I’ve only written once about my personal experiences in terms of self-perception and body image. I dedicated it to my parents as an ode to them for what they’ve done for me. But this time around I thought I’d share a bit about what it actually feels to be me.
My experiences may seem in one way unique but I believe they transcend specificity and may have an affect on anyone that has, at any point, looked at themselves in the mirror and asked: is that really what I look like?
Everyday, I wake up, drink two cups of coffee while I watch the news, put on my gym clothes, and enjoy an hour of working out. Working out no only makes me happy, but confident. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while. As a self-admitted low self esteem girl, working out has done wonders for me.
I like my body. I eat well and feel good (despite my smoking) .
But while I am able to mold one thing, there’s another I cannot.
As a way to practice my guitar skills (or lack there of) I like to film myself and play it back. It allows me to see what I am doing wrong both on the guitar and vocally.
As I was just doing it now, I realized why I had not done it in a while.
Forget the guitar, forget the bad singing; I don’t like what I see. Who is that person? I don’t recognize her.
Out of my experiences from having had so much surgery and physical change, there is one thing that has had, and may always have, a strange and unfamiliar effect on me.
My face is not equilateral. This is due to my hemifacial microsomia. This means that one side looks one way, and the other looks another way. Anyone that knows me, knows this. I’m used to it. It’s part of me. It’s broken me. Made me. Completed me.
But what no one knows is that, because of it, reflections actually switch on me.
And that FUCKING sucks.
You know that thing where if your shirt says something, it switches when reflected on a mirror?
That, to me, is my face.
Imagine being used to your face looking one way; as reflected on a mirror. You’ve practiced talking, moving, even singing, in front of it. But then, you see yourself on a camera, or a photo, and the reflection has switched on you.
You don’t move like yourself. Your smile is crooked. Your eyes are lopsided. One side of your face is stiff. And you can’t match the voice to the person presented. Everything seems out of place.
Well, that’s what happens to me.
When I look in the mirror; I see one thing. But when filmed or photographed, I see another.
What I’ve practiced and looked at for my 26 years of life becomes a deception when I am able to see through another’s eyes.
It’s not that I don’t like being filmed or photographed. It’s that the person that will live in that documentation is not recognizable to me. It’s about changing the whole composition of my face and how I perceive it. It’s about more than a trick of the camera. It’s a trick on myself.
I’ll admit something.
I work hard on my self presentation. I do what I can to make my body look good. I use my style savvy to look confident and exceptional. I use my brain as a way to distract others from my insecurities. I love clothes as a form of self expression and use them to make myself look as good as I am able to feel.
But these are also masks. Masks to push back the fear of that reflection. The reflection I am so scared of confronting now and again. One I don’t recognize. One that reminds me that what I see, may not necessarily be what others see. It’s not a simple “love yourself” issue. It’s a trick of the brain that haunts me now and again whenever I see my self reflection.
But, hopefully, one I’ll eventually accept.