I had a friend throughout middle school and high school that was utterly obsessed with the way she looked. She had hundreds and hundreds of dollars in high quality makeup. She had all the brands of clothes that were popular. Pretty jewelry. All the right shoes one wanted to own if they wanted to have high standing socially. She had a eating disorder. She was 100% convinced she was ugly and no one could tell her otherwise.
I remember I used to get so angry with her. I would have given my right lung to look half as pretty as she was, but she couldn’t see it. She was absolutely blind to the fact that she was beautiful. The person she saw in the mirror was of her own fabrication. Unrealistic and invisible to everyone else, but that fabrication was so strong that she couldn’t get rid of it. I’m sure that fabrication blocks her reflection today. When you fool yourself into thinking the most negative thoughts about yourself as the truth, it’s hard to go back.
I watched a BuzzFeed video yesterday where five people went a week without using mirrors. My first reaction was that I could never do that because it takes so much effort and there are specific steps to make my unruly hair look presentable. What shocked me is that all five of them looked better at the end of the mirror-less week than they did before they began the challenge. One girl even forgot what she looked like and she sat and cried in front of the mirror because she suddenly appreciated the way she looked. All five people had a new air of confidence about them. They all seemed lighter because they didn’t have the burden of their image weighing down their shoulders.
As I’ve grown older I’ve progressively built up my own negative fabrication of myself and allowed it to block my true reflection. *cue that song from Mulan you just thought of*
It began with puberty and bad acne. My hair went from effortlessly straight to the texture of a slightly electrocuted poodle. My teeth are cooked. I have a heart-shaped birthmark between my eyebrows. I’m a tad overweight. Stretchmarks galore. I’m the only person I know, besides my husband, that doesn’t use Timehop. My husband doesn’t use it because he isn’t into all that extra social media stuff. I don’t use it because I’m so thoroughly embarrassed about the way I used to look. I still find myself embarrassed by my looks quite often.
I identify as a Christian and in the Bible there’s a scripture that says we’re all “fearfully and wonderfully made”. I look like me for a reason. My God saw fit to knit together all of my details before I was born. Yet I see fit to belittle His work on the daily because I don’t exactly fit in with what society has taught me I should look like. My mother used to tell me how beautiful I was when I was a little girl, and I believed her until I was told otherwise. I believed her until I began to lose myself in the sea of faces I went to school with. Being an individual wasn’t enough. I needed to be pretty and being pretty meant looking like everyone else.
What I’m trying to say here is, I’m a grown, married woman and I should feel infinitely better about myself than I actually do. Yes, I was picked on relentlessly in school. (Until I sprouted boobs in eighth grade- thanks guys). Sure my mother had some hurtful things to say when I was a teenager. Of course past boyfriends mumbled a few nit picky comments under their breath. My husband, however, does nothing but shower me with compliments. His efforts alone should be enough to vanquish the fabrication I’ve created. Not to mention the knowledge that my body was put together by the same God that created the freaking universe. But still it stands. Blocking my way. Whispering lies.
I don’t have straight hair. I’m not naturally tan. As of June 18th I’ll be twenty two years old and I still get zits worthy of their own gravitational pull. I wish I had the luxury to go a week without using a mirror so I could be like that girl that forgot what she looked like. Maybe if I forgot what my face looked like it would be harder to find the flaws that make me want to rip my hair out.
My husband and I don’t intend to have children for a while but how will they feel about themselves if they see their mother beat herself up every time she looks in the mirror? How will they be able to be comfortable with the way they look if the person they came from hates the way she looks? There’s no doubt that my children will somehow look like me and if I carry on with the way I behave now and make a comment about how ugly I am every time I look in the mirror they will have no choice but to think that they’re ugly because they look like mommie.
I know better than to beat myself up about the way I look. I’m pretty sure we’re all taught as children that we’re all special in our own way and that we should love ourselves. I’m also pretty sure that the grand majority of us have our own fabrications we’ve created from the negativity of ourselves and others. It’s time for me, and for all of us to take a stand against those fabrications and accept ourselves. What I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that my own bad self esteem doesn’t just stop with me. My negative opinion of myself affects my husband, my friends, my family. It’s like a virus, once it’s airborne the negativity is going to find a victim. Every time I voice a negative opinion it makes it easier for the people around me to have the same opinion of themselves. So, in all honesty, screw my self-esteem. There’s already enough negativity in the world without me adding to it. If it takes finding a way to love myself in my own skin so the folks around me can love themselves, then I’ll find a way.