I dream of being *that* person, you know, the person who is comfortable in their own skin, the person who genuinely doesn’t care what other people think of them, the person who accepts themselves just the way they are.
But I am *this* person: I am insecure about pretty much every part of me. It starts as I wake up – in my comforting foetal position, I can feel my little pot belly hang over onto the bed; I’m sure it’s the first thing I am aware of every morning. And it kind of goes from there…
I have bad dark circles under my eyes, I’ve always had them, it’s just the way I am made. You think I would have moved to acceptance at the age of 41, but no, I am paranoid about them; I am convinced that people are staring at them when they are talking to me. When I arrive somewhere, I torture myself by checking how bad they look in my compact mirror, praying for natural light, knowing that harsh, changing room style lighting is my enemy. And as I get older, I now have ‘laughter lines’ competing for my paranoid thoughts (I’m thinking sunglasses at all times).
I am self-conscious about other parts of my body too, but those can be hidden behind clever dressing. And then I move on to what I am wearing: ‘Have I got it ‘right’?’ ‘ Do I look stylish?’ ‘Do I look slim enough?’ Blah, blah, blah… I know it’s tedious.
I compensate for these insecurities by taking care of my appearance: I don’t leave the house without my hair and make-up done, I always make an effort with what I’m wearing, and I work hard to stay slim. I’m not striving for perfection, I am clear that doesn’t exist (and that even if it did, I would be a long way from it). But without the hair and the make-up I look pretty rough, and if I do all these things, I feel I look, well, alright.
The only person I’m not self-conscious with is my husband. I happily let him see me au naturale, I trust that he loves all of me (I mean jeez, after everything we have been through, he must do): dark circles, muffin top, stretch marks, cellulite, silly thoughts and all (oh yes, lucky man).
I don’t want to be *this* person. I know it’s bordering on ridiculous, oh hell, is ridiculous. I am embarrassed that I feel this way; I should know better. I know there are so many other things which are more important about me, about life. And I know I miss out on making the most of the moments with friends because I am worrying about all this stuff. And when I do switch off from the crazy thoughts, of course, I have a better time.
I’m not sure how I ended up here. Did it start with the feeling I never fitted in at school? Was it struggling with my body image at University? Has it been made worse along the way by losing some of my identity in those barren CFS years? I’m not sure.
I do know though, that the bigger the social occasion, the more the paranoia comes out to play. It was my best friend’s wedding last week (congratulations Mr and Mrs Eckhardt!) and all these stressful – and unhelpful – thought patterns insisted on coming along for the ride. I wasn’t happy with my outfit, which wasn’t a great place to start; I was also giving a speech so was putting myself ‘out there’ into the limelight for extra scrutiny. And I knew there was going to be photographic evidence – I hate having my photograph taken, especially when I have no control over the save or delete button.
I have berated myself since the wedding: ‘How could I have got the outfit so wrong?’ ‘How will I look in the photos?’ ‘Did I come across okay to the other guests?’ And so on…
I don’t judge anyone else like this. In fact more than that, I take great pride in accepting people just the way they are; I love my husband and friends for all their uniqueness; I don’t expect them to be, or look, anything other than themselves.
I wish I could just switch these thoughts off, I really do. But alas, as we all know, sometimes our thoughts just do their own thing, good or bad. Maybe now I’ve confessed to the Internet how ridiculous I am, it will help me take a step towards becoming more comfortable being me. Or, maybe I should get in touch with Samantha Brick…
And you, how comfortable are you in your own skin?