A new homie from Tumblr and a regular reader asked me basically the same thing. Basically both questions come down to this:
What advice would you give someone who is kind of ashamed of how they look?
So I will warn you this one might get rough y'all. I fully endorse you getting a tissue or saving this for later if you need to gird your emotional loins.
I'm also fairly certain that this will wind up being multiple posts so I don't write a freaking book here.
For context here are some trufax. I have not always felt good bout myself, I am not bullet proof in my sense of self or my self esteem.
First I'd like to share with you my first memory of feeling abject shame about my appearance.
I was in elementary school and there was some note passing game going around. Not quite a slam book but close enough. Someone I don't know who noted that I was ugly. Not just ugly but UGLY.
I was just a baby and I took it very personally in a way I did not understand. Prior to that my main concern about my appearance was not wanting to wear pants ever and to get to wear my pretty dresses whenever I goddamn felt like it. (Yes, I'm almost 34 years old and this has not changed) I was so hurt and I started looking around at the other girls.
For reference I wasn't really a chubby kid. I was actually slightly undersized as I did not grow as quickly as my peers. I was sturdy. Even then I had big strong thighs, I usually wore my hair in little Black girl fat twists, pigtails etc. I spent summers running around a lot outside and laying in the sun trying to get dark. Prior to that I felt fine. I often felt fancy.
Let's pause there for a second.
Here is where things start to go bad for a lot of us, someone says something that might not even be all that serious. Maybe it's an offhand remark about a bit butt or a family member teasing about a tummy. Tiny comments that become insidious ear worms that play over and over again in our heads.
As I got older I became (as these things go) hyper aware of my ugliness. I decided quite consciously that okay, I was ugly and there wasn't anything I could do about it so I did other things. When I was complimented I assumed I was being made fun of or that people were just being "nice".
When I compared myself to my peers I was not pretty in the same way they were. I was not tallish, I barely had hips, my thighs touched, I was entirely different and in my mind irredeemably unattractive.
Fast forward to young adulthood. I went from the beginnings of learning how not to give a fuck to active loathing. Over time what happened was that I was often really effusive and made it a point to tell people when I thought they were beautiful but, as both my tumblr and my regular reader homie have asked I couldn't see it in myself.
As I talked about in this entry, it got to the point where my loathing of my own body started to become entirely too apparent and made interpersonal relationships difficult.
I think that anyone who has ever had issues with how they view themselves knows what can happen so let's not rehash that. Let's get to talking about learning to move beyond it.
Let's establish a couple of things that I believe. I believe that barring specific individual mental illness issues, low self esteem is learned and reinforced by a lot of things. By other people, by our own inner monologues, by the media we consume, by the things we're surrounded with. We are constantly taught and praised for finding things wrong with ourselves so we have to start there.
I'm giving you the bootcamp version of how I have dealt with this over the years and it's hard. It's really fucking hard and it takes years sometimes to feel free but the feeling doesn't last and it's something I've had to work on a lot. Here we go.
First thing is forgive yourself for feeling this way. It's really hard to be as kind and loving to yourself as you can be to other people. You have to decide that you are important and you need some care.
Once you do this, start remembering to not beat yourself up about it because it will turn into a circle jerk of awful. Practice telling yourself, I mean say it out loud, write it down make it tangible, tell yourself hey, self it's okay.
The fact is, it is okay. You and I are both human and we human beings fuck up a lot. So it's natural that sometimes we can be the biggest assholes to ourselves.
As you get the hang of that start breaking down those expectations you have of yourself but no one else. For me a lot of my issues with my own appearance have come down to me expecting myself to be some flawless ideal and yet the things I love about other people are the flaws and little weird things.
Basically at some point when I was in my early 20's it struck me that I am not so special that I must be held to some standard that never seemed to apply to other people in my mind.
There is nothing so extraordinary about you or me that means that we're not the same as every other human being. And if I don't expect other human beings to live up to certain standards why would I ever think I need that standard? What put me on such a pedestal?
Okay let's wrap it up for today here. I really would like those of you who are down to think on these things.
Absorb them. Feel free to ask questions.