Friday, October 20, 2006

The long awaited body image post

It's Friday, and the bank statement won't balance, so before I tear it up, since I'm sure my boss would be unhappy about that, I thought I would take a break and write the long-awaited (maybe) body image post.

Consider the following. Click each for a bigger view.

I showed these pictures to Mike when he asked what the post would be about. He looked at them, and shrugged and said, "What's wrong with those?"

And there's the rub. 'Cause even though all four are taken on the same day, by the same photographer, with the same camera, I think the left ones are all right, but the right ones aren't. The left ones coincide fairly decently to how I perceive my own body, my own internal body image, but in the right ones don't for various reasons.


And as I sit here and consider the things that I'd intended to say, things about how strange it is that the internal and external pictures don't match, how hurtful it is to hate pictures of yourself, how frustrating it is that I fall in that 95% of women who do not consider themselves beautiful, I realize that I don't really have to say these things, and I realize that, in some ways, posting about this topic is half call to arms, half cry for help.

It's been, quite frankly, an awful week. I had a severe moodswing on Tuesday, from playful to distraught in the space of two hours, and though Wednesday improved, Thursday I was back to the extreme fatigue that's dogged me for so long, accompanied by some rather annoying irritability. And I'm tired of it. I'm not happy. It's not that I'm unhappy, because I SOOOOO am not. I have a wonderful fiance, a nice (if slightly unkempt) house, fabulous family and friends, I know how to knit, and even if I have a few more pounds of body fat than I should, I'm working on it, and I'm not obese. But I'm not happy. And why is that?

Let's turn to the things I need to let go. I need to let go of the guilt about a dusty house and a dirty bathroom. I need to let go of blaming myself for events that I have little to no control over. I need to let go of (and this may be key for self esteem) the pain left over from high school when people called me "Pat," and I finally found out who "Pat" was and why they were calling me that (back when I had shorter hair). I need to let go of the stress associated with not being perfect, having my share of human faults, and not being able to do anything about it.

Ah yes, easier said than done. But how do I go about it? Sheila and Nathan admonished me in their birthday card to, "Take more time for myself." Is that step one? Mike says I need to stop beating myself up about things. I do notice I'm doing it, after the fact, and it strikes me as a fairly recent phenomenon. When did I get a martyr complex? How do I get rid of it, before it ruins every relationship I have?

As I write this, I'm flipping back to the pictures I posted. They seem to have changed slightly. I don't hate the right pictures anymore. I still know why I picked them out to illustrate my previous point, but I do seem to be looking at them slightly differently. Maybe we are witness to a pivotal moment in my life here. Who knows? There's still a hellishly long way to go, even if we are, and I doubt it's something I can do completely on my own. I know this is vague, disjointed, and fairly unformed, but if anyone has any suggestions, I think I just might be open to them at this point. Quickly! I just don't know when I'll shut down again... Hope it's not for a while...


Apartment Girl

I'm not sure I can offer any stellar advice, except to say you're not alone. I look at the pics of me from the wedding and think "my head is colossal " and 40 other things I'd change about myself in a heartbeat. Like you said, 95% of women feel the same way. However, the important people know you as a kind, caring, beautiful, brilliant, incredible person. You should listen to us, we know better than a bunch of uncreative high school twits.
I can also relate to the feeling of not being happy. What *I'm* trying to do is ask myself if it's important, really. Is the world going to fall apart if I just take the night off and dust tomorrow? When you're 95 will you be more heartbroken if you didn’t dust or you didn’t spend quality time with Mike? For me, I'm just trying to gain a better perspective. What's important in the grand scheme of life? Shouldn't it really be about loving people with reckless abandon, yourself included? Shouldn’t it be about laughing till your stomach hurts everyday? Anyway, you’re wonderful!!! Have a great weekend 

Strawberry Blue Viking

Hmmm... Such heavy thoughts for a Friday night....

Well, I found what really helped me is Nathan telling me I was beautiful...repeatedly...for 6 years...and insisting that I say "yes I am" or "I know" or some other positive reinforcement. He was very strict. =D After a while you start to believe it.

Also, I've kind of gone on a bit of a fitness kick. So long as I'm fit and exercising, it doesn't matter if I'm a size zero. And frankly those girls look ill. I want to force feed them chocolate cake.

Anyway, I think right now I'm at a good point in time for the body image thing and being happy with my life. I'm trying to think what I did to get there so I can offer some advice, but I can't remember!

One terrible thing for me that I compulsively do, is compare my life to others. Mostly, I would compare my life to Heather's, like we were having some sort of competition or something. I've known for a while that this was a stupid and unhealthy thing to do, but I couldn't help myself. I finally forced myself to stop when I started thinking about how I could maybe finally be first in something by having a baby before her! How unhealthy is that?? As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I forcefully told myself enough is enough and I've been much happier about my life since.

(And, Heather, don't worry, I no longer covet your life or feel I need to compete with you in everything!)


Oddly enough, in the October recommended resourses listing for the CBE, there is a Professional Library book called "The high achiever's guide to happiness." "Maybe I should buy that for Vanessa," was my thought yesterday. Today, after reading your blog, I *will* buy it for you.

Love and hugs, Mom

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