This will be the first Body Image Project post that does not include a picture, but of all the parts of me that make me who I am, this one does the most.
I’m not kidding when I say this – I believe one hundred million percent that my brain is my best feature.
I suppose that could be kind of a sad thing. In the same way people say “she’s got a great personality” to cover a perceived physical deficit, saying “my brain is my best feature” could appear to be an aesthetic cop-out.
It is, kind of, but I don’t think that’s sad.
For the majority of my life, I did not feel attractive. On bad days I STILL feel unattractive. Even now, even after all the therapy and growth, there are still days when the PMS freight train rolls into the station, unloads baggage and bloaty self-hate, throws tampons at my head, sprinkles body odor on everything, then leaves me to clean up the mess. I do not feel pretty on those days.
On those days, and on all the days I felt the same sense of disgusting worthlessness before, I chose to define my worth through the one thing I could control, and the one thing that made me unique:
As I ruminated this morning, “which piece of myself do I pick apart today,” I asked myself the question “How do I define myself? Which parts of myself do I relate my existence and worth to, the most?”
Then, “…woah, deep question.”
Have you thought about that? Have you asked yourself the question, “what parts of me define who I am?”
For those of us that struggle with body image and self-worth, I don’t think we ever ask ourselves this question outright, but I think we do ask it. We don’t ask it in a way that we have to actually answer, we just… I don’t know, carry it around in our heads. We hold that question in our heads as we stand in the dressing room, trying on swimsuits, turning to and fro under those HORRIBLE overhead lights. We hold that question in our heads as we try to button jeans that used to fit but now they don’t, or when we use the treadmill next to a super-skinny-holy-big-boobs-amazing-ass girl at the the gym, or when our kids reach up to us and squeeze our chunky, stretch-marked tummy and say “Mommy, you have a fat belly.”
In those moments of wretched comparison and torturous, realistic self-doubt, we carry that unspoken question in our heads, and then we answer it.
Question: “What parts of me define who I am?”
Answer: “Why, this one you’re ashamed of, you foolish girl. It is your failure that defines you.”
And completely not true.
As I thought today about the question “what parts of me define who I am,” when I actually asked the real question, I no longer answered in fear. I answered in strength. I answered in confidence, and instead of immediately thinking of all the parts of myself that need help, I thought of the parts that best exemplify the miracle of life I carry in my chest, my fascinating humanity, and the extraordinary uniqueness of my character and spirit.
My will power.
My kids, and the lives I grew inside of me.
My partner, and the way he sees the best of me, even when I don’t see it myself.
Never one time as I answered the question “what defines me” did I consider what I used to fear. “My fat. My short waist. My ugly face, my man hands, my ugly feet, my fat thighs and thick waist and stupid back fat and gross stomach.” I did not answer with those things, because although I have thought myself victim to those things before, TODAY I know that those things do not make me who I am.
In fact, those things are not even a part of my true self, they are merely hood ornaments. They are after market add ons. They are fringes and decals, paint and accessories.
The part of me that truly matters, the part of me that I choose to define myself and my life, those are the things you cannot see.
It is the same for you.
The science nerd in me loves the idea of adding a photo of a human brain to this post. “SEE, THIS IS WHAT MAKES ME GREAT.” I’m the kid that asked for extra credit during the dissection portion of bio lab.
I’m not going to add a picture.
What I want you to understand, and what I want ME to understand, is that THE ONLY PART OF ME THAT ACTUALLY EVER MATTERS IS THE PART I CANNOT SEE. Looking at something does not make it worthy. Looking at a part of my body and saying “yeah, it’s pretty” does not make me better.
Learning to accept myself as I am, and learning to see all the parts of me that you can’t actually look at. THAT makes me better.
It makes US better.
Keep looking, my friend. And ask yourself the question out loud, and really try and answer:
“What parts of me define who I am?”
When you can answer that question with truth and not fear, you know you’re making progress.