Until he lowers his phone under the table and tells me to spread my legs. I am instantly relaxed at that moment and I happily do as he says. He takes the picture, thanks me, and I smile. It hits me that I am much more comfortable allowing a picture taken of my vagina than my face.
I have been doing my body confidence project for seven months now, and the truth of it is that while it is always challenging to do, it is not as terrifying as it would be to put up hundreds of pictures of my face online.
When I send pictures of myself to men, many of them ask, quite often, why I do not include my face. Yikes! My face? NO!!! I love my body. My face? Eh. This fear, this trepidation, this constant doubt in the back of my mind, is a relic of my decades-long struggle with cystic acne. For many years of my life, my face hurt. Large, boil-like pimples on my face, shoulders and back which pulsed with pain throughout the day and night kept me looking at the floor for much of my young life. When boys would talk to me, I could not bring myself to look them in the eye.
I became stand-offish and angry. I became socially what I felt like physically. I felt angry, frustrated, ashamed. All of this culminated in self-deprecation, self-destructive behavior, and the tendency to do ridiculous things in order to be liked. No, in order to be loved. Feeling physically pained made me feel unlovabe, and I had no control over it. It was impossible to feel happy while strategically avoiding mirrors and humans.
This is how I knew to come back. I knew that if I felt good physically, my emotions would reflect that to a certain extent. Yoga was my vehicle, and the more I did it, the more I opened myself up through yoga, the more I was openning up to myself. The more I connected with my body, the more I cared for it, the more I loved it. But there is no face yoga. There is nothing I can do to shake the feeing that I should look down. Every time someone I don't know looks me in the eye, almost without exception, my first impulse is to avert my eyes.
Which is why I do the oppostie. I focus on eye contact. I keep my head up against everything in my mind telling me to look away. I go into my fear because I know it is not real. I know what is in my mind are the thoughts of an adolescent, afraid of her own shadow and walking around with the belief that she is not worthy of love. Those are not my thoughts.
I used to feel alone in this. I used to feel like I was the only ugly-feeling person on the planet. But I am not. I would not have known if I hadn't talked with people, listened to people, gave people a chance beyond my low expectations of them to tell me their stories. Once I knew I was not alone, I knew I could do something about it.
It is a common theme in the human experience to feel inadequate, unlovable, or in some way inferior. But that is not because we are, it is because we have the power and the strength to do something about it. The other day a teenage girl asked me how she could be more confident in her body; that she was very popular at school, but she just didn't feel good about her body. As soon as I told her that it was natural and normal to feel that way, she relaxed instantly. Once she had the permission to feel it, she could deal with it and move through it in a way that she could handle.
These feelings of inadequacy make us feel alone, but they are what bonds us. They are what unites us, and this is why it is easy for me to understand shitty people. They believe they are alone in their pain, that no one before them has ever felt this and there is no way to get out of it. But there is. While these feelings make us feel like closing in, like protecting, the best thing you can do is reach out. Teach yourself that those false beliefs are wrong. Give yourself and others a chance to be kind to you. Give yourself the opportunity to surprise yourself. Do not believe the stuff in the world and your mind that tells you that you are not lovable, that you are not valuable, that you are not worthy.
It is bullshit created by people who unfortunately mistakenly believe this about themselves. The best thing you can do is to figure out how to go about proving them, and the negative thoughts in your mind, wrong. This is personal. This must be done with the knowedge of you. You must know what you love, what makes you happy. This is the great thing about this process. It shows you how you actually are different, how unique and special you are. It is not your pain and feeling of inadequacy that makes you unique. It is what moves you, what pleases you, and what you dream, desire, and want for yourself.
So dive in to figure this out. I found yoga because I knew that it had always given me great joy to be able to do things with my body. There was nothing like the feeling of hitting a ball, throwing a perfect spiral, or shooting a basket. The joy I derived from physical achievement guided me. And this is just one thing that I love. Once I realized all the things in life that brought me joy, I started looking for more, and decided to do more of that stuff. I soon found that doing that stuff made the negative bullshit melt away. There was no way I wasn't lovable!!! I could do a handstand! There was no way I wasn't worthy of attention, I could draw a jar!!! These things did not come easily, they came with work. They came with practice. My improvement, and my ability to give myself the room to fail taught me that I could love myself in the face of all supposed evidence to the contrary.
So, now, as I have ended so many other of my posts, it is your turn. How are you special? You now get the privelege of finding out more about yourself. And it is a privelege. It is an adventure. What do you love? What thrills you? What makes you feel tough-as-nails-invincible?
What makes you great? Holy crow, you get the opportunity to find out what makes you great. How lucky are you?
Also, share this bad boy! Peeps need to know they are not alone.