Finding My Femininity

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By Hanny Allston 

This article was featured in the latest "Travel Play Live" magazine.

 Find Your Feet Blog

This year I hit the big 30. I had really been looking forward to this milestone in my life. On the day I turned thirty, I stood atop the final summit of my ‘30 peaks in the year before I turn 30’ challenge. Whilst it had come down to the wire, I felt wind-chapped & glowing from the inside out. That was until injury hit and I took a visit to my GP.

walked into her sparsely furnished consulting room in urban Hobart with a few concerns. Mainly girl stuff. I expected a stethoscope, perhaps a poke and a prod and in the worst case a jab to steal some blood. What I didn’t expect was for her to quietly look me up and down, tuck back her hair and say earnestly, ‘Hanny, I think you need to embrace your femininity’.

‘My what...!’

Ninety dollars poorer and none-the-wiser, I sat in front of Dr Google. What is femininity and what relevance could this possibly have for this 30-year-old tomboy with a phobia for dresses and lipstick?

For a few days, Dr Google became my morning reading and I studied the topic religiously. I learnt that we are all a unique blend of masculine and feminine traits. Our masculine traits are related to strength, independence, stability, focus, competition and self-confidence. Our feminine traits are related to empathy, compassion, sensuality, nurturing, patience, loving and living with ‘flow’. Males can display greater feminine traits and women may express more masculine traits, neither or which are right or wrong.

The more I learnt, the more pressured I felt. I must become more feminine! The harder I  tried to be feminine, the more I resented the skirt I was wearing.

I never found what I was looking for from Dr Google but I have through honest self reflection and inner work found some answers. Nothing can prepare you for the discomforts of looking deep inside yourself and pulling apart your personal assumptions, barriers, rules and truths. I enlisted the support of a performance psychologist to ask the difficult questions you are never really prepared to ask yourself. After a few sessions I was still grappling with the concept of finding femininity. I had somehow evaded the most difficult questions until one day we journeyed into foreign territory.

‘What do you do for self-compassion?’ he enquired with that intense focus that makes you squirm. ‘I had a massage last night,’ I mumbled in reply, grateful for this worthy evidence of my self-com- passion practice. After a few minutes silence he replied, ‘For self-compassion or physical recovery?’

That was my possum-stuck-in-car headlight’s moment. My wake up call not to sit on the road and play chicken with the truck roaring towards you. A truck carrying a whole load of.......femininity.

As I was paying the bill for this perplexing session, he quietly drove the nail into my understanding, ‘Hanny, femininity is not just about wearing dresses’.

It was days later on my frosty Mt Wellington, solo run and scrunching my thermal around my frozen fingers that I found enlightenment. The lone burrawong’s chorus cut through the sharp cries of the yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. Light was dancing off the water as it gushed through healthy streams. Whilst fatigue had plagued me  when I laced my running shoes, I eased back the effort and became acutely aware that my stunning surroundings were leading me into a state of flow. I felt like I could run forever! And therein lay my first true awareness of femininity – self compassion, sensuality and living with flow. Femininity felt amazing!

Through a lifetime of athletic & academic practice and a hobby farm upbringing, the tomboy has lived strong inside me. The masculine traits of goal setting, competitiveness, independence and pushing through when ‘the going gets tough’ have strongly dominated my persona. These traits were reflected in my daily routines, exercise habits, nutrition and meal preparation, business, athletic racing style and even the way I showed Iove as a fiancée, daughter, sister and friend.

But I have breasts. And when a family member hurts, I want to wrap them in a bundle of compassion. I love to listen and believe empathy is one of my stronger virtues. I find peacefulness when I am in nature and my greatest creativity when I don’t force it. These are some of my many feminine qualities.

My GP sent me away to ‘embrace my femininity’, not ‘be more feminine’. I don’t have  to wear a dress or apply lipstick. I just need to love being me, a unique mix of ferocious tomboy, compassionate sister, fun loving fiancée, empathetic friend and loving daughter. I am a young woman just learning about self-compassion and embarking on a long pilgrimage towards womanhood.

If you too are struggling with femininity and if this notion also feels foreign to you, here are my words of advice. Stop trying and start with self-compassion. I have found the easiest place to find my femininity is outdoors on a mountain trail, with the wind in my face. Where will your femininity take you? 




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1 comment

  • Posted on by Amy Neilson

    Hi Hanny,

    I very much doubt you will remember me, but trying to google your mum to see if she was still in General Practice in Hobart led me to websites about your impressive achievements.

    And then, in a very strange parallel chain of Tasmanian synchronicity:

    Today I was talking to a friend of a friend, Roz, about kayaks. I looked at her FB page and saw her impressive Saturday achievement. Which reminded me of when 20 years ago I put in many many hours in the pool with you and your mum and a team of others, eventually won the over 18 Open Water 5km Tassie championship purely by being the only entrant :-) Still amuses my friends…!

    I last saw your mum in the early days of medical school. These days I work mostly with Medecins Sans Frontieres in some pretty complex places, and I have some sense of your comments here about finding that balance of self-compassion.

    Just wanted to say ‘hi’ and very impressed at what you have done and are doing. Please pass on my hello and regard to Julia!


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