What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

"But you're so skinny..."

It was just a casual comment, uttered without much thought, certainly not meant as criticism.  She probably doesn't even remember that she said it.  She certainly bubbled on to the next thought ever-so-quickly, the conversation heading in some random direction.  She was just surprised that I might want to pass on having a bite of cake.

She likely doesn't realize that I've obsessed about it for days, turning it over and over and over in my head.  She doesn't realize that one off-hand comment would cause me to twist and turn in front of my bedroom mirror seeing things that I wish I didn't.

mirrors

Image: Sukanto Debnath via Flickr

Because skinny almost feels like an insult, like harsh criticism of my appearance.  Not that I feel skinny.  Not that I even want to BE skinny.  I tell myself constantly that I just want to be healthy.

It's not fun to feel constantly judged.  People have told me they hate me because I'm thin.  Friends, family members, people I've just met. And while I hope those comments were never made from a place of loathing, they were probably made from a place of jealousy.  And they have left me feeling like an outcast.

I've always been self-conscious... about my weight... about what I eat... about how my clothes fit. At 18 I weighed a whopping 98 pounds, and at almost 5' 5" (I'm missing a half inch... it bothers me) THAT is skinny.  And I was all bones and skin and knobby knees and elbows.  I suffered from anemia and low blood pressure.  I wasn't exactly healthy.  I could have blown away in a stiff breeze.

But I don't want to be skinny.  In fact, I rarely even feel anything close to skinny.  I catch myself randomly adjusting my clothes so my tummy doesn't bulge... even when there is no one else in the room.  And I'll suck in my gut when I'm walking the dog. How many times have I done this subconsciously, without even realizing it?  Plus I can't pass a mirror without finding a big glaring flaw or feeling like I'd be alright if I could just lose five pounds.

I'm flat-chested and my elbows are pointy and I have loose skin right under my chin.  I'm constantly ciphering the amount of calories in everything I consume (and chastising myself for both consuming too many or consuming too few, constantly feeling guilty about what I've eaten and what I haven't) and comparing myself to every other woman I encounter in a crazed mania that doesn't stop.

There is constantly an inner voice that tells me I'm not good enough or pretty enough or worth very much.

But I'm better than this, at least I should be.  I'm forty years old.  I am a mature human being who is otherwise fairly well-adjusted.  I know that I know that I know my worth is not wrapped up in my appearance... or how desirable I am to random men on the street.  And yet every wrinkle and stretch mark and gray hair makes me cower, every glance in the mirror leaves me judging what I see.  I still want to be the thinnest woman in every room I enter.  Being aware that it's unhealthy and silly and possibly bordering on insane doesn't make it stop.

I live in a body that has done wonderful things.  It's birthed four fabulous children and nurtured and comforted them.  It has pleased my husband.  It can draw a bow and hip-toss grown men.  It can hold a 3 minute plank and bench press like a beast.  It's strong and healthy and capable.

So why do I still feel so inadequate?  Why do I feel weak and helpless?  Why do casual comments cause me so much inner turmoil?  Why do I feel like my body is my enemy?

Perhaps this is the true curse of Eve.  Not menstruation or pain in childbirth, but the feelings of inadequacy, the constant measuring of our bodies against others, the self-conscious feelings of not being perfect but wanting to be perfect oh-so-badly.  Perhaps this is the curse cast on us just for being women, not from a vengeful God, but from the media that feasts off the rampant consumerism fed by our programmed feelings of imperfection and insufficiency.

And what a curse it is, constant and torturous and merciless.

Originally posted on Different Than Average.

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