***Linking up with MamaKat today: Share something you learned in June.***
It’s really strange. I’m not a vain person at all. Sure, I like to wear make-up and look nice, but I would not consider myself vain. However, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed over my appearance. Not in a vain way, but in an OCD unhealthy way. I never understood it and it’s been a source of constant struggle and pain for me. It has also really bothered me that I couldn’t figure out why I was so obsessed over my body, my face, my hair, my clothes, my teeth, my eyebrows, my nose…anything to do with my appearance. I felt as though everyone was looking at me and judging me constantly and if my appearance wasn’t perfect, I was a total loser. I’ve been in therapy for about a year now (yes, that’s somewhat hard for me to admit) dealing with my OCD issues, being a parent to a child with special needs issues and other day-to-day issues. It’s been extremely helpful to me. If you have never needed or experienced therapy, what I’m about to share might seem a little hokey, but it was a huge deal for me.
I had a breakthrough.
I’ve been really struggling since Christmas with my eating and self-esteem issues. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I suffered from anorexia and exercise bulimia for years and years. During times of major change or stress, my issues rear their ugly head. In dealing with this, my therapist gave me some readings on triggers. I started thinking about what triggers my obsession with my appearance and trying to figure out why I do this. I am a why person. I just felt like if I understood why, I could maybe finally kick it. Remember my goal for this year? Being free? I felt like if I could just figure this out, I could finally be free.
I finally figured out that my whole childhood was one big festival of people judging me on my appearance. I was always very tall for my age and not thin so grown-ups would constantly comment on how big I was. They never said tall. Just big. I remember going over to a friend’s house and his Mom meeting me for the first time, looking me up and down and saying “Wow! You’re a really big girl!” I had really short, boyish hair and was mistaken for a boy constantly. My dad’s friends gave me a nickname of “Little Doug” because I looked like my Dad and looked like a boy. Even if I was wearing pink and earrings, I would still get mistaken for a boy. One time, a clerk at a store sent me to the men’s dressing room. Another time a mother yelled at me for being in the wrong bathroom even after I told her I was a girl. Starting at age 6, I had terrible acne and plenty of grown-ups and kids alike felt completely comfortable commenting on it. I remember exactly what I was wearing and what field trip I was on when a woman looked at me horrified and asked my Dad why I was on the field trip with chicken pox. There were countless people who asked “what is that all over your face?” or those who tried to give me tips on how to fix it. This was all before I turned 12. With all of this constant judgment and comments on my appearance, and especially in a negative way, of course I ended up believing that I was constantly being judged on my appearance and that my appearance was something terrible.
When I was around 11, and had my first sports physical, my Dad made a comment about how much I weighed. I started researching how to lose weight the next day. I started growing my hair out now that I was finally old enough to do my own hair and have an opinion. I went on Accutane for the first of three rounds and my face cleared up. And guess what started happening? I got tons and tons of positive comments on my appearance. So you know what happened? I became obsessed. If losing weight got me compliments, imagine what being skinny would do! If clearing up my acne got me compliments, imagine what having nice skin with perfect make-up would do! If having long hair got me compliments, imagine what having the cutest, trendiest haircut would do! The positive comments only added to my suspicions that I was constantly being judged by my appearance. And this all happened during a major time of stress, when my parents got divorced. Of course I would forever link stress and change with obsessing over my appearance. Of course.
It was a total breakthrough for me, like I said. No wonder I feel as though I’m constantly being judged by my appearance! Throughout my childhood, that’s exactly what happened, even sometimes at home. I feel like now that I understand where this comes from, I’ll be better prepared to deal with it and, maybe just maybe, kick that feeling for good. I feel as though I can truly be on my way to being free.
Did you learn anything in June?
This makes me want to punch all of those adults in the throat on behalf of you as a kid. I am glad you are having breakthroughs. Sounds like the therapy is really helping and that is a good thing. : )
I am a mama of two girls who always get the comment, “You’re so big!” I was full grown (5’7) by age 12, so I got the “big girl” thing, too. I wish people would shut their mouths!
On a different note, good for you for trying to get to the root of things. xoxo