I experience body dysmorphia almost every day; everyone does, to varying degrees. We look in the mirror and fixate on every flaw we find in ourselves. These are the things that make us feel insecure and question our worth. For me, I notice the bulge of my stomach, or my squinty left eye, or my knobbly knees. For you, it might be your arms, or your nose, or your butt, or whatever other parts of your appearance that don’t seem “normal.”
But what even is normal? Is it the photoshopped pictures on Instagram? Is it the gorgeous friend we compare ourselves to? Normal is this ambiguous concept we’ve been indoctrinated into believing. It’s this supreme ideal that’s meant to represent the masses but instead presents an unattainable goal. We’re all trying to be normal, but because no one is normal, normal has come to mean extraordinary.
We have a picture of ourselves in our mind and that doesn’t always match up to what we see in real life. When watching movies where a character meets their clone, I always wonder how they recognise themselves so quickly. Compared to the time we spend seeing other people, we rarely see ourselves in our entirety. I’m always surprised by my reflection, sometimes pleasantly and other times not, depending on how bad my insecurities are that day. The selfie my brain constructs, with the little snippets of body parts it sees or the quick flashes from mirrors, changes everyday. Some days, I’m a sun-kissed goddess; other days, I’m a pale hunchback; then I look in the mirror, and I’m confronted with me.
I deal with my body dysmorphia by not acknowledging it. It’s not suppression per se; it’s more of a, “Fuck you, I’m pretending you don’t exist until you go away.” When I get dressed, I use the mirror to make sure my outfit matches and to curl my hair or do my makeup; I don’t acknowledge the parts of me I can’t change. I don’t look too long at pictures of myself, because I know I’ll eventually find things to nitpick and feel insecure about. If my first reaction is to like the photo, then I use it. Or if a friend takes the picture and says it looks great, I trust their judgement, even if I disagree. I am my own worst critic.
But I realised something a few years ago: no one cares about your body as much as you do.
Consider for a moment: when was the last time you noticed a physical flaw in a friend or even a stranger, and actually cared about it? Maybe you noticed that they had gained some weight, or that their teeth were a little yellow; did that observation affect how you interacted with them? Did it change your opinion of them? If you answered yes, then that says more about your personality than that person’s looks.
I understand that my perception of myself matters, but it really only matters to me. I am the centre of my own universe, and it’s up to me to decide how I see myself. It’s not always easy, and a lot of the times I’m faking confidence, but it helps to remember that while I’m fixating on that zit on my forehead, everyone else is too busy staring at their zits to notice mine.
If you are suffering from severe Body Dysmorphia, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder, The International OCD Foundation has resources to help you.