September 9, 2014

I Know Where All the Good Mirrors Are: An Honest Look at Body Dysmorphia.


I know where all the good mirrors are.

The full length one on the small guest room at my mother’s house qualifies—I always look about 10 lbs. thinner than I feel.

The one is my bathroom is good, but only if the back row of lights are turned on and I’m standing less than three feet away from it.

The one in my favorite little boutique is so good I end up buying things there that I will never wear, because the mirror in my bedroom closet is bad. I get the stuff home and think, “Maybe I should just move into the dressing room at the store.”

Every mirror good or bad is suspect, though. Even good mirrors, at the wrong time of day, or used at the wrong angle, can slap me in the face with a reflection that is so objectionable I have to forcibly tamp down my feelings of fear and sadness in order to get on about my day.

The truth is, I am terrified by my appearance because I don’t really know what I look like, but I’m pretty sure it’s bad. I’m a self diagnosed body dysmorphic, but maybe I am actually just crazy.

I’ve often said I don’t think I would recognize myself if I passed an exact clone of me on an empty street. I look good from this direction, hideous from that, fat on Monday morning, thin by Tuesday night—until I snap a selfie, then I realize I am fatter than I thought I was the day before.

What’s with this obsession with my appearance? Am I vain? Hardly. Vain people glory in their beauty.

I’ve tried to just forget the matter altogether; to ardently avoid me, wear baggy clothes, no make up, shunning reflective surfaces with a discipline thats borders on manic. And that helps, until I accidentally see my ugly shadow in the window at the grocery store—then I go home and try to pull myself together, near tears as I tear apart my closet looking for something—anything—to put on that doesn’t make my ass look huge.

Do other people feel this way? Am I on the high end of a spectrum of culturally induced self hatred? Am I smack dab in the middle? Or am I all alone?

Women aren’t allowed to talk about feelings like these, because these feelings are shallow and therefore if we acknowledge them, we are as well.

Yet, they feel as deep as any other feelings I have, and they certainly have longevity—they’ve been casting their shadowed vortex over my life since I was six years old, and forced my mom to buy me a pair of plastic high heels that looked just like Barbie’s so I could be beautiful like her.

I recently read the most inspiring quote from a young American Sikh girl who wears a turban and happens to have an unusual amount of facial hair.

Some of her peers had cruelly photographed her and posted the photos with their mocking remarks online—people who are undoubtedly as insecure as me. Her response to their post was not only brave, graceful and intelligent, it was sincere, and it was that quality of true inner peace that made the biggest impression on me.

She said, in part:

“My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and by not focusing on physical beauty, I have time to cultivate my inner virtues and hopefully focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way that I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important, but my smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are.”

(See full response & image here, via Reddit.)

I have no doubt that when this woman dies– at a hopefully very advanced age– people will indeed remember her legacy—and they may even remember how she looked as well, but only in terms of how she let it serve a greater purpose.

Somewhere inside me there is someone as strong and wise as this, and I won’t stop looking until I find her.

All mirrors can be “good” mirrors if I learn to love myself as I am.





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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: epicture/Flickr

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