Wednesday, September 07, 2005
I never claimed I was perfect. Okay, I did once but it was a flippant response to my mom. “Yes, I am perfect,” I announced. She threw her hands up in the air, shook her head and walked away.
There have only been brief glimpses in my life where I haven’t identified a personal flaw. A random moment in front of the mirror before running out the door to a soiree is a good example. It’s a fleeting few seconds. But for those limited moments in time, I am divine. I notice how pretty my brown eyes, usually hidden behind glasses, really are. My long, straight, highlighted hair is shiny, the color is just right and that nasty cowlick on the right side of my head is finally behaving itself. As I pirouette in front of the mirror for a last once over, I somehow see nothing beyond the perfect drape of my pants and top as they compliment instead of fight my curves. Three seconds max, and then I run for the door and the flaws return.
If I tallied up all of the time I’ve spent criticizing my appearance, it totals a ridiculous amount of lost time. In the scheme of things, I know I’m not unique. Most women go through life like I do. If they didn’t, make-up wouldn’t be a billion dollar industry. Whether you pick up Oprah’s magazine because you think it’s more real or you pick up Glamour Magazine because you’re willing to admit a fondness for drivel, there’s always an article about how to dress thinner, how to wear make-up or how to change your body’s shape. Not even sister-girlfriend Oprah lets you escape your flaws.
A lot of times, I make self deprecating comments in front of other people. Call it a bad habit. Call it strategy. Either way, I put it out there so no one else can. Criticism is always hard to hear but it’s somehow easier when coming from your own lips. Maybe it is the less-distance-to-travel-to-the-ear theory that makes it easier to stomach. As soon as the words depart my mouth, they are in my ear and already tucked back away for another time.
To that same end, I have spent plenty of fifty minute hours talking about my flaws. The last go around, my therapist gave me homework. I was supposed to go home, look in the mirror and repeat “I am beautiful” no less than ten times. Just like my Hebrew school homework, I never did it. It just sounded so idiotic and ridiculous to think that thirty years of bad body image can be solved by daily affirmations.
With age, I’ve come to accept some of my flaws. I haven’t gone so far as to embrace them but I am more willing to let a few of them be. I’ve done some brain shifting and tried to spend more time focusing on my good traits. The time I spend volunteering makes me a better person and thinner thighs won’t change that simple fact.
There is a whole of me and I get it. Sometimes I stray and resort back to my self-bashing ways, even though I know it accomplishes nothing. Each day, I do it a little less. So little, it is near impossible to truly measure but over the course of a year, it adds up to something identifiable.
To keep me on track, I also surround myself with a handful of people who maybe know my flaws just as well as I do but, unlike me, they accept them from head to toe. Maybe this is the answer to moving forward. You start to see yourself through their eyes and more often than not, it is a great view. You’ve got to try it sometime. Trust me. If only you could buy friend-colored-glasses.