I am a part of the problem.
It is so hard to admit because I have daughters and they deserve better. But if I’m being honest I didn’t want to post this photo – not because it’s a bit overexposed or because it’s a little cheeky. I didn’t want to share it because when I look at it, I see someone who is overweight. My eyes went straight to the extra skin peeking out of the swimsuit, around the underarm area. Then, to the lines that formed across my waist. And even down to the skin in my legs that no longer maintained that supple smoothness.
I realize that you are looking at this same image and thinking “she’s crazy,” or that this is some call for attention, or at the very least that I may be fishing for compliments. But the truth is, it’s not a call as much as a cry. And not for attention but for help. You see I’ve lived with some form of body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember. From being a fuller child and a round adolescent, to losing weight as soon as my period hit at 12 years old.
I have been trying to deal with it everyday that I look in the mirror – and luckily, there’s been a reason outside of myself to re-wire my brain which I was given the moment I looked into the eyes of my first daughter – I didn’t want to pass on this scary obsession. 15 years and a few more daughters later – I still can’t help but see nonexistent flaws in myself. It’s funny, I see women who are on the heavier side, but find beauty in them. I see women who are verging on too skinny and find beauty in them. I see women who battle acne and have skin issues and also find beauty in them. I look at the imperfections of others and think that they even add to what makes them so attractive. I look at others and see so much more than just the physical. While when I look at what I deem to be my own physical imperfections, I think they take a way from who I am. I am not shy to admit that I’ve had years of therapy, tried many diets when the occasion called for it, and yes, have starved at times. When I heard the phrase ‘dying to be thin,’ I knew exactly what it meant because there have been days wherein I thought I was going to die this way.
And I know all of this sounds very obsessive and even more superficial – I know because I hear it too. I wish I didn’t care this much. In fact anyone who knows me can probably attest to hearing my usual opening statement – “Sorry I look like crap today but…(insert excuse).” I say that and truly feel that way so often, and it is because all it takes is to have one hair out of place and that’s all I can focus on. Now imagine what I see when my clothes start getting tight? Or when my skin breaks out? Or when my white hairs multiply?
I have tried to be more aware of it but I’m not perfect and I have failed at times. I remember my daughter once comparing me to the mother of famous supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid because she was constantly encouraging her children to look their best to the point of pushing them. Though in their case, they came out successful in their own way, I can’t help but wonder if they too struggle with this obsession with their outward appearance. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about wanting to look good. In the end, looking your best does help you feel good about yourself. But for me, it gets to the point that I no longer feel good trying so hard to look good.
When it comes to my girls, even if I am careful with things I say and how I act in front of them – avoiding the mention of diets or the phrase ‘lose weight,’ and the like – I have still managed to convey a message on how important their outer appearance is. And yes, sometimes weight was involved. Even though I spoke about it in a more health-centric sense, perhaps there are certain things about yourself you cannot hide.
In the end, my question to myself is: Do I want it to define them? Of course not. That answer is easy. And then it dawns on me – the question I should be asking is: Do I want it to define ME? Of course not. Well maybe. Perhaps I don’t know.
What I do know is that we lead by example. And if acceptance and acknowledgement is the first step to healing, then consider this my confession and me owning up to this so I can break the cycle. I need to change, and I should’ve started yesterday. But I can’t afford to live with regrets, and today is as good a day as any to post that picture and to own that woman – flaws and nonexistent flaws and all.