Something I have always wondered is how I appear in other people’s eyes. What I look like. If certain features catch others’ attention. If I leave an impression on people. What people think when they see me.
At one point, these questions came from a place of self-consciousness, but even after improving my mindset, I still wonder these things, but out of pure curiosity. Nobody has seen themselves from that outside perspective, but even my inner perspective is skewed.
The mirror has always been a difficult place. Which might sound contrary to reality when I add that I could probably spend over an hour looking into a mirror, or automatically looking at my reflection in any glassy object.
As with many people who face the burden of an eating disorder, usually the condition of body dysmorphia tags along. Simply put, I either have no idea what my body actually looks like, or my idea is far from the truth. The feeling is very hard to describe. It’s like I’m trying to study a foreign object without my glasses on: I see some shape with color, but the lines blur together.
In the depths of my eating disorder, all I could focus on were numbers, whether it was calories, BMI, inches or pounds. I had these “ideal” measurements and amounts in mind, but I could never actually visualize them. I would be at a certain number of pounds, but couldn’t tell the difference between a previous weight. Which the ED ends up convincing me that losing some more weight would make a difference. I was theoretically blind the whole time, trying to make my way toward “happiness” through feeling a certain way. I never really knew what that feeling would even feel like. Fitting into a certain size of jeans? Feeling a small enough waist or legs? Who knows. Especially when you’re undernourished, life turns into a fog.
Even at my healthiest…heck, even at my heaviest, I’m still a petite person. Except I can’t fully grasp that to this day. When I notice the bodies of others (still an automatic response, but not as critical as before), I still can’t fathom how that feels. I try to use others’ bodies as examples to somehow help me visualize similar features on myself, but it’s very difficult.
I made a similar post to this one a couple months ago, when I was deep into my therapy and treatment, choosing to give up mirrors for a while. While I’d like to say to kept some good habits up and have drastically changed my relationship with the mirror, I have to admit that I couldn’t maintain the new relationship I made with the mirror. I know my ED will always be a tendency stuck in the back of my head. But I’ve learned how to separate myself from it and stop myself from going down a bad path. So even though I automatically look at reflective surfaces, I know not to put much time and energy toward it.And that, my friends and followers, is an exceptional amount of freedom.
A realization with the dysmorphia actually played a key factor in my recovery. I used my own logic to draw the conclusion that there was no point in chasing unrealistic goals when I couldn’t even feel real differences, or know where I’m at, or be satisfied somewhere. So what’s the point? I was harming myself for no tangible reason.
Although this phenomena isn’t going away anytime soon, the mindset behind it has changed dramatically. Rather than dwelling on a fear of failing myself or “letting myself go,” I’ve come to simply let myself be, wherever that is. Even through all of ups and downs, I innately wanted to find a place that my body naturally wanted to be, that was stable and comfortable. But I abused that by striving toward a weight I hoped was that place. This hope turned into several years of yo-yoing constantly.
In the retrospect of life, our bodies are simply here for our souls to experience this world. Okay, that sounded very deep, but think of your body as an earth suit. Each of us was designed a different earth suit; just like snowflakes, no two are the same, so expecting to create a suit exactly like someone else’s is pointless. You have to take care of your suit (theoretically take it to the dry cleaner’s sometimes), but how it looks doesn’t reflect your inner self, the one that matters. You’ll have this same body for your entire lifetime. Through life, chances are that body will not be the same size as nature takes its course. While your body doesn’t remain stagnant, how you feel toward it should. I mean, you’re stuck living in it for hopefully quite a long time. Why not start accepting it?
I’m not asking you to love every part of yourself. If you do, kudos to you, but for most of us, we have some flaws and trouble areas we would like to ignore or change. But rather than focusing on how they look, perhaps recognize the value and function they have. Maybe you don’t care for your legs, but remember how they carry you through life and wherever journeys you go. Your arms allow you to embrace others and reach for and carry whatever you need. And your stomach is protecting all of your vital organs to keep you alive. Every cell in your body is constantly at work doing amazing things. Their entire purpose is to support you. They deserve your gratitude and care. Here is where I drop a plug again for the importance of self-care.
Your body has probably gone through plenty of changes already (I’m talking to you, puberty), and it’s not done yet. Your body is smart, but it works at its peak performance when the physical and mental aspects of yourself work together. Even if your mind probably needs a new prescription for glasses.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie