“My body is a cage that keeps me / From dancing with the one I love / But my mind holds the key” – Arcade Fire
I knew what an ideal girl was supposed to be. What an ideal girl should look like and act. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like the other girls I knew. I wanted to be like my mother, who looked like tanned perfection and all womanly curves. No one dared to say anything but lovely things to her. Men damn near broke their necks to look at her. She commanded respect and admiration. She is fierce. My father was the hot dad. All my friends spoke about his handsomeness and giggled. I was the geeky, embarrassing daughter, not half the beauty of my parentage. Who could live up to two wonderfully gregarious and gorgeous people? I lived politely in my mind: my happy place.
I’m a problem-solver. I am able to look at things objectively and critique, and often improve, most generally accepted systems. My career in many corporate jobs has taught me that I am excellent at identifying an issue, and correctly, and efficiently solve them. I am very good at it. When it comes to my own issues, I am clueless.
For years, I struggled silently and hid myself from the opinion of others. I made great strides in keeping my private life to myself, and away from my family, friends, and lovers. For someone so honest, I was lying about the deep wounds I battled for as long as I could remember. Through my twenties, I committed every serial personal, romantic and platonic crime possible. I was focused on being a good daughter and sister when my family had fallen apart. My internal life was stilted, focusing on hiding my real problems and trying, in vain, to solve them with all forms of control. I was ashamed of my body. I felt a huge disconnect between my body and my mind. Instead of confronting my abysmal self-esteem head on, I attempted to over-exercise, starve, and drink myself into some acceptable form. Filling voids like a no one’s business. This failed over and over again.
I didn’t know it, but I needed a mirror in someone else. It took 30 years but a former female friendship showed me how I was treating myself. It was not pretty. I was petty, judgmental, and unkind to the one person who needed love the most- me. I was casually referring to myself as fat, but would not hesitate to look at my naked body and violently attack my flaws or worse, hide from my reflection completely. This friend is physically very beautiful but would dog herself out loud. I was never so bold. I’d soften the blow with a self-depreciating jab. Only a select few knew my true body torment. To be honest, there is nothing more unattractive than someone baldly attacking invisible flaws. I realized that I was repelling a potential mate with a force of a thousand bulimics’ bile.
I had a neon sign over my head blaring the word “insecure” for the world to see. To quote the wise and wonderful RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” I had a big job ahead of me. I had to really love myself, for real, this time.
I read every self-help book on the market. I meditated. I covered my wall with inspirational quotes from all matters of gurus. I meditated some more. I focused on the positive. I kept myself busy with reading anything I could get my hands on. I made sure to write as much as possible. I reduced my meat intake and ate more vegetables. My eyes were on the prize. I wanted freedom. I wanted to love my life and my image. After a few months, the former female friend all but disappeared from my life, and something inside changed.
The light bulb went off. I had found my “Aha!” moment. I no longer cared about what others thought half as much as before. (Hey, it’s a start!) I actually like the way I look. The flaws seem so small and insignificant to the overall picture. To that end, I have mended old friendships. I feel less anxious. I feel more in control and I don’t even try. I laugh more. I smile more. I just don’t need to be so angry towards myself. There is no merit to it.
If the first step is admitting that you have a problem, I must be at least halfway to acceptance. I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. I will be rejected and I will fail, but I could also flourish and be my best self while I’m still here.