Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 355: Two Truths and a BIG Truth, Part 4

If you didn't catch my post from yesterday afternoon, you've probably figured it out on your own by now: I've given my blog a makeover! I hope you enjoy the changes, and I encourage (ahem, beg) you to "like me" on my brand new Facebook page!

Okay, back to business as usual.  Below, I've written my latest rendition of "Two Truths and a BIG Truth."  As a reminder, my "Truths" are things I knew before I started this project (even though I didn't always follow my own advice!), and the "BIG Truths" are things I've discovered along the way.

Truth #7 Sanity Comes First
This has been one of my "rules" since the beginning of my no-mirrors adventure, when I promised myself that I'd quit the project immediately if it made me "go insane".  Did I actually expect to go cookoo-chocoloco-crazy?  Not really.  But was I worried that going without mirrors had the potential to do more harm than good?  Absolutely.  I value my mental health above all else - including my physical health, my marriage, and even my ambitions.  Wow, did I say that out loud?  Yep, I did.  Luckily, these three things are generally protective to my mental health, but I've got limits and have learned to respect them or pay the price.

For example, over the last 10 years I've taken an antidepressant that helps me truly feel like myself (which I define as being able to experiencing the full-range of human emotions - in relation to what's actually going on in my life!).  Frustratingly, it's associated with some nasty side effects, including insulin resistance and high cholesterol.  Know what?  I take it anyway.  A few years ago my cholesterol was elevated, so I tried switching to something new.  BIG MISTAKE.  Never again.  These days I try to counter my risks through a healthy diet and exercise.  So far it's working but, when push comes to shove, I'll accept the trade-off.  As for my marriage, there are days when I become a reclusive hermit, avoiding my very snuggly and affection-craving husband because I have a deep need for solitude in order to feel rejuvenated. (I'm an introvert! Who knew?!)  Finally, my ambitions have changed over the years to protect my mental health.  I've flat out given up the idea of "fulfilling my potential!" at work, whatever that means (in the past, it has meant working waaaay too many hours!), and I switched careers in part because working in the fashion industry fed into my disordered eating.  Yet - full disclosure here - there is one ambition I'm still struggling with: Parenthood.  I'm terrified that I won't be able to handle it, and being a mommy isn't exactly a project I could "quit immediately if it made me 'go insane'".  I have a few more years to figure out this last one, but I suspect many people (perhaps even my own husband) won't fully understand my concerns and priorities.  I know this much: sanity will come first.

Truth #8 There is Beauty in the Breakdown
Seriously!  :)
It hasn't happened in quite some time, but sometimes I'm unable to prevent feeling really lousy.  I think this is normal.  When life is a mess and I don't know how to climb out of whatever hole I've dug for myself, at times when I've struggled with crippling depression and anxiety, when I didn't know who I would be if I gave up the goal of being very thin, and when people are cruel and bad things happen to good people... those are the worst of times.  You can't always prevent them, and I've learned that you shouldn't try to race out of them.  There is beauty to be found in the complex intensity of life.   Recall that I mentioned needing to be able to experience the "full range of human emotion" in order to feel like myself?  Well, this includes the bad stuff, like being scared or confused or hurt or angry or devastated - sometimes all at once.  I try to embrace these emotions when they show up.  I sit with them and "let go" for a little while and just wait, as calmly as possible, for the pain to ease or for the right path to present itself. Now, I'm no masochist, but I've learned to appreciate pain when it happens because I usually grow as a person when I'm in the midst of it.  Let go.  Allow yourself to feel pain.  Sit with it.  Be patient.  It will ease.

FYI, I flat-out stole the phrase "Beauty in the Breakdown" from the stunning song "Let Go," by Frou Frou.  If you haven't heard it, you must stop everything you're doing and check it out here!

BIG Truth #4: If you focus on the good stuff and - this is crucial - find ways to celebrate it, the not-so-good stuff won't seem so important any more.
Want to know what inspired this one?  My relationship with Michael.  Sometimes we pick at each other, or get into lengthy conversations about how we could improve our relationship.  Then, one day I read on Psychology Today that "couples who make a big deal of celebrating positive things in life score higher than others on intimacy and relationship satisfaction."  Indeed, celebrating positive things is more important for relationship happiness than solving "issues."  And it's been true for us: once MIchael and I put this idea to work, we noticed that we're substantially happier when we focus on having fun together, compared to the times when we painstakingly take inventory of our problems.  Who'd have thunk it?  So now applying this scientifically tested philosophy to the issue of body image.  (I predict that this BIG Truth will be my most successful takeaway from my year without mirrors!)

In the months (years??) before I started this project, every time I looked into a mirror I focused on my flaws.  I ignored things that I actually liked about my looks and literally saw the worst in myself.  Why, oh why, do we do this to ourselves?!  Since giving up mirrors, I've more frequently thought about the aspects of my reflection that I miss seeing - things like my smiling teeth, my strong and shapely legs, my hair (although, with I'll I've put it through, who knows what it looks like now?!), the soft skin on my face, and - of course - my favorite outfits!  Instead of worrying about hiding my "imperfections," I'm getting excited to celebrate my uniqueness.  (Please note that I did NOT say that I'm planning to flaunt my "perfections"... let's move away from that kind of thinking, pronto!)  I'm going to celebrate these things by smiling all the time, wearing short summer dresses with power-heels, tossing my hair on the dance floor, wearing punchy-pink blush on the apples of my cheeks, and wearing my most colorful clothes.  I am determined to celebrate the good stuff, and - in doing so - I'll force everything else to fade into the unimportant background.

What do you think??  Could you give up trying to "solve" your appearance insecurities (your "issues"?), in favor of just celebrating the stuff you already like?? Would that feel like a loss or a gain?

6 comments:

  1. It's been a huge obstacle for me to look in the mirror and not just focus on my flaws (I have huge insecurity issues). I find myself some days not looking in the mirror - but for the reason of me not wanting to see my "flaws." Your blog/journey has been a big inspiration in with helping me try to not be so hard on myself and to realize that a bad hair day/ skin breakouts / etc are not the end of the world. I've even thought about having "no mirrors weekends." I'm not brave enough yet to not use a mirror during the week for getting ready for work.lol.

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    1. Hi Tricia,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! It's definitely worth just TRYING to go without mirrors (or at least without just using them to obsess about your flaws) to see what happens. Maybe it will help, maybe not... but either way always worth seeing. It's so true that bad hair days and zits aren't the end of the world. I try to remind myself that I'm just a teeny tiny speck on the earth, which makes my HUGE zit a teeny tiny speck on a teeny tiny speck... helps me put things into perspective!

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  2. First, I enjoyed your interview at the Beheld today.

    Second, I admire your bravery through this entire year of discovery, though I think I too could learn to accentuate the positive more when I look in the mirror. At my age, it is a sort of confrontation with my mortality.

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  3. I absolutly love you, your project, and your blog! I'm 17 years old and have struggled with eating disorders, self-harming, and sever suicidal and body hating thoughts since I was 8 years old. I found your blog last year and it has been such an inspiration to me, I have finally reached out and gotten help with my problems. It's hard work but I'm learning to love myself again, if I ever really did. I love how you put the truth "There is Beauty in the Break Down." That actually has been my saying since I started my recovery (almost a year strong now!) I love the fact that you see that too. All of my past. and present, sturggles have made me so much stronger. I got that saying from a song too, it's called "Beauty In The Breakdown" by The Scene Aesthetic, I think it's an amazing song. Sorry for the rambling, I just wanted you to know how much hope you have instilled in me. Sorry too if it sounds crazy stalker-ish.

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