When I look at myself, I see the flaws. The way the squishy part of my hips slightly spill over the waist band of my jeans, the crooked shape of my mouth when I open it, how my teeth have shifted and changed over the years, the break outs I get on my chest when my hormones fluctuate, the stray hairs that I tweeze out of my body, how my belly and inner thighs jiggle when I’m dancing naked and, any number of other parts of my body that I feel like attacking on any given day.
I know that this does not make me unique. It actually is probably one thing that most people, especially women and queers, have in common. As a masculine of center lesbian I am always wanting that curveless aesthetic that is portrayed as the “right” way to be androgynous. I love my body and I love my curves but, I have a cognitive dissonance that happens between that love and the fact that I want to fit easily into an image of myself that I’ve created. The truth is: my hips are never going away. Never.
As I’m living in the now I see myself as my flaws but, this magical thing happens when time passes, I am able to look back at photos of me and see how great I looked. Sometimes the time it takes for this shift to happen can be as short as a few months or a year. In that time the flaws that I previously saw in the photo tend to blur and soften. Shining more brightly than anything that was “wrong” with me are all of my favorite parts. I can take the entirety of my circumstances into consideration. I can not only see what I looked like but, what I was going through. I can see what I overcame.
When I see pictures from just around my high school graduation I’m shocked at how fantastic I look. In the moment I was unhappy with my stomach and I thought I was the ugly duckling friend that just tagged along with her really good looking friends because they were being nice.
Did I mention that all of my friends are gorgeous? Every single one of them is a smoke show in their own right. I know now, as I look back, that I am just as attractive and worthy as any of my friends but in the moment I didn’t see that. I saw myself as less attractive and that resulted in me feeling I more of a burden and less worthy of friendship and love. I still struggle with this today – wrestling with the story I’ve been telling myself for most of my life and can’t help but think that I’m imposing on people. That who I am isn’t good enough for the friends I have and they will figure it out eventually.
What’s with this tying how attractive we perceive ourselves to be with how worthy of relationships we are?
Listen, I want to divorce those two things in my head, I really do. But, I think that the first step in that is for me to really get past the picking apart of myself and get to a place where I just accept myself as I am. Not even just accept myself but CELEBRATE myself.
The first step I’m taking toward this goal is to start looking at myself with future eyes. Since history has shown me that I will look at the me of the past with love + compassion + beauty, I’m going to jump past the disdain of the present and look at myself as I would years from now. The part of my body that I am focusing on now, the part I want to change, won’t even factor into future me’s vision of myself. Future eyes see not only how good you looked at a particular moment in time but, they also take into account what you were going through emotionally, financially and, physically at the time. Future eyes don’t want to change anything about who they’re looking at because they know that person is whole and beautiful and perfect in that moment.
This tactic can be used for things other than your physical appearance too:
Having a hard time stringing together days of sobriety? Look at yourself with future eyes, the eyes of a you who has a year of sobriety (or two or three) and can look back at the time you’re in now to see everything you’re accomplishing and overcoming every day. This future you is so proud of the work you’re doing.
Struggling to set healthy boundaries in your relationships? Visualizing yourself in the future, having done the work to put those boundaries in place and feeling that freedom and then look back at your current self with those future eyes. That future you will know all of the hard shit you’ve done and the work you’re putting in. Future you is so proud of current you.
How do we make this shift?
Setting the intention that I will do this is much easier than actually doing it. It requires a lot of gentle reminders and shifts in how I look at myself.
Sometimes what when I’m unhappy with how my shirt is fitting I picture a photo from my past (where I’m sure I felt the same way), there are a couple that I can specifically recall with ease, when I picture that photo I can see how healthy and happy and magnetic I was in that moment. I see my genuine smile and remember who was with me on the day the picture was taken. How lucky I am to have the love of those people. How ludicrous it seems now to think I was disgusted with how I looked then – I mean, LOOK AT ME! I’M GORGEOUS!
Seeing that and feeling so much love for my past me can then spill over on to the current me. I can look in the mirror and see the same eyes, hair and, shoulders. I can see the same person who was present in the past standing right before me and that gives me the permission to love myself as I am right in this moment.
We are all worthy, exactly as we are.