Friday, August 15, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest Mommy of Them All?

Vices. We all have 'em. Renee over at Cutie Booty Cakes wrote a post about vices that inspired me to look deep down (real deep, let me tell you) and discover what my worst vice is. I have discovered it and it is that (OK, deep breath) I AM VAIN. Well, at least that is what I thought at first. Then I looked up the definition of vanity:

adj. vain·er, vain·est
  1. Not yielding the desired outcome; fruitless: a vain attempt.
  2. Lacking substance or worth: vain talk.
  3. Excessively proud of one's appearance or accomplishments; conceited.
  4. Archaic Foolish.
Well, once I saw this, I realized that I am not, in fact, vain and I set to work to find out exactly what it is that I am. Let me just explain, I am NOT excessively proud of my appearance; quite the contrary, I am NEVER happy with how I look, and I think about it ALL too much. I have been this way my whole life. I have always felt that if I could just get down to that perfect weight, or get my hair to be "just right" and my skin flawless that I would reach this appearance nirvana that would bless me with happiness and virtue forever and ever. Needless to say, I have never reached that point. There is always something I want to change or improve, and I am hard pressed to find something that I haven't tried to improve my appearance.

When I look in the mirror, all I see are the rolls around my middle, the dark freckles on my face and the fact that my hair doesn't "quite" get straight enough. So I spend countless hours searching for the miracle diet supplement, the complete concealing makeup and the super rockin' hot iron that will help me achieve my goals. I feel "less than." I feel like what I look like is a direct reflection on who I am as a person, even though intellectually I know that this is JUST NOT RIGHT. I know that beauty is only skin deep. And I don't judge others on their dress size, how their skin looks or how pretty their hair is. But for some reason, I hold myself up to a completely different standard, one that forces me to pick at my faults until my soul practically bleeds.

So now you are probably thinking that I need a big, brown leather couch and you need a psychotherapy degree because I need a lot of money's worth of therapy, not a silly post on an even sillier blog. You are probably right. But, considering that I don't have the time or money for a therapist, I am going to use my own intelligence and internet savvy to diagnose myself (and you will be my unwilling and reluctant audience). In my research of why I can't seem to stop tearing myself apart piece by piece just to rebuild again, I found the term body dysmorphic disorder. Some of you may have heard of this already; maybe you even know someone who has it. Here is the definition:

A psychiatric disorder characterized by excessive preoccupation with imagined defects in physical appearance. People with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are obsessed by the idea that some part of their body -- their hair, nose, skin, hips, whatever -- is ugly or deformed, when in truth it looks normal. BDD may focus on moles, freckles, acne, minor scars, facial or body hair, or the size and shape of their breasts or genitalia. People with BDD may spend an excess of time looking in the mirror, be forever fixing their hair, or wear heavy makeup or sunglasses inside as a form of camouflage. They may make multiple medical visits or have surgical procedures to correct the imagined defect. Treatment of BDD may involve cognitive behavioral therapy or medications, usually those used in obsessive-compulsive disorder to which BDD may be related. Also called somatoform disorder, dysmorphophobia.

Hmmm...this sounds strangely like me. I already know that I'm crazy, maybe now I have the key to what exactly is plagueing me. Maybe, maybe not. I know so many women that feel this way; do we all have it? Or is our society just so overly focused on skinny, big boobed, flowing haired women that we think that is what we are supposed to aim for? I don't know if I have the answer to that, but I am interested in what other women think about this phenomenon. How do you feel about your bodies? We are all always on a diet or working out to lose weight. But how far do we go before we try and try and never get where we want to be? Can we just accept who we are and be happy with the beautiful people we are on the inside? I hope I can do that someday, because I know I am a good person inside and I want to reflect that on the outside. I also don't want to pass this disillusionment on to my daughter, who although she is beautiful on the outside, I do not want to think that she is defined by her outward appearance. How do I break this cycle of self criticism? That is the ultimate question.

I am open and willing to any suggestions (other than the ones that suggest I go get my head shrunk). I am also open and willing to accept this vice of mine and start a path of working on ridding myself of it. Denial ain't just no river in Egypt, and I am ready to bust out and do the work I need to do. If there is one thing that I am, it is determined. So here we go...are you ready?