How to be true to yourself & celebrate your uniqueness – top tips from Mika Simmons
When it comes to the taboo-ridden topics of bodies, vaginas, periods, sex, and relationships, Mika Simmons is well acquainted. As well as being an actress and filmmaker, Mika is the founder of gynae cancer charity, the Lady Garden foundation, and host of ‘The Happy Vagina’ podcast. She has made it her mission to debunk the antiquated medical, political and societal myths surrounding women and their bodies.
Mika has combined her wonderful way with words and her wisdom of all things gynae health to deliver her debut book, The Happy Vagina. The book is an educational yet entertaining guide to sexual wellbeing and gynaecological health. By smashing the awkwardness with an approachable and positive message, this guide is something all sexes and age groups can feel empowered by.
We are proud to be featuring an extract of this fabulously fierce and beautifully illustrated book. In this section, Mika uncovers all the reasons we have to celebrate ourselves and our bodies. She also shares her top tips for beating the ever-prolific thief of joy: comparison to others.
Get ready for a book jam-packed full of fabulous facts that will empower you to know, appreciate and maybe even love your body.
Extract from The Happy Vagina, by Mika Simmons
You are a goddess
By now, we hope you’ve got the gist of this, but just in case you haven’t, we’re diving in for one last hurrah, this time out of our pants and into your (potentially) low self-esteem.
It’s not that women have ownership of low self-esteem but all the shenanigans noted earlier (from philosophers blowing their own male trumpets, while developing the patriarchy) has certainly left their mark. Women, we believe, are probably the primary victims of this detrimental social conditioning.
Social what? Social conditioning. This is when society trains individuals or a group of individuals within society to respond in a manner that is generally approved of by the society and peer groups within it. All humans are impacted by this, but we are calling out to the brave ones – the ones who want to smash the taboos around what it is to be a woman and replace them with the truth about the female organism and re-find their wild.
There are hundreds of reasons why all human beings should feel amazing about themselves. So let us share with you some of our favourites about women!
Reasons why you should feel amazing about yourself – You are special and different
You can bear the pain
As we mentioned previously, women can genuinely experience more pain than men. But it’s not about strength, it’s all to do with memory. Men are more stressed and hypersensitive when they think of pain they’ve experienced before, while women tend to forget about it faster, leaving them with a pain threshold nine times stronger than men’s.
You are uniquely flexible
Yes, every single part of you, and not just your vagina for childbirth, but your whole body. This might leave you with stretch marks and, if you have been blessed with them, we are here to tell you that they are the beautiful. They are your goddess warrior marks that should make you glad you are a woman.
Small but powerful
Although male brains are larger than female brains, did you know we have the same amount of brain cells? Yup, it’s just that the brain cells in a female are simply packed closer together. And it might not come as a surprise to you that the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that evaluates options when making a decision, is larger in women than in men.
Brighter in technicolour
Women can distinguish colours better than men – we literally see more shades. It is also perhaps for this reason that men are more commonly colour blind.
Females have higher numbers of and/or higher activity in some types of T cells, which can help trigger adaptive immune responses to viral infections.
Expressing ourselves is something that many (not all) women are exceptional at. And there’s even an anatomical explanation for this: women have larger frontal and temporal areas of the cortex, a brain region that is thought to influence language skills.
Some studies show that women can perform stamina-related exercise significantly longer than men. The reason for this is hidden in our hormones, as it’s thought women’s oestrogen makes our muscles more resistant to fatigue.
To thine own self be true – be true to yourself
We hope all of the examples above help show you that you are perfect, just as you are. That does not, however, mean that your life will be perfect, so we also wanted to share with you some suggestions for how to live your very best WOMAN life. Starting with ‘to thine own self be true’.
Have you ever heard the expression ‘compare and despair’? OMG. We know!
Then repeat after us: ‘I will not compare myself to others.’
You are not to blame if you have a penchant for thinking this way – we are all at it. It’s how our brains are wired within the evolutionary context of survival. Having a cognitive ability to compare our skills with those of others, or to suss out whether or not we might be acceptable to another social group was absolutely essential to our survival tactics. However, in the present day, this type of ‘less than’ or ‘more than’ thinking can contribute to anxiety, depression, shame and envy, leading to self-criticism and lack of self-worth, which rapidly undermines anyone’s confidence.
How to stop comparing yourself to others
So, how do you shake it?
It’s not easy to overcome the habit of comparing ourselves to others and tap into our own, unique, wild self. However, start by taking time each day to be still and meditate on all the things you can be grateful for. Meditation and gratitude go a long way towards combating anxiety and allowing you a more balanced perspective.
But before we lose you at the thought of sitting still for 10 minutes and clearing your mind, did you know that anything can be meditation?! Breadmaking, walking and painting can all be meditation if they allow you some space between your speedy thoughts.
Beyond the bubble bath, candles and rom-com type of self-care, there is a pioneering, anti-people-pleasing version of self-care that you can access when you decide to put yourself first. This is less about how you look on the outside but more to do with what you need on the inside. The first step to radical self-care is to set boundaries in your life. If you find that hard, don’t be hard on yourself. Women are socially conditioned to be people-pleasers, often being made to believe that our role in life is to care, love and organize. Your first step
will be to stop caring so much if people like you by getting out of the lane you never wanted to be in, finding YOUR OWN lane and then proceeding to win.
You are totally unique
Hang on, haven’t you already mentioned that? Affirmative. It was a few pages back (see page 36) when we graced you with the amazing knowledge that your vulva is like a snowflake. Oh yes! And now we are going to bang on about your uniqueness a bit more because symmetry is so overrated.
The more you can embrace your weird and let your unbelievable unique self out, the more your self-esteem will increase.
Did you know that no woman anywhere, ever, has absolutely symmetrical breasts? And that your left breast is almost definitely bigger than your right? How cool is that? The difference in their size can either be invisible or quite noticeable, and there could be lots of reasons for this. For example, it could be a difference in the volume of breast tissue, the size or shape of the breast pocket, or even the elasticity of the skin on each breast.
Anger is a useful emotion and one that women have often been denied due to that aforementioned social conditioning. When you are born with a voice but consistently discouraged from using it, it is not uncommon for this voice to turn on its owner and, in a paradoxical effort to protect, become an internalized critic and source of much psychic angst. Regardless of whether those messages were transmitted by your family or not, they were almost definitely reinforced by society. If you feel angry, there is likely a reason for it. Let it out. Then let it go. Why? Because sitting on a resentment is like drinking poison and
expecting the other person to die. Sitting on it will negatively impact both your mental and physical health. Finding forgiveness does not mean that you forget or are pretending that something didn’t happen, or even that you have to have that person or people in your life. It is a private experience, inside of yourself, that will enable you to be free, to stay wild.
You’ve heard the expression – you are only as sick as your secrets – right? This is because the things that we keep to ourselves, fearing other humans won’t understand, will judge us or, worse, not love us, can become the fulcrum around which negative emotions pivot and, in the worst case scenario, start to impact our life choices. The best self-care love lesson we can do for ourselves is eliminate our shame. Make sure that you have one person in your life you have told absolutely everything to; someone you trust, who champions you and does not judge.
One of the greatest challenges as we grow into adults is to remain curious and open-minded. Rational and fear-based thinking takes over as we go through life and experience loss and trauma, but a life without judgement will set you free to achieve your goals. Why? Because no one, NO ONE, who judges other people is free from judging themselves.
Thoughts are not facts
So, learn to let go of the unhelpful ones. It’s very likely that, in our attempt to persuade you to think about some of your positive qualities, your mind is already coming up with excuses; how some of those good things that you have thought of ‘don’t count’, or someone ‘only said that to be kind’, ‘they didn’t mean it’, ‘they wanted something’… Notice that this is your mind still trying to defend its own prejudice against itself.
Wear the damn shorts
Feeling ‘unfeminine’, ‘unsexy’ or ‘too large’ as a woman is a form of body dysmorphia that has been imposed on us. It grew out of society’s need to keep us small. In no uncertain terms, size stigma and dieting is society’s modern-day corset, invented to keep us small.
We are not small, or medium, or large. We are women who come in all shapes and all sizes and we are perfect just as we are. So, fuck diets.
Extract from The Happy Vagina by Mika Simmons, published by Pavilion Books.
Illustrations by Maja Tomljanovic.
Buy Mika’s book:
The Happy Vagina is available to buy now.
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