What Queen Esther has to do with the new year’s resolution
It’s the end of one year, 2018 and the beginning of the next, 2019.
This is a perfect time to decide about changes one is going to take – So let’s talk about the new year resolutions we all love to make around this time of the year.
Sometimes, those resolutions are more like conversations among friends than actual goal-setting exercises.
However, today, I would like to introduce you to a goal setting exercise that might be new to you, even if the subject in itself is a very popular one.
How do you feel about your body?
This question is not about your weight, body shape, the kind of food you eat or the diet you make.
Nor am I talking about the kind of clothes you feel comfortable with, or your fashion.
I’m talking about feeling comfortable in your body. Loving yourself for who you are, but as well loving your own appearance.
Mostly, a new year’s resolution to that topic will be about the weight one plans to lose.
The diet one wants to try, the hours one wants to spend in a gym or outside in order to get back into shape.
Lamentably, these new year’s resolutions mostly find an end long before the new year has passed by and one goes back to the old eating habits and life patterns, and nothing changes.
Some of you however, would never even think about such a new year’s resolution. Simply, because life is too busy. Motherhood is draining, daily schedules are overloaded and there are plenty of other priorities in your life.
Others struggle with the subject of body feeling due to past abuse, a lost fight against overweight, stretch marks or other realities of motherhood that have changed your body forever.
Whatever your reality is: As parents, we are role models even on how we love – or hate, care for – or neglect our body.
I know girls as young as 9 years who feel “too fat” when comparing themselves to their classmates, even if they look perfectly fine. Knowing the parents (mostly the mother) one can see a pattern there.
Today, I would like to introduce you to something that can change your life, your body feeling, in a beautiful way.
The Esther program.
The idea for this program is taken from the book “From Shame to Peace” adapted to this article with permission. The author, Téo Van der Weele is a dear friend of mine.
Actually, the Esther program is something like a self-care program.
Téo Van der Weele, who worked with countless people who had been sexually abused, developed the idea of this practical approach for of the body in order to encourage a sense of physical well-being of both women as well as men. It has shown a positive effect on persons who don’t feel comfortable in their own body, from merely ignoring their body to having intense negative feelings about their own body.
“This program is based on the book of Esther in the Bible. It describes the life of a simple Jewish girl, who is taken into a very oppressive system: a potential wife for the absolute monarch, the king. When king Xerxes faced a defiant wife, he chose, or rather was forced, to get rid of her. Xerxes wanted another queen. He had enough concubines in his harem, but he desired something else; someone who knew how to relate to him as a ruler; a queen, not just a female body. So his servants set out to select girls to receive training to be ‘more than a female body’. It was in such a dysfunctional atmosphere that Esther was chosen as one of the potential candidates. Esther was a sheltered, shy, simple Jewish alien, an orphan raised by an uncle. The story tells us how she was transformed into a woman who knew to use her power. At the same time she was able to avoid slipping over the cultural precipice which had made the previous queen fall out of grace. To achieve this, Esther was given time to develop her personality and her sense of worth. It involved the bathing, perfuming, clothing and preparation for a private party with the king.“
The Esther Program
Esther was 1. bathed, 2. perfumed, 3. dressed and made ready for a 4. party with the King.
These four events triggered the following suggestions which have developed over the course of time, not least through feedback from those who applied them.
For at least two weeks, twice a day, spend ten minutes under the shower, or in a bubble bath (the issue is to feel one’s skin). Use body lotion after the shower, to prevent dry skin and itching. Initially the time can be shorter, but it should soon increase to ten minutes.
Téo explains “: After two weeks of doing this once or twice a day, I have often received reports from abuse and rape survivors that these two weeks alone have made a terrific impact on their self-awareness. Also, those who had lost the sense of feeling in their skin and who mutilated themselves just to have a sense of pain were helped by slowly waking up to the feeling of water. The idea of rinsing off what others had done to them is also a help. Some of the responses I received taught me how deeply shame is linked to the skin.“
To extend this experience, most of all if you’re alone at home or have a key for your bedroom, you can prepare your room with some (worship)-music and crawl into the bed, naked.
Just feel your body and enjoy the moment. Try to stay like this for about 5 worship songs (or about 20 minutes of Vienna Walzes for those who prefer that).
For some, this might be overwhelming to feel their own body in such an intense way. It might be a good chance to learn to be freer with your body.
When you start to feel comfortable, you can even drop the blanket, heat up your room and lie on your bed naked. Again, try to stay like this for about 5 worship songs (or about 20 minutes of Vienna Walzes for those who prefer that).
Do this whole process as long as you feel that it helps you in this process to re-appropriate your body.
For some, mostly if you went through abuse or other traumatic experiences connected to your body, this exercise can be followed with strong emotion such as shame – a woman was talking about a feeling of panic in the beginning – uneasiness or even hatred of specific body parts.
- Perfume (for men a lotion or aftershave) is like a positive signal (it smells good). It has one problem; after a few seconds, you don’t smell it yourself any more, while others do! Perfume also carries a kind of warning. If someone comes close enough to smell the perfume you are wearing, it helps that person to check the closeness of relationship. The smell is like a kind of underwear. As such it might be good to ask yourself who gave it to you and, above all, do you really like it? If not, push it aside.After putting aside all that does not suit you, the next step is hard for some; go to a perfume shop and keep smelling and choosing, until the right smell shows up. There is one condition; don’t look at the price. Just remember that the psychiatrist is more expensive!
Once the first perfume has become part of the normal body smell, go back a second time and buy one for special occasions. Then buy a third perfume for your intimate moments in marriage. This might be a subtle way of saying, ‘We might, or we might not, but try it …’
This part of the program is very special:
With the perfume issue settled, a new project starts; to choose one special outfit. I have discovered that many women, especially those who have been abused, buy nice clothing and then don’t dare to wear it; or they look longingly at it, but cannot make a choice. They sense it is just not right for them. It would call too much attention to the body. Male survivors often respond with slovenliness (and get away with it better). Often only after much prodding by a partner can they bring themselves to the extravagance of buying something new. (‘Why a new sweater? Is this one not good enough?’)
Make a list of what one normal outfit would cost and multiply it by four! Then start saving for one outfit at that price. This is way beyond the norm, so it takes time to save. The key issue to this part of the Esther project is to keep it a secret. Just put some money aside quietly each month. Also buy some fashion magazines to study the clothing in the price range for which you are saving. This becomes quite self-educating. It also takes time to develop one’s taste in this range. That is not a problem for most of us, as it will take quite some time to save the necessary funds secretly! For most of us this project could last many months. Once the money is in, go to the special boutiques where they sell more expensive clothing and browse around. Let the assistants advise you; they will smell your money and treat you royally. After six weeks of choosing (not fewer), take a good friend along who will not impose her or his views of what is nice upon you; just someone to laugh with and to encourage you. Then make your choice within six weeks at the most.
4. The party
Once the money for the new outfit is in, there are at least six weeks in which to save a bit more for the grand finale, the party. If you are single, invite friends to the party and then be the talk of the evening. If you’re married, a different approach is suggested (…) Book a weekend in a hotel secretly. Let someone in to the secret and ask them to help watch the children. When your husband comes home, have his and your suitcases ready. Just let him get back into the car, or a waiting taxi, for a surprise trip. Then let him wait in the hotel bar while you dress up alone. Then when you come down, you will see the amazement, perhaps even the worried look. Then it is important to say the right first words, ‘Don’t worry, it’s all paid for …’
This self-care creates an atmosphere in which one was not just praying, but in which spirit, soul and body become more harmonious elements – a prayer in themselves (…)
Self-acceptance that results of having lost the extra pounds, gained a flat stomach or whatever it is you want your body to be different – will not be a solid ground to build your body feeling on. However, a good body feeling that results in a new appreciation of the body as a house of God, a temple, where body care became a wordless prayer is priceless and a beautiful heritage to pass on to your children. Give it a try!
“Adapted for normal family use, by Jeanne from familythatmatters from “From Shame to Peace” Counseling the Sexual Abused by T.J. van der Weele Importantia. Dordrecht, Netherlands”