1,000 Words, None of Them Particularly Kind

I plan out, schedule, and write my blog posts ahead of time (and actually, one of my upcoming posts is about the tools I use to do that). Hilariously, one of the posts that I had scheduled to write today was about self esteem.

That’s… not going to happen today. Not only would it be incredibly insincere (and hypocritical), but I also just can’t really get it up for a post like right now. Instead, I thought I’d tell you about how I realized yesterday that my self esteem still needs a whole lot of work.

I had a wonderful day yesterday at the Toronto Christmas Market with two of my best friends. We chatted, we shopped, we laughed, we drank delicious cider, and we ate indulgent food. Admittedly, I was feeling a little off because I had kind of a shitty week at work and hadn’t been sleeping well, but it definitely helped to spend the day with such wonderful friends.

Later that evening, one of my friends texted me a photo she had taken of me and our other friend. It was an outtake in which we were laughing because my friend instinctively went to hold my hand instead of putting her arm around me, which threw me off.

When my friend looked at the photo, she saw two friends laughing and having fun, a perfect representation of our wonderful day. However, when I looked at it, I saw my lovely friend laughing, standing next to a bloated, beige Shrek with dry, flat hair and a horrendous overbite. I was shocked. Is that really what I look like?

This is hard to admit, but I immediately spiraled. I spent most of the night crying, thinking admittedly horrible things about myself:

No wonder you’re single. You look disgusting. Nobody could ever be attracted to you. That’s why [redacted] stopped calling you. He didn’t know how to tell you that you’re gross. I’m surprised that your friends could even stand to look at you today. I bet they pity you. How can you even leave the house looking like that?

Et cetera, et cetera.

Now, I know logically that my friends love me and probably don’t really care what I look like. Similarly, I don’t actually believe that unattractive people don’t deserve love. I’m not even sure that I really want to date right now! But the more I looked at the photo, the more vicious my internal dialogue became. By the end of the evening, I’d convinced myself that I was so hideous that I shouldn’t leave the house until I remedied the situation, ideally by somehow transplanting my brain into the body (and face) of an attractive person.

I acknowledge that all of this is ridiculous and indulgent and vain. Yes, logically I can see that I can’t just stop living my life because I don’t look the way I want to, and that other people have very real, very pressing problems. But I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t still hurt.

In the meantime, I deleted the offending photo so that I can no longer open and zoom and obsess. (Unfortunately it also means that I can’t post it here; sorry not sorry.) I’ve also made an appointment with my therapist for later in the week so that we can talk about all of this. I’ve still got a lot of work to do before I’m in a place where I can be like, “yeah, this is what I look like, whatever.”

I mean really, what does it matter? Regardless of whether I’m 100 pounds or 200 or 800, I still have the same personality and talents. I can still come up with quips and zingers and one-liners just as fast whether my hair is perfectly styled or in an awkward growing-out phase. My weird-shaped nose and weak chin don’t stop me from being good at my job.

Please don’t take this post as fishing for compliments. It might seem counter-intuitive, but I actually think that compliments on my appearance are the last thing that I need right now: I’ll worry that people are just lying to make me feel better. This is something that I need to work on within myself, to not put so much emphasis on what I look like.

It’s a shame, because I’ve made so much progress in other ways. The near-crippling depression and anxiety from a few years ago has lifted, leaving me with only a day here or there (like today!) where I feel really down. I’m having moments of joy. I’m out and about and I’m doing things again. I’m even making time to do more of what I love: writing! That was something I’d wanted to do more of for years, but was having trouble figuring out where to start or how to make the time.

I’m not really sure why this is such a roadblock for me. Maybe it’s just a really stubborn habit that I’ve developed over the years. Maybe I’m unfairly comparing myself to everyone’s gorgeous (filtered, edited) Instagram photos–although I’m loath to blame social media for my self esteem problems because I think it’s too simple an answer to a much more complicated issue.

The feminist part of me is extra-annoyed with myself for obsessing about my looks, because women have so much more to offer than what we look like. I would be furious to hear anyone talking about someone else the way I think about myself. Heaven help the person if it was one of my friends that they spoke about this way.

But I keep doing it to myself. I can’t quite figure out how to silence that damn bully in my head. Thankfully, even though it’s hard and it hurts, deep down inside I know that with enough work, I can tackle this the same way I’ve overcome all the other shit that I’ve had to deal with the past few years. It will just take a bit of time.

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