We learn to judge sometime in our childhood. We learn to judge others and eventually ourselves. We begin to see the world through this new lens, but when we turn that lens upon ourselves we choose (or are taught) to see the negative. I think this self-judgement only worsens with time/age/environment. And I think that right now, in time or this year or whatever, it is worse than ever before in history. Women and girls see their self-worth directly tied to their weight and beauty. We push ourselves to a previously unfathomable degree and then sit back in shock and horror when such behaviors blow up in our collective faces. When breaking away from this type of thinking or behavior lands you in the “other” category or worse getting bullied.
I am still on my own personal path to a judgement-free life. I know it’s possible, I feel as though I am halfway there. I see people like Yoko Ono, the Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey and more, teach these concepts and practices hoping to reach even a few minds ready for change. And that is the crux of it, isn’t it? Change. It is what drives us and freezes us in terror. The unknown is what scares us. Change is what we think we want when we feel positive. But it is when things are drastically wrong that we rally together for that change. When we are instructed or asked to change for our “own good” we resist with a resistance against it like little else in the world. As though changing one iota of ourselves for health or well-being or for the health and safety of our loved ones, would change yourself and your personality for good. I used to believe that people do not actually ever change, but I know now that that just isn’t so. I have changed so much that when I look back I am often horrified at the person I was or the shit I allowed to be done to me or brought into my life.
With every passing year I think I see the world slightly differently. It used to be me against the world. Then me and my husband against the world. Now it’s just us trying to live in harmony with the world as best we can. That is a major shift! I used to walk around with a black cloud overhead, the living gal version of Eeyore. I believe at one point that I was so worthless that I didn’t even deserve death, that the best punishment for someone like me (I was in my mid to late teens) is to live in misery and agony for the rest of my natural life. I believed that in my heart of hearts (where did that saying come from?). I bought into that self-created philosophy for many years. Even got a tattoo with Chinese characters that say “Everlasting Pain”. *HeadDesk* That is not the person I am now. Not even close! But I changed. I grew. I evolved and I opened myself up to new things and people and concepts and lifestyles and ideas and I made informed changes in my life.
What inspired this post is an article about a woman who gave up mirrors for a year. I was struck by that concept, especially how it might pertain to Fat Liberation. When we look at ourselves in the mirror we see what others see (or so we think). A good friend of mine once told me a story about shopping at a local Target and seeing an older but stylish woman looking at her from behind a clothes rack. Well, that woman was her! She was alarmed at how much older she appeared in the mirror (though don’t get me started on department store mirrors, yo). She and I are one month apart in age. I found the story humorous, but poignant, too. At what point do we hold onto an image of ourselves and refuse to let go? I have been exposed to a large swath of the population and it varies, I can tell you that much. I have found that for men, 21-25 is their ideal image of themselves (no research was done, this is a guestimation y’all). And for women it can be much younger or older than that. I think it has more to do with what was going on in their lives than anything else, hindsight being 20-20 and all.
This all reminds me of a quote from Andy Warhol, “I know a girl who just looks at her face in the medicine cabinet mirror and never looks below her shoulders, and she’s four or five hundred pounds but she doesn’t see all that, she just sees a beautiful face and therefore she thinks she’s a beauty. And therefore, I think she’s a beauty, too, because I usually accept people on the basis of their self-images, because their self-images have more to do with the way they think than their objective-images do.” That Andy knew what was up! I think that girl is me! Ha-ha! seriously! I don’t own a full-length mirror anymore (not intentionally, just situationally) and thus can only view myself from the shoulders up. Sometimes I see myself as a beauty, other times I just look tired. But I am who I am and I accept that. I try not to dwell on that reflected image, either.
Could I (could you?) give up mirrors for a year? I don’t know. I mean, I suppose I could, but driving? Hmm, that would be the hardest bit. To resist the ultimate temptation of looking in the rear view mirror at myself? I don’t think I could. But I don’t hate what I see in the mirror anymore. I know who I am and while certain aspects of my personality may always be in flux, I know that the core of my being is good and kind and strong and capable and important. I hold that closest to me. I remind myself often. I have to. Because in this world, right now, with the hate flowing from every pore and person? I have no choice but to love me for me, I can’t expect to receive or buy that anywhere else. There’s no installment plan for self-acceptance. It takes work and it takes a willingness to be open to that concept to begin with. And I am a much better person for having found it! I now have more meaningful relationships and work to honor and value them. I hope that you can find a way to accept and love yourself, too. For now, accept that I love and accept you just as you are, right now!