You have all heard the classic female tale. Whether bleeding through your khaki uniform pants and your mom telling you, “You’re a woman now,” losing your virginity in the back of an old pick-up truck at summer camp, or becoming a mother after a seamless pregnancy and having your perfectly round-headed and healthy baby placed on your ready-to-breastfeed chest, you know these movie quality stories to be wildly uncommon. You instead, as resilient you are, guide yourself through the untold truth of femininity.
You throw away 100 tampons before knowing how to use one. You lose your virginity on a messy, confusing, and imperfect night and you experience birth in a deeply personal and courageous way that likely completely deviated from your best-laid birth plan. Yet, you, as a powerful and resourceful force of nature, figure it out. You talk to your friends, converse with the Google Search Bar, and overcome the unknown.
Welcome to Self-Taught, Blood + Milk’s newest column where we discuss how women teach themselves about their bodies—because we’ve all been failed by school courses, perplexed by movie scenes, and embarrassed by conversations with parents and peers.
For far too long, flawed systems and unrealistic media have depicted the female body—the female experience—as too skinny, too fat, too messy or neat, disgusting or pristine, but rarely the truth that lies between every extreme. In Self-Taught, we’ll share stories of how women uncovered flaws in systems, products, and lore, and taught themselves that there is a better way—and they deserve better.
While many of us spend time wondering if we are good enough, we know that our biggest critic is often ourselves. After leaving the beauty industry, Giselle La Pompe-Moore realized that self-acceptance did not come from using a certain service or product, but from recognizing the connection between her physical body and soul. After years of exploring meditation and crystals, La Pompe-Moore launched Project Ajna as a way to guide more women towards self-acceptance.
You have spoken out a lot about your struggle with anxiety. Can you talk to me about the role of meditation in your life and how it has allowed you to make the connection between your mind and body to ease that anxiety?
I’ve had anxiety attacks since I was 17 or 18 and these weekly attacks would last for hours. I would really feel the symptoms in my body. As a result of that, I never really thought it could be anxiety or linked to my mental health. My doctors in the UK just thought I had a parasite and couldn’t work out what it was. Then I moved to New York from London and I was still having these really bad physical symptoms so I saw a doctor. She recommended me to a therapist because she thought it might be anxiety.
This therapy session was about eight years ago, and she taught me a breathing meditation technique, which I’ve used ever since then. I’ve practiced meditation every single day and trained as a meditation teacher so I can share the benefits with others. I’ve really witnessed how it completely stops my anxiety. My symptoms of anxiety showed up in such a physical way, and it really helped me to understand just how strong the connection is between my mind and body and gave me a starting point for exploring how they can work together. Mediation has not only changed my mental health, but my spiritual practice has deepened so much by allowing my body the time and space for stillness.
You said you got your first crystal when you were 11. What followed that first introduction as far as education and teaching yourself about holistic healing?
Since I was really small, my great aunt had a collection of mind, body, and soul books—everything from Oprah to all of the classics in that genre. I was about seven or eight, so I had no idea what the concepts were but the lessons really stuck with me and I was very open to New Age ideologies and the esoteric. When I got my first crystal, it was this exploration into believing and trusting that there is another world outside of what we can see around us. When I was about 15, I started looking at the Law of Attraction by trying to manifest things and create rituals for my own spiritual practice. I grew up in the Catholic Church so I wanted to see what it looked like to explore ideas beyond my faith. It was important for me to adopt new tools and practices as I entered into womanhood in order to reclaim my power and personal autonomy.
As a child, were you parents encouraging of holistic medicine or did you discover it on your own?
My mom is such a pillar of strength, as she’s so open-minded to everything I do and she has been incredibly supportive even though she has her own religious practices. She did her first spell with me last weekend, which was such a beautiful moment for us. My great grandmother, who was from Trinidad, was a healer, witch, and medicine woman. She used herbs in the same way that I do and people would go to her for fertility issues, so it’s a really important part of my ancestral line. It means so much to me to have this connection in my practice to my ancestors and for it to have been passed onto me. I have so much reverence and honor for this work as it’s a huge part of not only me but also my lineage.
Two years ago, you started Project Ajna, where you help women find the relationship between their skin and their soul. Can you talk to me a little bit about the connection between one’s skin and their mind as well as how you discovered this connection?
Before I started the business and practice, I worked in the beauty industry. I was on the beauty team at Stylist Magazine and also did work in beauty product development. As I was writing and testing products all the time I started to realize that there is a product for absolutely everything. You name it, there’s always a product solution that’s available for it. I was speaking to a woman with a skin condition who had low self-worth about her skin and realized just how much of an impact her skin condition had on her mental and emotional well-being. There was nowhere to go for her. You can go to your dermatologist and your facialist, but there was nowhere to go to discuss the emotional and mental landscape of your skin and not just its external appearance. There was no one to talk to about the connection between her skin and her self worth and the importance of working on that first instead of feeling a need to fix what’s showing up externally.
As my own practice developed, I was navigating all of these themes on my own, and I started to utilize the healing tools I had used my whole life and began using meditation and energy healing to look at my skin and appearance in a different way. I knew I could use these healing practices to assist someone on their journey to finding peace with their skin, as they worked so well on everything from stress to repressed trauma. In my skin healing sessions, it’s all about shifting your mindset so you can find acceptance with your skin, reduce the triggers that come up in the mirror and that requires going inwards as the starting point. Ultimately, the goal with these sessions is to connect our skin to our soul and stop seeing them as two separate entities. We must realize our skin can be held in the same way as other spiritual practices because it’s such an important part of who we are.
What do you hope to help others discover about the connection between their mind and body?
I want to give people a space to find acceptance with their skin and appearance to reduce the negative self-talk and to no longer see the mirror as a site for contention and comparison. I see a lot of clients who have acne, psoriasis or dermatitis and find that they are all working through the same themes. I help them shift their mindset so that they aren’t waiting for their skin to be healed or fixed before they can live the life they deserve to be living right now. I always ask, “If your skin doesn’t change, is that a compromise preventing you from living in alignment with your soul purpose?” For a lot of them, it is. They resist showing up fully in their lives until their skin changes. The goal is never about the external change, it is about the internal shift. When they are in front of the mirror, how are they going to show up for themselves? The main idea is having a relationship with their skin that’s rooted in peace, acceptance, and connection, regardless of what it looks like.
What do you think your clients can learn from you that they can’t learn from a doctor or therapist?
I think they are making connections that a doctor won’t always have the time or information to make. This isn’t a symptom fixing approach, it’s holistic. We go deep to explore the links between their mind and skin. A lot of what we do in our sessions is address the oral history surrounding the appearance of their skin. We explore the messaging they received when they were younger around their appearance. Did you learn to have makeup on before church on Sunday or made the links between appearance being an indicator of worth? These are the stories that we are sharing. We’re really tapping into the way their external symptoms have made them feel as opposed to working on how we can change the appearance of those symptoms. The self-worth piece is so intrinsically linked to the way we think about our skin.
I also think I am giving them a space to create rituals around their skin. We all have time to take our makeup off, so I encourage them to do a visualization or mirror meditation, while they apply their skincare. I worked in such a busy and dynamic industry where it often felt that there was such little time for self-care. But, we all have time to take our makeup off. It’s such a beautiful way to utilize the time we are spending in our beauty routine to go about those tasks in a mindful way.
What is one thing you wish your younger self knew about your body?
Knowing how much power I had and how important it is to love my physical body because it is the vessel to my soul. If I am not looking after my physical body then I can’t do the work that I want to do in this lifetime. I am such a spiritual and intuitive person, so I have always focused on my mental and emotional well-being instead of my physical, but I have really had to go back to basics and see my body as a starting point for taking care of myself. I always favored meditation and journaling over exercise and nutrition but I’ve realized that without nurturing and caring for my physical body, I can’t show up, hold space and serve to the best of my ability.