen: [00:22:47] So mantras, this is kind of your thing. Tell us about your latest book and how it relates.
Arielle: [00:22:54] Mhm. So a lot of the unfolding is about giving yourself that permission to unfold, to peel back the layers and to take up that space to realize the boldness of who you are. As for me, my journey was specifically as a person of spirituality, of faith, and figuring out what that means and what that looks like, you know, for myself now, and also to own my decisions, to know that I can trust myself and I can trust that even though I feel like there is a divine orchestration happening in what I'm doing, I'm still putting in the work. I think often we talk about manifesting or like, you know, praying about it, but like that doesn't mean being idle. It means you got to put in some work for the universe, for God, for whoever to do something with, you know? And so for me, the unfolding was about undoing a lot of those thoughts, undoing a lot of those conditionings that I realized were this is a mindset made to keep me small and to not be aware of who I am and to walk in that fully and to break up the unfolding into five phases, if you will.The first phase is Awakening. It's that realization of the space we are meant to take up and the people we're allowed to be. But it's really scary because it may not look like who we were. You know, it may look like that insecure person who doesn't know how to show up on stage, who doesn't know who keeps apologizing for how she takes up space. And so realizing I'm awakening to these new parts of myself. And it's kind of really scary. You know, I always say that the awakening is like waking up from a nap in the middle of the afternoon and you're like, “Who am I? Where am I? Who's the president? What year is it?” You know, it's that foggy kind of moment that we have. So we're awakening. And then from that an Eclipsing happens. We have these two shadow selves that cross each other and we get to decide which one of them is us, you know, which one of them is going to step into the light. And then we get into the Illuminating. We shed light on who we were holding, who we were, and who we are in the same breath and figuring out what's coming with us and what's staying. And then we take that work. We take that light work into the Mending. There's this art, this Japanese art of kintsugi that takes broken pieces of glass and or clay pieces and molds them together with like this gold liquid glue. And you can still see where the pieces are broken, but it's still a whole thing and it's still a beautiful thing. And you can see what you picked up and what you created in the wholeness. And then we get to the Returning, the return to ourselves, the return to our bodies, the return to a divine that doesn't, you know, elicit shame or guilt. And so most of how I process these things are through poetry. So a lot of the phases will have poetry and essays, and then each chapter or phase ends with reflection questions, because I want you to talk about your own story. I want this to connect back to you. If you're only reading my story, I feel like that does very little for anyone's growth or transformation. So there are some journal questions in there and also some meditations as well. So the audiobook, that's a really fun aspect of…
Jen: [00:26:15] Okay. So it's called the Unfolding. That's really cool. What beautiful words. Awakening. Eclipsing. Illuminating. Mending. And Returning. Yes, it is an Unfolding. It is. Like, Origami. Yes, absolutely. Wow. Beautiful. Okay. So what are your plans moving forward to continue, you know, expanding this work for, you know, the world? Really?
Arielle: [00:26:43] Yeah. Well, I'm hoping to like, I teach yoga as well, so I teach yoga for bigger bodies. And so that's been a really beautiful space that I've been able to tap into right now where every week. So every Thursday evening and I work and collaborate with a plus-sized consignment store here in Highland Park. And so they're called the Plus Bus. So we connect and we have yoga and hiking and rollerblading and just activities for bigger bodies to participate in and feel safe, because oftentimes when we're at gyms or at studios, we're the biggest person in the room. There's a lot of insecurity that comes up with it. So creating safe spaces for bigger-bodied people. I'm also doing a yoga retreat this summer in Yosemite with a yoga studio, United Yoga Studio. So that's an opportunity for you to come and check out. And so just constantly helping and finding ways for women to tap into their physical body and trying to figure out what a workshop and things like that could look like. So the book is part of it. And then continuously for me to do the work, I feel like if we can talk a lot about what helps and what doesn't help. But I don't genuinely know that unless I've been doing the work for myself. So yoga's been a practice for me and being able to like replicate that. And then I will keep writing. I will keep doing poems and stories and metaphors and, and, and stories for women to come home to themselves, extending permission slips for them to do what they will with it. Um, and yeah. And hopefully, more swimsuit modeling. Yeah.
Jen: [00:28:25] Love it. Yeah. I mean you mentioned yoga. That's so fascinating. I'm certified in yoga and one of my excuses has been my body size. And, you know, you issued the challenge just minutes ago just to do something. I'm thinking, ooh, I can do that.
Arielle: [00:28:42] We can do a lot. We can do a lot more in our bodies. And there's wonderful, bigger body advocated people. And also that is part of the work of yoga of decolonizing it that it's supposed to look one way for one type of body. And it's not like we're technically, we're not practicing asana right now, which is the movement, the flow. But we are practicing yoga in this moment of connecting, of being with each other. So undoing that and also realizing that, yeah, bigger bodies can do yoga. Um, Dianne Bondy is a great one. Um, Diane, um, there's like, there are so many people who are bigger-bodied – Sonya Renee Taylor – who are doing yoga in their bodies and yeah, they're doing handstands and stuff. I'm not there yet, but they're all doing wonderful, wonderful work.
Jen: [00:29:34] Yeah, that's so cool. All right. I mean, we all have to do our part. I feel a sense of a calling here. I need to do my part maybe even more, you know, inclusive imaging on my own website and my branding and not just, you know, bigger-bodied, but maybe different bodies, you know, with disabilities, able-bodied and not able-bodied.
Arielle: [00:29:58] Yeah. Um, there's actually a book Yoga for Everyone by Dianne Bondy. And in her book she has pictures of a bunch of different people of different bodies and able bodies doing the poses as well. So there's a lot of options. There's chair yoga, there's, there's floor yoga, there's so many options. So there really is no we can do it. Everyone can do yoga genuinely. Everyone can do yoga. Yeah, there's a resource out there for you somewhere. So yeah.
Jen: [00:30:29] Everyone can wear bikinis. Everyone. Yes. Nude beaches can do. Everyone can have nurses handling them with no embarrassment. Yes, yes, yes. All right. Well, beautiful. Your light is amazing. And I think what you do is so important. I want to thank you for being here today.
Arielle: [00:30:48] Thanks so much for having me.
Jen: [00:30:50] If you enjoy this podcast, you'd love Vibrant Soul, the place to heal, transform and expand your soul with like-minded friends. Join us at jenriday.com/vibrantsoul.