The Journal Diaries 2: I Can't Even Look At My Own Body (20 Years Old)

This is the second in a new blog series, sharing some of the hundreds of journal entries I've made over the years. I started journaling at age 12 and have kept up with it, more or less, ever since. I have a shelf full of old diaries and notebooks; it's the first spot I'll run to if there's ever a fire. I have learned so much about myself and my neuroses and patterns and, more than anything, my inner depths and my enduring interests by re-reading my journals now and then. Writing down my thoughts has been perhaps the single most important practice in my life. 

I remember being a teenager and thinking "Maybe after I die someone will read my journals and realize they're not alone." A decade later, blogging came along, and I realized that I could use this new medium to share my deepest, most secret, most shame-inducing truths with others so that they, and I, would know that we're all in this together. And blogging did open up a whole new world of connection for me, and has empowered me to share and trust my voice, no matter how vulnerable the subject matter I'm writing on. 

Through this series, I hope to realize the dream I had 20 years ago of sharing my private thoughts in order to normalize, comfort, and connect...

It's funny, in my decade of sharing super personal stuff on social media I've never shared about the time in my life when I was mired in self hatred and cutting myself regularly. But then last week I did one of those "10 Things About Me" posts on Instagram and wrote a bit about it, and now here I am sharing a journal entry from that time. So interesting, because just these last few days, with all the gifts and messages this winter Solstice has brought me, I feel like I have stepped into my full power in this incarnation. Not that there isn't more to learn and more evolution to be had, but I finally feel completely grounded in the center of my own being. And now, at the exact same moment, here I am looking hard in the face of a past me who couldn't have been any less comfortable with herself. An insightful reflection indeed...

May 27th, 2001

I'm afraid to write, because I don't think that I want who I am really am on paper. I don't want to be reminded of it anywhere but in my own head. It's so up and down. It has been 6 days since I last wrote, and if I had written all those days they would have been normal, even happy at times, entries. But since I usually only write when I'm sad I end up looking like a psycho. I think I am. I have decided to stop looking in mirrors. I can't even look down at my own body, even when I'm clothed. I only feel comfortable in overalls, because they cover things up more, but still I look pretty bad in those. I've just spent so much time convincing myself that I looked fine, and now it's like I've snapped out of that denial state somehow. I mean really, when I pick out clothes in the morning I always choose based on what makes me look skinniest. It isn't even consciously that I do this. The other day I realized that I always wear long shirts to cover up how big my hips are. Every position I sit in is to make me look skinnier too. I can't sit with both both feet on the floor- they have to be crossed or tucked under me- or else my thighs just SPREAD over the surface of the chair. But as I said none of this is done consciously, it's only recently that I realized that I've always done this. The big problem is of course my thighs. I can't even stand that word. Tears spring to my eyes just thinking about this. I really just can't describe how ugly they are. They are so weird shaped. So out of proportion to the rest of my body. They're even different from each other. Fat just spills over the sides of them. I love cutting them with a knife. They do not go away from diet and exercise, so it's like all I can do. It just seems so much more natural that they be covered in blood and scars. Then it's like instead of being ugly and wishing they were pretty, they are just completely ugly and I have accepted, and even added to, that. It used to be that I'd look in the mirror one minute and be fine, even think I looked good, but the next time I would just be shocked and disgusted, but right away I would somehow convince myself that I looked okay, because if I didn't how else would I get through my day? But now that's just gone and I finally see my body as it really is. I'm sort of mad at myself for tricking myself all that time. Actually, I'm still not sure what I look like. I can't tell. I can't tell if it's okay or not, if it's normal or not. If you picked a random girl and asked me to compare each body part of mine to hers I don't know if I would do it correctly, my own body image is so unclear in my head. It doesn't just feel unclear though, it feels ravished, torn apart, bleeding, spit on and left to try and make sense of itself. Which by now seems impossible. Anyway- I'm not looking in the mirror naked anymore, it's too sad for me. Clothed, yes, because I have to make sure I look okay. I really used to look in the mirror (clothed or not) a lot to try and figure my body out, so I thought it would be hard not to, but it isn't. I want my body to be this blind spot, to not register on my radar, to not exist for me at all. I always hear "try to think of a part of your body you really love and try to focus on that." I do not have one. This is something I know even when I am having a good body image phase. There is nothing I like. Maybe beneath the knees and elbows are the only acceptable parts, but I certainly don't like them a lot. Bring my breasts into the picture, and it gets twice as bad. When I try to make myself feel better about girls with thighs like mine, I end up feeling worse because I realize that their thighs are proportional to their body (i.e. their breasts are big too, or not even big but just normal sized, I don't even have that.) Or when I think about girls with smaller breasts, the rest of their bodies are always small too. But no no no not me. I could really go into detail about how truly ugly these two parts of my body are, but that just seems to embarrassing to have on paper. I don't think anyone wants to know what they actually look like. I guess boyfriend [names have been changed to protect the innocent] just likes my mind or whatever so much that he sort of has to put up with my body. I've tried to figure out how he can look at me and touch and my god even kiss me naked, and that is the only fathomable answer. I guess I'm lucky in that way. But see it bothers me, cause in a few days I will look back on this and be horrified and think "that's not me." I don't know which one really is me.

And this, dear people, is what American culture does to its ladyfolk. It is so, so tender for me to read this. So cringey. Because that girl is still me, even though I don't feel that way about my body at all anymore. I viscerally remember that shame and that self-loathing. The part where I say I want my body to be a blind spot- I fear that that level of disconnect is rampant in our culture. One of my big focuses for 2015 is Embodiment. I still have so much work to do around really inhabiting my body. I've always been uber-mindsy (airy Aquarius to the max). Before age 1 my pediatrician labeled me super verbal, but I didn't walk until 15 months (basically the farthest reaches of the normal spectrum). I want to focus on breath and dance in the new year.

I never would have dreamed of being naked in public back then. I still feel vulnerable being naked at the river in the summertime now, but the feeling of that mountain water on my skin is too ecstatic and freeing to resist and it always wins out over the lingering body shame.

I never would have dreamed of being naked in public back then. I still feel vulnerable being naked at the river in the summertime now, but the feeling of that mountain water on my skin is too ecstatic and freeing to resist and it always wins out over the lingering body shame.

I just wrote that I don't feel that way about my body "at all" anymore. That's not true. 2% of those fears of not being/looking good enough still lurk in my mind. It's true that my thighs have had cellulite since I was a teenager, and it's true that my breasts are smaller than what our culture idealizes. And it's true that I take both of these body parts into account every time I dress myself (I do not wear short shorts or super tight leggings nor do I wear tops that swamp me and make my boobs look nonexistent). In her fantastic book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown (no, I will never ever stop singing her praises) lists the main categories of shame that people feel. No surprise that #1 for women is body image. (Here's a great little overview of her work called how body shame affects our lives). FUCK THAT.

I have a daughter now, an eight-year-old darling who got tears in her eyes last week asking if I think she's fat. Because her skinny-as-a-rail friends (and no, I don't mean to body shame those little darlings, but they are very thin and a rail is a good metaphor!) can do killer handstands and she, with her strong and stout thighs & butt, can't balance the lower half of her body over her head as easily.

And she has my thighs. My mom's thighs. My sister's thighs. And I refuse to shame any of us for having perfectly normal female bodies that allow us to move through the world and do our work and love who and what we love.

I have no tying-it-all-in conclusion to this. I'm so grateful that I've kept true to myself all these years, following the calling to make changes in my life that allowed me to find greater health mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you or someone you love could use help with shame of any kind, please check out Brené Brown's work.

And on an unrelated note- I've started a Facebook page for Aquarian Dawn. If that's a good way for you to be connected and stay updated on the many, many things I'll be up to in 2015, then go ahead and like it. Also consider signing up for the newsletter below- I just sent out an email today filled with announcements of exciting things to come and I plan to keep using this mailing list as the first stop for up-and-coming news from here on out. I'm branching out from Instagram people! Much love.