Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pretty

It's a regular morning, so I've checked the typical websites, downed some iced coffee, and weighed myself.

Actually, I weighed myself three times.

I just recently bought my first bathroom scale - I'm going through Weight Watchers and didn't have access to a scale for weekly weigh-ins. I was very reluctant to get one; after five years of serious disordered eating, plus many more of over-eating, then guilt, then dieting, I knew that a scale could be a negative influence on my life. Yes, it's good to have a sense of what I'm eating and how it impacts my body - but the fear of slipping into old habits? Sometimes that's more powerful than my will to be healthy.

Sometimes health and weight are totally unrelated.

Part of me wants to be able to recapture the steely control over portions and calories, the little habits of saying I don't like foods I shouldn't have, the hours or days of not eating to achieve an ever changing goal, five more pounds. When I was entering adolescence, I was determined to reach 118 pounds - a weight you see all the time in dieting commercials, on a bathroom scale's shiny white packaging - while being 5'7". On me, with my wide rib cage and equally wide hips, 118 pounds is painfully thin. I couldn't see it then; now I can say, at least, that I know looking sickly and feeling starved have nothing to do with beauty, with health, with confidence.

After weighing myself, I checked Jezebel and saw an article, "Why Don't Women Say 'I'm Pretty?' Here Are Ten Reasons." An inviting headline, definitely, one that immediately brought up, in me, my own insecurities. I thought, why don't I say I'm pretty?

Why don't I think I'm pretty?

The article was more concerned with a woman's willingness to admit or assert attractiveness than with any particular internal debate. The women the author spoke to are portrayed as having a detachment from their personal assessments of their beauty - a sort of self-knowledge, economical, of what their outsides were like and were worth. And looking at beauty as a commodity, I get that - any woman who finds herself desired or ignored knows what garners attention, what is valuable. It makes sense, then, for a woman to see her physical appearance as not necessarily a part of her so much as a part of how she is successful, appreciated.

But the article missed something, for me, because it didn't really talk about weight - and how weight, frequently, is not only a yardstick for outward appearance. Weight is something we are not economical about - weight is deeply personal, totally public, and most often, a concern. It is a trial, an unwelcome and ever-present factor of how good, self-controlled, beautiful we feel.

My face is still the same face, albeit more rounded, as that pale, untested face of my early teens. My bones are still my bones - my feet still slightly crooked, my hips still broad, my ribs still poking out. Years of endless crunches have still left their mark on my upper abdominals. Nights of high heels and days of dancing have still left my calves thick and strong.

But I'm overweight. I don't see myself in the mirror. I feel like that fourteen year old girl, not quite fitting into my own body - and what she saw in glances and reflections and body dysmorphia is actually what I look like, now. It's not just a physical reality - it is a thought process which is as ingrained in me as my DNA.

I'm going on a brief vacation in a few weeks, and I can't tell you how many outfits I've tried, how many dresses that looked perfect on the hanger and odd on me, how many skirts and tops that seemed too large in the store and actually fit me perfectly. I'm ashamed to say that I hope I can avoid group photographs, candids, seeing myself in the glitter and shine of Las Vegas lights.

My greatest fear as a teenager has come true - and sometimes I can accept my weight, and sometimes I feel as self-conscious as I did when I was thin.

Why don't I think I'm pretty? I never have.

I've never been free of my weight.

This is not a pity-party post. I'm not begging for compliments, I'm not trying to induce in my readers any over-measures of sympathy. But what I am hoping to achieve, what I want to say, is that I think I'm not alone, here, and I think so many of us are so caught up in weight that we deny not only our outer beauty but our inner, not only the truth that we as women are all beautiful but that we are all worthwhile, all worthy of self-love.

I can say that the scale has little power over me now - looking at the glowing blue number is routine, but not ritual. But there are bits of my disordered past that appear, sometimes, like spectres of failure and doubt. Sometimes I check my weight; sometimes, I don't. But I'm always aware of the size of my jeans, how I used to be a size six, how those lovely dresses I got for Vegas fit, but not well.

Through all of this, I feel like I need to make a promise to myself - a promise I learned in therapy - to look in the mirror and say, I'm pretty. I'm beautiful. I'm a good person, no matter my weight, no matter my insecurities, no matter that pitiful little girl inside of me who still feels ungainly and awkward and starved.

I'd like to invite all of you who read this to do the same - female or male. I'd like us all to make a promise to ourselves, a pact of new beginnings. Because we are beautiful, and good. We can all be happier, I think, by looking in the mirror and seeing who we really are. Not a number, not a lack of perfection - just us, human beings, full of dignity and joy, drawn out of the dust into beautiful bodies and beautiful souls.

We are more than our weight. And I'm going to say it, now and for myself, without reservations -

I am pretty.

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