So many thoughts in my head…I’m just gonna toss ’em out there.
The other day, a friend of mine commented on social media about how she’s so schizophrenic (my word, because I can’t remember hers) when self-image is concerned. With each outfit, she looks in the mirror and says to herself, I look okay in this, or I look like a cow in this, or this makes my hips look huge, or whatever. What I got from that was that self-image is often a moment-to-moment thing, depending on how you see yourself, and your clothing or hair or accessories can make all the difference.
Let me just say that this woman is a natural beauty with a lovely figure. I would go so far as to call her stunning. She can walk in the room and attract everyone’s attention without even trying. To hear her expressing insecurity about her own looks is unbelievable to a person like me, but I know she’s sincere and not looking for compliments. She’s humble and she’s beautiful on the inside, too. Unfortunately, the beauty we see when we look at her is not what she sees in the mirror. I suspect this is true for most of us.
But I didn’t always know that. As a fat girl, I envied the girls who didn’t have to try — the girls who looked good in anything they wore, whose hair and makeup were always perfect, and who seemed to have it all figured out. I wanted to be like that, but I knew it was out of reach for me and unrealistic, so I accepted my lot. My pretty friends all seemed to have their various insecurities, but I couldn’t figure out why, because to me, they had it all. They had no reason to complain. I could only imagine how great they must have felt when they admired themselves in their mirrors.
Now I’m a 50 year old WLS post-op. It took me a lifetime to figure out that we all have our own body issues. No matter what the mirror says, no matter what our best friend says, no matter what our loved ones say, we can’t see the good. We launch into the litany of the bad: bad complexion, skinny arms, saggy chest, eyes too close together, ears too big, whatever. Or maybe we just focus on the receding (and greying) hairline and dark circles, as if they negate everything else. In our own eyes, we’re reduced to the sum of our pathetic parts.
So the men and women I admire for their poise, their beauty, and their confidence are privately just as neurotic and self-critical as I am. (Well, I think there are degrees of neuroses, so anywhere in the neighborhood is fine.) Why would I dismiss their self-assessments as baseless, but believe my own? Why did I make it about me and discount them? I don’t own any exclusive to bad self-esteem, and other people aren’t immune to it because they have good hair or good looks.
What strikes me more often as I get older is that we’re all so much more alike than we are different. Oh, our outsides are all different, but our insides are so similar. We’re all a little bit crazy and a little bit anxious. We love and laugh and grieve and work and sing and fight and dance and raise children or maybe animals. We all carry baggage and burdens. We hope that our frail lifetimes will not be in vain, and we all worry that we aren’t good enough. And instead of celebrating and standing in awe of the multifaceted, three-dimensional individuals we are, we demean ourselves for entirely superficial reasons…no matter who we are.
What keeps coming back to me are some words from my friend Jon, who used to get angry with me whenever I’d call myself a klutz or a dork or fat or stupid or whatever. His rebukes went something like this: When you put yourself down and criticize yourself, you are insulting those who love you by demeaning the object of their affection. How offensive! What gives you that right?
You don’t have to be a fat person to have insecurities.
You just have to be a person.
Still a work in progress,
photo credit www.freestock.ca