Body Image Rears Its Ugly Head

This is hard to write, not because I’m unearthing unfamiliar feelings but because I hate contemplating what it all means. Bottom line is that I feel like I’ve been incredibly wrong and failed. Both make me a wee bit crazy. Okay, fine, crazier.

It all began with a man and a crush. A few times in my presence, he very obviously noticed other attractive women, once almost turning completely around to keep the beauty in his sights. Because the crush had moments of it being mutual, I knew he was at least alright with my appearance, but each time he ogled another woman, I felt particularly ugly. Obviously what he was staring at was somehow superior to gazing at me.

Fast forward to this past spring. Two people – they’re best friends – came into my life. Both have this habit of talking about other women with major emphasis on her beauty, her wardrobe, and the impact it has on them. It’s like this constant barrage of reminders that appearance is noticed by everyone every second of the day. As a result, I am constantly aware of the fact that others notice me and since I know the majority of people out there have issues with how I look, it becomes a continuous prod at one of my vulnerable places.

An odd side effect of their constant noticing of other women is that when they say nice things about how I look, I discount them out of hand. They say it about everyone, diluting believability to almost nothing.

Then, of course, there’s my lack of eyes. I’ve spent the majority of this year missing at least one eye-like entity from my head. At the moment, I have one prosthetic and one socket with a sort of blank in it. Dark glasses have been Ditched, so it’s all there for anyone to see. And evaluate. Probably not all that favorably, because I doubt most think, “She’s made a choice to not cover up anything. Good for her.”

If you’ve read My Brain Hurts, you know that at least one person has vocalized their thoughts about my eyes, their disconcerting nature, and the strong opinion that I should hide them until I have prosthetics.

Before all of this happened, I was good with my appearance. Although I knew others had issues, I had a clarity that that was not my opinion and thus secondary to what I felt. With what seems like daily reminders of how much people notice appearance, my positive body image is cracking. It’s not so much that I suddenly dislike how I look, but rather it’s that my approval has been drowned out by a flood of other voices.

This has not been helped by things like the ophthalmic reconstructive surgeon asking, “Are you having more reconstructive surgery?” implying there was something needing fixing. No small children have run screaming, but my brain argues it’s a fluke.

I have gained a new found love of my blindness. Constant visuals of how others look in relation to my own image would be making this far worse. Actually, it’s highly likely that my positive body image was possible only because I lacked the vision to see how much my appearance diverged from what’s acceptable. Maybe what I proclaim about self-acceptance and body image can’t fairly be applied to sighted people. Maybe if I could see myself clearly I’d be horrified.

I like to think I have this great body image and I’m finding it hard to admit right now I feel out of touch with those positive feelings. My approval is buried under this thick layer of muck composed of a continual awareness that everyone is evaluating me and a certain knowledge that most aren’t staring out of a desire to gaze upon something attractive.

I abhor the fact that my body image is being so twisted. There’s a self consciousness within me that I’ve never experienced in quite this way. The thing I hate most, though, is the fear that my body image can only be positive because I have built a world that allows me to be oblivious to other’s perceptions. If I lived in reality, I couldn’t possibly maintain anything close to a positive body image. Therefore, denial becomes an essential component of liking my appearance. Denial isn’t healthy making me not healthy. Peachy.

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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