*TRIGGER WARNING – weight and food*
People probably wouldn’t think this, considering I’ve posted so many selfies on social media throughout my life, but the thing I’ve always been most self-conscious about is my own face. It started in primary school when I seemed to start puberty much earlier than everyone else and I got bad skin as a lot of teenagers do. But I wasn’t a teenager and it made me different from everyone else, which of course other kids love to pick up on any differences. Despite probably spending most of my life feeling different anyway, I’d always managed to find a way to blend in before this. Now that had become impossible and I was bullied quite badly until I learned the art of hiding my face with make-up. For many reasons after that, including trauma and abuse, I spent years becoming someone I wasn’t. I stood out but for different reasons, and I hid who I really was or how I really looked underneath that. I developed a mask and I didn’t interact with the world unless I had it on, physically and mentally. And it helped me survive for years, but in recent years I’ve had to slowly let that mask go and get to know the person I am underneath it because I didn’t even know myself anymore. I am still working that out. And I’ve met parts of myself that have filled me with the same shame and vulnerability that I had years ago. The shame I’ve tried to get rid of and run away from but never could. It is still there, but I am learning to try and accept or like myself now rather than trying to become someone else. It is taking years of hard work and something I imagine I’ll be working on for the rest of my life.
The reason I am thinking about this is because this lockdown really requires you to be with yourself 24/7. There is nowhere to run or hide. I am getting there with being able to accept and like my inner self, at least sometimes anyway. But physically, I still struggle. I have avoided any video chats because I hate looking at my own face that much, and it makes me feel exposed and vulnerable. I am at my mum’s house and didn’t bring any make up with me so that leaves me without another layer of a mask I usually use when leaving the house. Someone said to me this morning that I look like I’ve lost a bit of weight and I know that this is supposed to be a compliment, but all it made me think was ‘do you usually look at me and think I look really fat?’. My weight has gone up and down like a yoyo for years, depending on my mood, which medications I’m on and if I’m actually able to do any exercise. I have put on a bit of weight the past couple of years due to medication, being chronically ill physically and unable to exercise a lot of the time, and actually because I have worked hard at eating properly at regular times. Apart from a couple of times, the only times I can think of in the past when I have lost weight in order for me to feel ‘okay’ about my weight, has been at my most unwell times mentally. I’ve been anxious, on edge and drinking all the time which meant I wasn’t eating properly, and people told me I looked great because I’d lost so much weight but what did it matter how I looked if that was how I felt? I still thought I looked fat anyway no matter what my weight actually was. I guess I just felt more acceptable because I could dress up, put loads of make up on and take loads of photos for a night out to give me some sort of validation on social media. But it didn’t help how I really felt. The real me. Without the mask.
So now I’m on a journey of trying to like myself without all of that. With the flaws, scars on my face, cellulite on my legs and size that I am. I still like getting up and putting make up on in the morning when I have somewhere to go because I feel like it sets me up for the day, and maybe it shouldn’t but it does. However, I don’t always feel like I ‘need’ to now. Especially with being in lockdown and being inside all the time, why should I put make up on just for a video call if I don’t want to? Which is why I’m going to try a Zoom mental health drop in today whilst I sit here with messy hair, no make-up and a baggy jumper over my pyjamas. Why should I care? I still do of course, and I am anxious about it but I’m going to try and get over this hurdle. I am going to try and accept myself as I am because otherwise, I’ll be sitting here feeling disconnected from the world just because I don’t like looking at my own face. I realised this morning that I should be proud of this body and face. I have been through a lot, and maybe it has left marks on me that will be there forever, but I should be proud of that. My body has carried me to where I am today. A place I never thought I could be. And in that thought, it is also my birthday soon which I usually dread but this year I am happy to have made it to the age of 29. To the last year of my twenties, and I no longer wake up and dread the day or the future. I look forward to it (most of the time) and I guess I better start liking the person and body I’m in that will be living that future.