I purposefully did not respond to my post: Image part one. I wanted to let it settle in for a day or two. I was very aware of my reactions and wanted to journal them here. For those of you who missed the original post, it is only one post back on my WordPress page. The exercise was not a fishing expedition, but a lesson on self-acceptance aimed at me, and is a process I am working on. But before I move on, I want to thank those who sent me such wonderful responses. They were sweet and kind and I am grateful. This post is about the reaction I had when I read them.
When I wrote it on Tuesday, I was not sure how I would feel about putting a picture out there of myself. I have many blogs I follow, and not many use their own image anywhere on their sites. I am not sure why, but I am hoping it is only for security and not because they are ashamed of their image. I use my dog and mostly because I was taught to not to use a real face picture on social media. I do not have a picture of myself on my Facebook page as an identifier. But what is so silly, I have pictures in my photo albums of myself. I use a real picture of me on my LinkedIn page. That is for “professional” use and so it is deemed secure and recommended that you post a professional image. So what is the big deal elsewhere? I think partially it is the anonymity and mystery but for me it is the acceptance of my image being posted for all to see. I wrote at the bottom how difficult it was to hit publish after I attached my image in the blog post. I spent a lot of time looking at the variety of pictures worrying that somehow……and I just figured this part out…..I would offend someone by posting. Why in heavens would my image posted on a random page lost in the world of a multitude of blogs offend someone? Because the person who I was worried about offending is the voice in my head. The same voice that I work on every day to quiet.
I received a response very early in morning and it threw me. I held their wonderful words in my thoughts and I did not look at the rest responses all day. Sometimes I do at work, but I waited until I got home. I did not respond then either because I was so aware of my reaction. I wanted to wait to see how I would feel a day or two after being so absolutely vulnerable. This exercise was a wonderful bit of exposure and a walk down the path of shame resilience. To some of you that may seem a bit drastic, but for someone like me who has spent a lifetime deflecting comments directed at my physical appearance, this simple minute of putting myself out there was very difficult. Granted, the image was safe in the fact that my whole physical body is not exposed, but it did not matter actually because I know. This whole concept of this posting was not for the reader to approve of my image, but for me to approve and accept.
But, I am going to say something about the responses and how they made me feel. The first one said something about my personality. My immediate reaction was to reply with a joke and deflect the actual kindness of the comment. He said something about my face being full of personality and I wanted to respond with: “oh personality, that is code for she is ugly but fun to be with….take out on a date to a movie.” This is why I did not reply. It is what I always do when someone pays me a compliment; I deflect it with either denial or a joke. I do not take compliments well….actually, I totally suck at it. I have developed a rather sharp sense of humor and employ this mechanism in many avenues of discomfort. I truly was uncomfortable with the response, which was meant in friendship and was nothing more than a kind validation. The post gathered many such wonderful and sweet comments. I was ready to respond with each one with a sarcastic and depreciative comment in order to deflect the words. My friend at work, who is a devoted reader, made a comment when I came in and I immediately dismissed it with a confused brittle comment in order to protect my vulnerable state.
When I finished reading the comments that night, I purposefully walked away. The lesson was learned and I started to brew in my head this post. Actually I have a lot thoughts brewing and I am struggling with keeping to my theme this morning. How often do we toss away a kindness of a compliment only in our attempts to not be so exposed and vulnerable? And then I thought, what the heck am I being vulnerable about? I see the same image every time I look in the mirror. It is the same body that I had when I started this blog. Trust me; what everyone saw in that small square was not what I felt. I know what the “rest” of me looks like. I spend an enormous amount of time hating my image and I have done this since I was a child when I began to not meet physical expectations. The whole scenario is pathetic to me and has given me fortitude to continue on a mission to help myself and others who struggle with SAID….my own syndrome, I made this up….. Self-Acceptance Image Deficit. I am only half joking.
I know that SAID is not gender bias. Both my husbands (present and ex) suffer from it along with some close male friends. It is amusing to me because part of what I find attractive is their physical largeness. I like big men and I know I am not alone in this attraction. In history, we honor large men because it denotes physical strength and valor, which is often not the truth in reality. (Hence the ex-husband) King Henry was a plumb fellow who had a rather large girth. This gender values litany will be saved for another post.
So why was I feeling so vulnerable? We make a decision on a person and whether or not we accept them in the first six seconds of setting eyes on them. We then spend the rest of our association either validating or denying that initial assessment. I have seen reactions at meeting me and being as sensitive as I am, I often feel their reaction of disgust. Yes, disgust. Again, this is another topic. But in my head and just by posting a small image of me, I opened a whole new world of “asking for it.” What I got back was not what I expected. Again, thank you. But it was not initially enough nor was I able to simply say, “thank you.” I wanted to deflect, make a joke or out and out deny the words as having any validity.
I am going to practice mindful acceptance of a compliment as part of my growth process. I can readily do this if someone compliments me on an action or work I have performed. It is going to take a lot of strength to first hear when someone says something nice about my appearance and then even more work to accept it. I have to start with me and really focus on hearing and saying nice things about me…which sounds so ridiculous right now, but I know it is correct in practice. Then I have to work on setting boundaries when people feel justified making comments that are discriminatory and hurtful. Again, this is another topic to tackle later. And I am going to champion this cause to help eradicate SAID.
Again, thank you for all you support and letting me write about my journey and lessons. I gain so much from writing and your comments are tonic when I am weary and torn. I value their sage advice and take comfort in the fact that I am not alone in my quest. Onward or as a friend said, “Engage!”