This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I had a single, striking moment in which I looked at myself in the mirror and hated what I saw.
I have never had body image problems. I’m cute, and I know it, and I have taken pride in that over the years (not that I’m cute but that I know it). I have never thought I wasn’t pretty enough, or wished I had different arms or legs (I may occasionally gripe about my boobs, but I actually do like them), because that’s what society wants us to think, and fuck society. I have, of course, had weight concerns, which those of you who have read past blog posts can confirm. But this was always a concern under the assumption that I am my body, and that the only things that need fixing are the things that prevent me from being healthy. My only concern with the way I look is if it reflects who I am.
Over the years, I have listened to people complain about their bodies. People would say, “I wish I could lose twenty pounds,” or, “I hate how short I am,” or “I wish I had straighter hair,” etc. If they could just thin down, or have a little bit more bulge in their biceps, then they would feel prettier or better about themselves. My immediate reaction has always been one of horror. I knew this person the way she was right now — her weight was her. His gangly frame made him who he was. For someone to change who they were physically would somehow be changing who they were mentally and spiritually. I always kind of liked the romanticism of dualism of the mind and body — it’s a great concept, philosophically and theologically — but judging by my behavior I clearly wasn’t quite ready to subscribe to it… I couldn’t separate people from their bodies. It felt weird to me.
But not this morning. This morning, I looked in the mirror, and saw my rib cage through my chest, and felt a pang of disgust for the shell that was my body. For one fleeting instant, I was a soul trapped in a tightly wrapped bag of bones. I could picture my skeleton underneath my skin with such stark clarity that it was unnerving. And I thought, I hate my body.
Let’s pause here.
I don’t actually hate my body.
But those thoughts pop into our heads so often. We are creatures of passion, and of extremes: we love to say that we love things (see what I did there?) and hate things, even if we may just like or dislike them. But the more we recite our mantras, the more we believe them.
But the most disturbing thing to me was that, in that moment, that was not me. That was the thing encapsulating me. When I say I felt like a “soul trapped in a tightly wrapped bag of bones”, I mean I felt like I was literally being contained by my body — I was stuck in it, like a car that I wanted to trade in.
I finally crossed over into that world, even if just for a second, where I could see myself as something trapped in a cage I despised. I don’t know if that is how other people feel, sometimes, or all times, about their bodies. Maybe that is the world that people live in every day. But I never want to go back to that world. I don’t want to see my body as something that is foreign, something that I want to flee from. My body is me. Those ribs sticking out are not just my ribs, they are me. My skin, my internal organs, my conditions, they are who I am. They are not just things that have been done to me.
It’s been a long, long year. A year in which I have had to accept a lot of things about myself, and deal with a lot of things that I’m still trying to understand about the world around me. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I own myself. If I don’t like something about myself, whether it is physical or spiritual, then my goal is to view it as something I can work on and hone into something better. But I don’t ever want to flee myself. If this is who I am, then I had better either get used to it, or find a way to improve upon it, because that’s who I am.
Sit down, dualism. I’ll save you for a rainy day.