I have no idea what my body looks like.
I have spent hours in front of the mirror contorting my body this way and that in an effort to both shame myself for not having been born with better genes, and to fool myself into thinking it is possible for me to look any other way than I do. I will hold my paunch down with my hands, lift my shoulders up to elongate my torso, stick my face out to smooth out my double chin, squeeze my glutes together, and tilt my head so I can see the whole composition on an angle. Who is this person? Allana 2.0; the better version.
I didn’t always feel this way. When I was young I would fling my body around with abandon, never worrying about it being anything other than a glorious vessel that could get me from Point A to Point B and back again. It wasn’t until a school dance, when I overheard one boy ask another boy why he had just danced with me.
“Why wouldn’t I dance with her?” he asked back.
“Because she’s fat.”
Prior to this comment, I had felt nothing but beautiful. I didn’t know that my body was a thing that anyone else had an opinion about because I’d never thought of it negatively before. It planted a small seed of doubt in me that I have, regrettably, allowed to grow into a full-grown insecurity about the fact that no matter how good I feel, I do not know what I actually look like.
Of course there are days when I feel good about my body. There are admittedly fewer of those days as each year goes by, and I am very sad about that. Even on these “good body” days, I will inevitably catch a glimpse of my “weak chin” in the reflection of a store window and feel instantly betrayed by my own inability to accurately assess my beauty.
If I feel good about myself I know it is only a matter of time until I find myself in a situation that causes my self-esteem to waver. If I feel awful, I know that there will be a day in the coming weeks where I feel inexplicably great about my body.
It begs the question, if I have no idea what the shape and size of my body is, does it really matter what I look like at all? If nobody ever had an opinion about my body – if nobody had ever talked to me about my body in the first place – would I have ever thought of it as anything more than this incredible, healthy gift that allows me to participate in the entire spectrum of the human experience?
How did I ever get to this place where I think of myself as “less than” anyone else because my hips are wide, or because my breasts are too big to wear a button down shirt?
More importantly, how do I find my way back from that?