If you had to pick five words that best describe you, what would they be?
Most of us would be tempted to answer that question with the five things we WISH we were. “I’ll say the five things I want to be true the most. Then they can just BE true. Everyone else will buy it, they’ll see me like that. I just know it. SEE, I’M CHANGED, all I had to do was change what everyone else saw. They’re buying it, I’m sure of it.”
Maybe, but usually not. When we lie about who we are the only person we truly deceive is ourselves.
Not too long ago, the five words to describe the person I wish I was, and the five words to describe the person I actually am would have been different. Depending on how honest I was being with myself, the answers would be VERY different. I wanted to be strong and capable, powerful and intelligent. I wanted to be confident.
I don’t know that I told anyone I WAS those things, so you might think I wasn’t a liar, but I was.
I was a liar, and I was a liar of the worst kind.
I lied to myself.
Every day, all the time, I lied to myself about who and what I was. I told myself I was strong, but I wasn’t. I told myself I was brave, but I wasn’t.
What I REALLY was, was afraid. Insecure. Doubtful. Self-destructive. Angry. Self-hating.
I was really, really sad.
It may seem as though “what kind of person I am” is mostly unrelated to The Body Image Project, but that is only partly true. How you choose to see yourself, the level of TRUTH you use to see yourself, is very much about The Body Image Project.
Perception is a tricky thing. I have been in arguments of epic proportion about the concept of perception and the idea of truth. No matter which way you cut it, truth is how you choose to see it. One hundred people sit in the same movie theater, watch the same movie, and every single person will have had a different experience. Depending on where they sit, who they’re with, what happened to them before they got there, the content of the film, the experiences that skew their ability to follow the plot line or show interest in the story, the color of their shirt, what kind of snack they got, and on and on and on, the individual perception of the experience will form a separate truth.
Later, when two people with two separate truths attempt to agree on what actually happened, no one is actually RIGHT, because they’re BOTH right.
Truth is, quite literally, based on perception.
Here, I’ll illustrate with this picture.
Trippy, right? The appropriate hole that best fits the block depends on your perspective.
(I hear my kids in my head as I look at that picture. “IT FITS IN THE SQUARE HOLE.” “NO IT DOES NOT, IT NEEDS TO GO IN THE ROUND ONE.” “AAAAAH GIVE ME THAT!”)
And, to be honest, when I hear adults argue about things like homosexuality and marriage equality and “you have to make me a cake for my gay wedding” and “no I do not,” and “you have to vaccinate your kids” and “NO I DO NOT,” I think about my kids then, too.
Petulant, argumentative, small-minded adults are the same as petulant, argumentative, small-minded children. The common cause to both types of people?
Lack of perspective.
Or rather, one sided, “mine is the only one in all of reality” perspective.
An open, real perspective is SO IMPORTANT. Without an open perspective we cannot see all of our options (circle OR square), and without a clear picture of all of our options we miss out on the power of choice.
If you don’t see the whole picture, how can you choose what’s best?
REALITY requires fact and an unbiased, open minded perspective. Perspective determines truth, and we NEED our truth to most accurately represent reality, because we cannot change a reality that we have not accepted.
We cannot get stronger without first recognizing how we’re weak.
We cannot change habits that we refuse to acknowledge are there.
We cannot fix a marriage that we deny is in need of help.
We cannot explore options to solve a problem if we refuse to admit the problem exists, and then refuse to entertain options outside of our immediate purview.
In other words, to change your life into the one you want, you must first change the way you see the one you’ve already got.
And, per my question at the beginning of this post, “What five words best describe you,” to be the person you want to be, you must first accept the person you are right now.
You have to KNOW. Not “think,” but KNOW the person that you are. Right now. You must answer the question “what five words best describe you” honestly. PURELY HONEST. Brutal, raw, agonizing, painful, piss-you-off honest.
Do that, then we can work on changing that list of five things you actually are, into the five things you wish you were.
For me, that took a long time. Years. Two years and one month as of today, to be exact. It took bravery. It took strength. It took intelligence, resourcefulness, power.
Making the change from “before Erin” to “after Erin,” I had to become all the things I wanted to be.
That’s what change does to us. It makes us better. Not the because of the new result, but because of the work it takes to get there.
(I hear my dad mumbling something in my head about “building character” as I write that line just there. Shoveling snow is not about the clean sidewalk, it’s about the mental toughness built along the way. SEE DAD, I UNDERSTAND. CHARACTER BUILT.)
I know this is confusing. I know I’m doing mental backflips right now, and that you’re probably a little lost. It’s okay.
If you get just one thing from what I’m saying, get this:
Your perception determines your reality. If you want a different reality, change your perspective.
As I’ve gone through my mental transformation, I have noticed my body changing, too. I have noticed a change in the way I PERCEIVE myself, which changes my truth, which changes my reality, which means my body is different even if it’s exactly the same.
I have said before, I do not perceive myself to be a girl. I KNOW I am (because vagina, duh), but I feel on the inside that my spirit and “other self” are male in nature. At best, I identify as gender neutral.
I do not wear dresses. I do not wear heels. I do not carry a purse, not in the traditional sense. I own guns. I shoot guns. I love engines and dirtbikes and digging in the mud. I shave only when I get uncomfortable, I only occasionally wear makeup, I have a large personality and an even larger confidence.
Also, I keep my fingernails masculine-ly short.
There aren’t too many parts of a woman that are culturally woman. There are parts that are PHYSICALLY female, like breasts and genitals, but culturally there aren’t too many parts that are female in nature. Faces, because we put on makeup, hair, because we grow it out, legs and armpits because we shave them, and fingernails.
I have, before I took this picture, had fingernails this long. NEVER EVER.
Long fingernails piss me off. They get in my way. Mine are exceptionally flat and weak, so they flex and bend. They keep me from feeling the keyboard when I type, they gouge my kids when I grab for them to play and wrestle. Long nails get dirty. They collect dust and gunk and ew when I cut up chicken or dig in the garden. Even inside my gardening gloves, the long nails get packed with soil and grime.
They are not practical. They are not efficient. They are not comfortable.
I HATE THEM.
I dislike wearing my fingernails long, because deep down on the inside, I am not a girl. I’m not THAT kind of girl, for sure. I have never wanted to be THAT KIND OF GIRL, and I detest the idea that I would even try.
Here enters “perspective.”
As of late, I have been trying to grow my nails long because The Mr likes them that way. My Norah likes them that way. I’ve been trying because I haven’t tried before, because I’m always up for a change and a challenge, because I’m willing to try new things. My reluctance to try before to grow them long was due to an internal issue, one of psychology and sexual identity. Since I’ve resolved most of those problems, and all that is left now is a physical preference.
I’m willing to try something different, despite physical preference.
…kind of like trying a new haircut, only different.
It turns out, the long fingernails are really, truly, absolutely just NOT ME. I really, really don’t like them.
I don’t like the way I feel in them. I don’t like the way they feel on ME. I don’t like having to file or clip. TOO MUCH MAINTENANCE. I don’t like having to trim and paint, buff and gloss.
Lame, lame, lame.
“Sorry Mister, I tried. I REALLY DID.”
Today I went to Costco. I had to buy cat litter. When I picked up the 42 pound bag of litter, one of my flimsy, annoyingly long fingernails caught the edge of the bag and ripped off. (Left hand, not the one in the picture above.) As I stood in stupid Costco in stupid line to pay for my stupid cat litter (irritated, if you can’t tell), I glared at my stupid, annoying fingernails.
“THREE WEEKS. THREE WEEKS I WORKED ON THOSE,” and then I tore one off. SO ANNOYING.
Even more annoying, my initial annoyance makes me “that kind of girl.”
You know, the kind of girl that cares about breaking a nail.
I AM SO NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, and I resent the fact that I resembled one, even for one second.
I came home, took the picture above, cut my nails, then took this one.
THESE fingernails are me. They are short and sensible. They will not get in my effing way. I will not cut anyone or myself by accident, I will not catch them on clothes and fold them backwards, I will not tear or chip or snag them on life.
Even better, with the right persepctive, I AM STILL A GIRL, even if I’m not “that kind of girl.” I am still feminine, even if I cut my nails short.
For a very long time, my perspective was short and one-sided. I saw “girls have long nails, and since you don’t have them, you aren’t a girl.”
NOW, now that I’ve opened up my perspective of myself and real life, I know that I CAN be a girl, AND I can have short nails. I can be both. I can be feminine and sensible, I can be girly and modest.
And honestly? Anyone that tells me otherwise has problems with THEM, not with me.
I will try to grow them out again. The Mr would like it, and I like him, so I’ll keep at it. Maybe one day they’ll ALL be long at the same time, and maybe then I’ll paint them.
Until then, I’m happy with my reality just as it is.
…and if that ever changes, a shift in perspective is all that’s required to change it back.
Much love, my friend.
(with short fingernail fingers.)
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