Saturday, March 28, 2009

Body Image

My tongue-in-cheek writings on my experience with my new trainer brought to the forefront some thoughts about body image.

As much as I joke about it, it’s sensitive issue with me. My own body image (even when younger) has never been particularly healthy and has only been exacerbated by the inevitable impact of aging.

I know I’m not alone.

In fact, how one views oneself often underlines the disparity between rational thought and what we actually internalize on an emotional level. Truth is indeed relative and depends far too much on the often skewed vision we end up seeing as “authentic” through the convoluted, complicated byways of our psyche.

Rationally, I am fully cognizant that when my headspace is positive, I can find some merit in at least some aspects of my physical being. But even then, I can usually (successfully) find even more features of which to be critical.

So many of us suffer from some level of dismorphic vision… an inability to truly judge our appearance, a tendency (almost obsessive) to focus on what we perceive as negative physical attributes to the exclusion of all else.

Even in my twisted reasoning and distorted vision, I find a certain bitter humour. I marvel at how rational and emotional thinking collide and repel each other – even as my sensible mind recognizes that I am not the revolting creature I perceive in my mind`s eye, I despair at the imperfections and lament the lack of perfection.

I yearn for the jut of bone and sweep of smooth flesh, for the corrugated jut of rib skimmed by firm skin and undisguised by softness. I flex my arm and hunger for sweep of muscle and sinew and the throbbing blue reality of veins under a thin membrane of pale skin. It is as if I cower within the confines of a body whose reality is as delicate as the touch of flesh on flesh.

As if somehow achieving a skeletal frame and fitting into a smaller size pant will somehow salve the wounds that lie suppurating beneath my skin.

Because ultimately how we view ourselves physically is often really a craving to see the reflection of loveliness shine back from another`s eyes. Each of our realities is in truth a mess of emotions, experiences, internalized truths and external influences, with a fillip of ego thrown in to push everything off-kilter.

And the unfortunate thing is that too many of us crave the reflection of beauty in eyes looking back at us and find in that – or in its lack – the internalization of our own self-image.

Without doubt, the essence of ego must reside within ourselves; if we are to truly find a measure of contentment in our own skin, constantly seeking approbation and validation from external forces is never going to provide the profundity of self-internalization required to heal and mend damaged self-worth.

Yet conversely, having someone YOU find worthy and wonderful, uncritically, fully and with a palpable certitude find loveliness in you, in your person and in your mind, in your complicated psyche and all too human foibles, can bolster and give you that first small piece of courage to find some form of internal self-validation.

Sadly, I think there are many of us out there that despite best efforts of loved ones, just cannot see through their eyes. Or worse, through repudiation, rejection and dismissal find validation of our already self-critical beliefs and in that rebuff, find a cruelly self-fulfilling truth that simply underlines our existing self-loathing.

I do know that taking a measure of control over our lives helps keep a tentative balance of equilibrium. For me, committing and following through with an exercise program is incredibly liberating; and gives me a sense of having some control over what often seems to be a chaotic universe.

And while I don’t think I have ever in my life been able to gaze at my body and find it beautiful – I can and have found comfort and delight in its strength, in its flexibility and in the extent to which I can push it and make it work the way a body is meant to work.

And sometimes, that had to be enough.

That and my rather sexy lower lip.


Loving Annie said...

Lovely post with a lot of truth in it, Selkie...

I have a genetically utterly luscious body, but have often disparged my face, comparing it to the supermodels, and of course, failing miserably, because I am simply average, ordinary, unremarkable.

I bemoan the size of my eyes, my ears, my forehead, my chin, and create an undesirable creature in my head that none of my friends see...

And what it really stems from is lack of self-confidence, lack of self-esteem. It is exactly what you called it, Selkie...

The men I have utterly adored found me beautiful. And I bask in their approval, and am devastated when it does not work out in the long run, crushed once again by my lack of loveliness that let them leave me...

As though who I am on the outside matters more than who I am on the inside.
If I were to spend as much time on positive self-talk as I do on negative, I would never hate myself again --

Nor would I focus on something that in truth, matters so little, when character, personality and behavior matters so much.

((hugs)) thank you for bringing up this very important topic.

Buffalo said...

Since I've never seen your lower lip - my loss I'm sure - I am unable to attest to its sexiness. I can easily vouch for the truth in the rest of your words.

To have eyes and yet not see is a sad thing. At the end of the game, regardless of the comeliness of form and the suppleness of limb, we are left with only the beauty or ugliness that dwells within.

The vitality of the vessel is a wondrous source of joy. The intangible acquisitions of a life well lived are the true treasures.

Well written piece, Selkie.

M:e said...

Events sometimes conspire and our control over how strong we keep our bodies diminishes, and we then begin to look at beauty differently. I've learned to see the beauty in myself and those I love not in our packaging but in what is held within it, for even the most beautiful packaging can sometimes contain things which are damaged and ugly. When something is beautiful from the inside out, the packaging too becomes pleasing to the eye, for it becomes more and more difficult to separate the two.

love and hugs xxx

kannakat said...

If the photo on your profile is really you, you're beautiful! What fabulous hair. And anyone can tell from what you write that you would have a lovely smile.
And gaunt is not good on mature women - rounded, feminine, is the way with us. (Outer matches inner, see?)

selkie said...

"If I were to spend as much time on positive self-talk as I do on negative, I would never hate myself again --" Annie, so very true! What always astonishes me is that intelligent women such as you and I KNOW the answer but don't always internalize it.

And Buffalo, "we are left with only the beauty or ugliness that dwells within." that is SO true, profoundly so - I know that and can see it reflected in the people whom I love but again, so hard to apply that same adage to oneself.

M:e, you have been an ongoing inspiration to me; your wisdom shines beautiful in this cyber world we inhabit - and your insights are something I keep and pull out to look at again and again.

kannakat - its me all right, taken a week or so ago - but of course, we all pick the what we perceive the more flattering photos to be - and note NO closeup ... I have a crooked nose, fine lines are starting to appear (well, you see what I mean?). But I DO like my hair, that's gotta be good right?

I actually know you're right too about not being too gaunt - I just have to believe it emotionally.

cutesy pah said...

I, too, struggle with a self-image that does not match what others see. Everyone tells me that at 45, I look 30-32. My daughter's male friends secretly call me a MILF.

Daddy tells me that I'm the sexiest woman he's ever known, built like a bricksh*t house, with natural 36DD model quality breasts, an ass to die for, and the beauty of an indian princess.

from my perspective, I see only the spider veins on my legs, the sagging skin under my arms, the freckled, sun-damaged dellecotage, the stretch marks on my sagging tummy, and breasts, the cottage cheese appearance of my buttock & thighs, my thinning hair, and the worry lines across my forehead, and the "parentheses" that travel from my nose to my chin and hug my thinning, colorless lips.

yet, I know my perspective is as skewed as a funhouse mirror. There are moments, fleeting, but moments when I can see myself as others do, and I am proud that I have taken care of myself, that Mother Nature has blessed me with a youthful appearance, good skin, and a hourglass figure, with beautiful eyes, cute smile, and an intelligent mind.

Let's all hope that we can find longer and longer moments in time where we can see ourselves through the eyes of others, and truly appreciate what wonderful, amazing, unique, utterly lovable and adorable creatures are we.

thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. you are precious.

cutesy pah

selkie said...

curious how we focus only on the negatives ....yet would lecture friends, children to do the exact OPPOSITE .... you're right cutsey- we can only hope that we can work on ourselves to start seeing clearly.