How does a modern woman cultivate feminine energy? What does that even mean? There is no definitive guide for how much of the feminine to embrace, or in what contexts it can best serve you. The whole idea of feminine energy can sound a little woo-woo to some women, while others embrace this construct freely. Notions of masculine and feminine energy can get pretty convoluted, even among professionals. Looking at it from a blend of various lenses, such as psychology, sociology, energy work, and neurology, can perhaps shed some light on what exactly it is, and how you can cultivate it in your life.
Defining Masculine and Feminine Energy
How the masculine and feminine are labeled and discussed seems to be similar across domains, but the motive and acceptance of those terms vary. Masculine energy, sometimes referred to as “yang,” often refers to a mindset, characteristics, and patterns of behavior that are active and action-oriented. Feminine energy, or “yin,” denotes a disposition rooted in stillness. Held in concert, this polarity of masculine and feminine represents a balance of activity and stillness.
Many people in contemporary society reject the labels of masculine and feminine, believing they are outdated and sexist, while others cling to binary gender roles as a blueprint for life. Certainly the labels of masculine and feminine can lead to dicey pairings with gender roles, which is not necessarily what these different groupings of energy or characteristics were created to delineate.
Whether someone has more masculine or feminine traits is not necessarily tied to their gender, and here is where it can get confusing. Every person needs to possess some aspect of both masculine and feminine energy. Think about it. If you were always passive, you would never even get out of bed, let alone send back an overcooked meal at a restaurant or set boundaries with an overbearing coworker. The simple act of standing up to hustle for your morning coffee is considered masculine by these definitions. Men and women, and everyone along the gender continuum, exhibit traits that are outlined as masculine or feminine, regardless of their brain sex or body sex.
Biology plays a role, but social conditioning has a lot to do with how we learn to express our genetic potential. According to this study, every human starts as a female, and those who develop into men generally do so because they are introduced to a Y chromosome, and the levels of testosterone that follow allow for the expression of male biology. So basically, the penis is an overgrown clitoris, and all humans have the capacity for personality traits that have been labeled societally as male or female characteristics. But over time, how they are socialized and inherent biological dispositions in their temperament lead to one side or the other becoming more dominant.
Some people’s dominance is slight, while others are more exaggerated. Consider the person whose presence is so big, you feel it even before they swagger into the room. Confidence, dominance, and an altogether alpha attitude go with what may be considered hypermasculine energy, but that can exist in people regardless of their biological gender. On the flip side, the hyperfeminine might be better portrayed by the quiet, passive, receptive, and softer personality—someone who does not stir up trouble or make waves, but instead sits back and observes, empathizes, and accepts. The very same person can exhibit these wildly opposite traits, if they’ve learned how to access them.
Other than knowing that fun fact about penises, you might be wondering how this relates to feminine energy. First, if you are someone who hears over and over again that you’re not feminine enough, or you scare men away, or you’re too intimidating, a reality check is required. Whatever is your norm is perfectly OK, and you do not need to change (i.e., adopt any more feminine traits) in order to be a worthy human or a worthy woman. If you do feel out of sync with your own sense of femininity or feminine energy, then perhaps a deeper exploration is warranted. Cultivating your feminine energy is about recognizing when you’re out of balance and working to realign with your ideal set point.
Cultivating Feminine Energy
When women talk about harnessing their feminine energy, a few thoughts come to mind. The primary things to consider are identity and motive. The manner in which any woman sees herself is essential to understanding how she navigates her organic masculine and feminine sides. It is imperative to ask yourself why you want to challenge your current expression. Reconsider any changes you wish to make in your expression of masculine or feminine—such as if you feel pressured to do so from family, social or professional groups, or an absence of dating prospects. Only make changes if they feel aligned with your own values. Continuing to contort yourself into the box of what you believe is expected of you as a woman is a surefire way to bring on distress, anxiety, depression, and self-betrayal.
If you take your own inventory and decide you are not as balanced as you’d like, here are a few tips to get your feminine side a-flowing.
1. Slow down. If your pace is always something close to turbo speed, consider taking a pause. Chronic busy-ness plagues our culture, as a means of getting ahead and also a way of staying distracted from feelings that are uncomfortable, like vulnerability. Yes, you guessed it. Getting in touch with your feminine side requires you to be more adept at navigating vulnerability. The fallacy is that this a sign of weakness, but the practice of accepting the risks inherent in vulnerability requires Olympian strength. Withstanding the wind is a trait assigned to the feminine, because staying put is often perceived as weak, but stillness in discomfort requires an endurance that fight or flight just cannot sustain.
2. Examine your defenses and unmet needs in life. Often, when someone is operating in survival mode, they tend to function with less patience and more impulsivity. Being quick to act may keep you safe from a lunging tiger, a speeding Mercedes, or that f*ck boy at the end of the bar, but it is the antithesis to openness, receptivity, and the kind of stillness needed to accept, nurture, and blossom. Learning about your unmet needs (i.e., all the needs that keep you stuck in the same patterns over and over again) can set you free from them. Easier said than done, but knowing how to meet your needs (either for yourself or through amazing people you trust to let in) can leave you feeling more steady, secure, and able to rest from a constant state of survival-based activities. Flowers don’t bloom in a wildfire, and people can’t holistically thrive when they are doing their best just to survive.
3. Practice the art of saying thank you. Gratitude is the practice of accepting what is available and cherishing it as abundance. This simple shift in your mind can activate neuropathway development that guides you toward positivity, another subtlety of the feminine. This is not to say settle, or accept mistreatment, but allowing for compliments to land (without explaining them away) or for lemonade to be made from life’s lemons can shift your mindset into one that can be calm, content, and soft—all of which allow for deep connection and presence within yourself and those around you.
4. Aim for balance. Cherish your masculine parts and traits just as much as you might the feminine. In order for calm to set in, the body must first know what it means to be in action. The same is true in reverse. The tension between activity and stillness is necessary for the survival of any living being, so even if you tend to possess more masculine traits, that’s okay. Own them. Cherish them too. Self-loathing is not possible when you accept and love all of your parts. Self-love will allow for more organic expression of your fullest range of traits.
5. Check your biases. Do you bristle any time someone uses the language feminine? For some women, a level of internalized sexism or misogyny has made it challenging for them to accept and develop those parts of themselves that may have led them to feel vulnerable, unworthy, targeted, or broken. Examine how you feel about gender, the messages you received about it, and how that may shape your willingness to allow a little more tenderness into your psyche and social presence.
6. Be tender with yourself and others. Even Otis Redding knew the importance of getting in touch with his feminine side when he crooned the 1967 hit “Try a Little Tenderness.” Implicit in the lyrics is the message that sometimes you have to have a place to land, and it is much easier to land on a bed of soft attunement than one of harsh conditions. Show yourself, and those around you, some empathy, especially when it feels hard. That does not mean allowing yourself to be treated poorly, but compassion can exist without condoning. Give yourself a break, and a little extra tenderness, and let the stillness set in.
Above all, remember this: The goal is to strike a balance between right and left brain, active and passive, and the masculine and feminine. These traits are two sides of the same coin, not mutually exclusive entities. The key is to give yourself permission to get to know all of your various dimensions and let them be seen fully.
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