"How did your interview go?" my therapist excitedly asked last week as I settled onto her sofa.
"I think I got it. I should find out tomorrow or Monday."
Her face lit up. A wide smile stretched from ear to ear. Her spine straightened as she leaned forward and exclaimed, "That's fantastic!"
"It is." Neither the tone of my voice nor the shift of my body matched the enthusiasm coming from her chair.
"And did you have a date?"
"I did. Really nice guy. He's originally from Connecticut so we bonded over lobster rolls."
"Are you seeing him again?"
"I believe so," I answered before reaching for my cup of water and taking a small sip.
"Do you want to see him again?"
My therapist settled back in her chair, let her mouth fall slightly open, strained to find the words to summarize her thoughts.
"Yeah, I know," I said. "I'm looking at how excited you are right now and my response, it's like I'm talking about Brussel Sprouts."
We danced around this lack of enthusiasm. I was being cautious about work because it seemed reasonable. She agreed. I was being cautious about love because history dictated such.
"But you can still be excited."
We dug deeper. We discussed this sense of preservation masquerading as caution.
"Like I've said before," she started. "This approach served you well during your childhood. But you're still acting guarded without evidence of needing protection."
I took another sip of water, this time using the liquid to help swallow down the lump lodging itself in my throat. I glanced out the window, as if shifting my gaze would help stave off the tears. Then I admitted that no matter how much I rationally knew I wasn't defective in my physical appearance, I couldn't fathom a man embracing it without hesitation. Clearly he'd someday determine my cellulite wasn't worth tolerating. My soft stomach would eventually become unbearable. At a certain point, my larger two front teeth would morph from cute to unsightly.
"Rationally I get it. Veneers won't fix the problem. This runs deeper than cosmetic dentistry."
"Yes, it does," she said.
"Except it's so ingrained at this point, embedded in my bones....." I paused.
"We're going to tackle this," my therapist said, her voice confident yet warm. "Here, in this space.You'll tell your mom to fuck off. You'll hold your dad accountable for not protecting you. By getting the anger out, you can stop internalizing it. You can stop turning that anger on yourself."
I took in a deep breath, exhaled with a slight huff. I considered what she said.
"You see, I can't connect those dots. For me, that process won't lead to embracing my flaws. And I apologize for dismissing your approach."
She smiled. "You're being honest. I'd rather you be honest. But I still think we should try it."
I nodded in agreement, refraining from admitting fear of failure. This wasn't my first time sitting on a couch, trying to tackle this demon. While strong on the outside, I felt fragile on the inside. Unbelievably fragile. As if my heart was made of delicate glass. And if this effort didn't work, I feared it just might shatter.