CRIPPLED BY IMAGE CONCERNS; Mind-based body battles
By Colette Coughlin
Author’s note: I have been working on body image using myself as a model for quite a few years now. Although I have come to a place of relative peace with my body over the last year, I recently came across this frustrated entry in a diary I had written shortly before things starting getting better for me. Although there were some outside influences that helped, the transformation was mostly from the inside, and it took some uncomfortable soul-searching to unravel the knots I describe below… can you identify with this?
Style / image / branding / performance /make-overs /age-defying / enhancing….
“How do I look?”
My boyfriend knows the only possible answer to this question is something along the lines of “fabulous” or “perfect” or “stunning”. “Beautiful” will do, too, but nothing less than that, ever!! And he knows that if I disagree, no matter what he says he can’t change my mind anyways.
My brain is crippled by caring too much about how I look. My mind wastes hours every day worrying about my weight, my skin, my hair, and my clothing. It is difficult to get out of the house every morning, for work or for play, unless I can convince myself that I’ve passed my self-imposed damn-near impossible tests of acceptability.
I spend all my extra money on clothing, usually second-hand to fit my budget, always looking for things that will make me look slimmer, prettier… better. And I am so highly critical of what I see in the mirror that I always walk away disappointed.
If I was a fashion model, and it was my job to look good for an advertising photo shoot, this might be understandable. But I’m just a regular person with a regular job in a regular neighbourhood and although many people care about me and probably even think I’m good-looking, this is NEVER ENOUGH for my egoic mind.
In all honesty, I am of average weight and height with medium length, medium brown hair and I’m in okay shape… but that is not enough for me, and it has never been enough. I have always wanted to be exceptionally beautiful; exceptionally everything; remarkable, special, outstanding.
The problem with this is that first of all, it is not in line with who I really am, and, secondly, it’s about one-upmanship, which always involves “one-downmanship”. In order to place oneself above others, you have to push them down a notch… which is considered just fine in our performance-based world, but it means there’s always losers, which nobody wants to be. The only way we can all be winners is by accepting ourselves exactly the way we are!
I am old enough and intelligent enough to know better, but this compulsive need to perform through the way I look, to watch my back and to check my face are more than just an occasional annoyance. It is a debilitating addiction.
And yet we live in a world where image is everything. Where Hollywood starlets are revered and it is considering not only normal, but an admirable state for them to spend their days eating out, having manicures and hair appointments and shopping-shopping-shopping. The beauty ideals and expectations we have created as a society are impossible for the average human to live up to, and although it is difficult to fight this huge industry from the outside, it truly is possible to work on it from within.