My friend Miriam Hall recently wrote about her experience seeing herself in a mirror when she wasn’t expecting to. She didn’t like what she saw:
The mirror showed me my body—stout, short and plump. But what the mirror really showed me is something far deeper. It showed me how much I try and pretend that I don’t look like I do. The mirror showed me I am not who I think I am.
The whole article she’s written for Elephant – a guide to mindful life, as it calls itself – is, to my mind, more about seeing than feeling, seeing what is and not with a critical eye, just with a seeing one.
It made me think even more about my boobs post the other day and the ways we contextualize our own naked selves in ways that make us not right, less attractive, less whole.
There is a problem here, but it’s greater than the commodification of women’s bodies, or bodies in general. It’s more than seeing skinniness as health (when it often isn’t, at all, & is so often the opposite). It’s more than equating fatness to unhealthiness.
It’s more about the way we want to see bodies as objects, as things outside ourselves, not at the vessels we carry our souls in. I saw a few naked photos of myself, taken recently, and like Miriam, actually saw something I was pretending wasn’t there – all of the sadness of the past few years, the losses you all know about, & some you don’t, reflected in my posture and my body – in my everything, in my gestalt, for lack of a better word. And like a woman who might see her post pregnancy belly and post nursing breasts as what they are – vastly perfect because of what they’ve been and done and not because of how they look – I saw a body that had eaten so much emotion I couldn’t otherwise express.
So look at yourself, at your body. Not in the mirror, to see what needs fixing. Just glance at yourself in a mirror, in a shop window’s reflection, to see what’s there that you’re pretending isn’t. We only ever distract ourselves with weight loss and gain, muscle tone and beauty. There is so much more a body is and says than the stupidly limited vocabulary we choose for it.