As a teenager I encountered a comic of a skinny girl looking in the mirror and seeing her reflexion looking rather walrus-like. I could relate. I wasn’t skinny, but people’s feedback let me know I had some element of lacking self-perception. It was the best description of body dysmorphia I’ve encountered and something I have long struggled with. Not to say I’m a twig like the woman we all kind of loathe on “This Is Us” who goes to Kate and Toby’s support group for people struggling with being overweight.
I do have a hard time seeing reality though.
An example: this weekend I was (needlessly) eyeing with dissatisfaction my slightly wrinkly belly, softened with stretch marks from my earth shatteringly wonderful new gift: the chance to be a mother. I was harping on myself and hoping for change and feeling a bit on the -as I judged myself- “bigger than I am happy with” side.
Then I tried on a pair of capris I haven’t worn in nearly 2 years. Pants that rarely fit around my derier before I had a baby and here they were saggy and oversized around my back side and legs. They are size 0.
Now they aren’t loose around my waist, and it may be a larger than average size 0, but I fit into a tiny pair of pants and somehow still struggled to feel thin.
More importantly, I struggled to feel happy with myself.
Houston, we have a problem.
So now the work…the ongoing process I have been working on for over 20 years. It is not to self-condemn for being shallow and out of touch with reality (clearly there is some of that going on). The work is to keep learning to love who I am. I am healthy, strong, kind, a caring friend, mother to a wonderful little girl, married to my best friend (who happens to be one AWESOME guy), a lifelong learner, and I happen to have a soft tummy. So what? It’s still strong and healthy. I have plenty of other features I love- inside and out.
Comparison can be a hard enemy to fight. It can also be a helpful tool. The fact that clothes which were once too tight are now too loose gives me a point of reference and shows me what I don’t recognize without the comparison. It reminds me my body is in about the best shape it ever has been, so my work of consistent exercise and ever-improving eating habits are paying off (don’t worry, I eat three full meals, plus little snacks on a daily basis).
I may never look in the mirror and see my physique as most people do, but there is so much more to each human than what meets the eye.
I don’t need to be perfect to be happy.
I can love myself and others…as the exquisitely beautiful, imperfect beings we all are.