Imagine if we were taught to love our bodies versus judging it? How different would womxn be in expressing their authentic selves? Charlie Henderson founded her business as a way to help women deepen their relationship to self. Dive in and see what that means and learn how Charlie changes lives.
SDS: So many womxn feel guilt around being their authentic selves. Can you share your goal in helping womxn?
CHARLIE HENDERSON: I founded my business on the belief that pleasure is our birthright and the more we lean into it, the more we can get to know our most authentic selves, heal, grow, and experience a life full of joy and pleasure. I knew I had to share this work with womxn because I fell into the category of feeling so much guilt, discomfort, shame, and awkwardness around showing up as my authentic self.
Becoming our authentic selves is a lifelong journey of curiosity and exploration. As human beings, we are always evolving and growing. What we consider to be authentic will also shift. A lot of the work that I do with my clients is less about “finding” their authentic selves, and more about peeling back the layers to reveal their uniqueness. I often preach that we do not need to look outside of ourselves for the answers, we have to look inwards towards the knowing and beauty that already exists.
SDS: What does deepening your relationship with Self mean to you?
CH: Deepening your relationship with your Self is truly the meaning of life. I know that this is a very bold statement, but it is what I believe to be true. This can and will look different for every single person. The more that we deepen our relationship with ourselves, the more we can become intimate with the world around us. When we create a stronger foundation with our higher Self, we can show up more fully for our relationships, desires, passions, careers, and most importantly, ourselves.
SDS: How did you get started as an intimacy and empowerment coach? What is your story?
CH: I absolutely love this question because it breaks down the stereotype that as a sex and intimacy coach, I have sex and sexuality “figured out”. Yes, I have been studying this work for years, and have quite a bit of knowledge around it, but I am still in the process of figuring out how to express myself fully.
My path started when I began exploring my own sexuality as a teenager. I have always been a pretty sexual being and when I started exploring intimacy with others and myself, I thought it was such a blast! I had a lot of shame around losing my virginity at first, due to the social and religious stigmas I had grown up with. Once I was sexually active, I realized it was fun, hot, felt good – and I wanted to explore it more. I did not talk about sex much since I was embarrassed about how natural I thought it was, so I kept my comments to myself.
In college, I was simultaneously starting to explore different realms of my sexuality while becoming more and more disconnected and uncomfortable within my body. I was studying ballet, which led to a lot of disordered eating habits, comparison and judgment from my fellow dancers and teachers, and an overall decline in self-confidence. This lack of confidence had a huge impact on my expression of myself and my sexuality.
After college, I started studying yoga and meditation which helped with my self-confidence and body image, but I still felt that I was losing touch with my sexuality. I was feeling unsatisfied in my sex life, my libido felt like it had disappeared, and I didn’t even know what I wanted or needed. I slowly started opening up to friends about this, and I heard from many, many womxn that I was not alone. In response, some even said, “I think that’s just the way it goes…”
These conversations really shook me up. I knew that libido often fluctuates at different phases of life, but surrendering to an experience of sexuality with such little pleasure was simply not going to do. I started listening to Juliet Allen’s Podcast, “Authentic Sex”, which opened my eyes to the world of tantra, sacred sexuality, and conscious partnership.
I started reading books, attending tantra workshops, Tantra festivals, and anything else I could find to help me better understand myself and my sexuality on a spiritual level. I was immersed in groups of people who were so comfortable in their bodies, were fully, authentically expressing themselves, and had a level of joy and passion that I had never witnessed before. I slowly started learning how to love and accept myself and my body to become the sexual Goddess of my dreams. I knew that this was just the beginning.
I realized that empowering womxn within themselves and their sexualities was my life’s path. I started combining my background in dance, somatic studies, yoga teaching, eastern philosophy, meditation, and tantra and created my coaching practice. I am and will always be a student of this work. I am currently training with the Tantric Insitute of Integrated Sexuality, led by Layla Martin, which blends the realms of neuroscience, tantra, and trauma healing, as well as sex, love, and relationship coaching.
SDS: As a former dancer, how did your journey as a dancer impact who you are today?
CH: My journey as a dancer has impacted so many areas of who I am, especially as a coach and an entrepreneur. Pursuing a BFA in Ballet Performance and then a professional dancing career was an intense and strenuous journey, to say the least. It consisted of pouring my heart and soul into my art while also facing rejection time and time again. It was a path of passion and joy, but also stress and discomfort living paycheck to paycheck. I regretted my degree in Ballet for quite some time because I saw so many of my friends on the “traditional” path, finding jobs and financial stability with ease.
It wasn’t until I started my business that I realized how much my dance career had taught me. It taught me how to be extremely disciplined in pursuing my passions. Through dance, I learned how to create and express myself in an abstract way. It showed me the lessons of failure and taught me the power of resilience. Most importantly, dance taught me from a very young age that if you want to achieve your dreams, it is not only possible, but it is the most rewarding and fulfilling life path.
SDS: What advice do you have for womxn who are struggling with embracing their true self?
CH: The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone who is struggling with embracing their true self is: 1. You are not alone, and 2. The way you feel is not your fault. I have a workshop I teach where one of the slides says “It’s not you, it’s the patriarchy.” I say this wholeheartedly. Every womxn who grew up in Western society, regardless of their upbringing, was raised to believe that something is wrong with them. Our patriarchal society was designed to oppress womxn and unfortunately, for most of us, it worked. We have felt less than and powerless. We feel that we have to go above and beyond just to receive the same recognition as others. Thankfully there are now many tools we can use to combat these feelings.
In terms of sexuality, this is one of the biggest ways that society oppresses womxn. We are taught from a young age to stay small, to please others, and that our own pleasure is unimportant. We are taught to perform as a specific character to keep everyone else happy.
So, after years of playing a character, it makes sense that embracing your true self often seems impossible at first. When I start with a new client we always begin by exploring their relationship with acceptance. I highly recommend bringing acceptance into all areas of your life. When we accept where we are in our lives, we can gain more awareness as to how we want to move forward. When we are caught in the loop of limiting beliefs or intrusive thoughts, we can become very stagnant.
In Tantric philosophy, there is an emphasis on getting to know all parts of ourselves equally. The philosophy emphasizes that there are no “good” or “bad” emotions and that every emotion we experience is an opportunity to get to know ourselves on a deeper and more conscious level. I recommend starting this work by practicing acceptance for yourself exactly as you are.
It is extremely empowering to practice acceptance for all facets of yourself. This includes your light: your joy, pleasure, success. It also includes your dark: your limiting beliefs, shadows, and any obstacles that may be in your way. When we really allow all parts of ourselves to be fully seen, we get to choose which parts of ourselves hold the power and which parts we need to create boundaries with.
Finally, embracing yourself is a radical act of rebellion. So. when the trying gets tough, remember that all this self-work is also a big f*ck you to the patriarchy. (This always makes it feel a little more fun.)
SDS: What is one piece of advice you wish you could share with the younger Charlie?
CH: I would tell her that it is not selfish to take care of herself and that the more she does, the more she will be able to care for others. I would also like her to know that all the work I have done and everything I have accomplished has been for her.