Monday, June 30, 2008

I look in the mirror and who do I see?

I see me, plain ( well not so plain), not quite old, sometimes boring me. I am aware of who I am, how I look and how the world sees me ( or doesn't). I've said before that I am the kind of person who never wants to attract attention, but I'm not really that shy a person actually. Mostly, it's a reflex, a reminder of how I have perceived myself and how I thought and felt people saw me. You know how they say not to be too worried about how people see you because they're more worried about how you see them? Easy to say, harder to achieve. See, I've been overweight since I was thirteen. The summer before I was to enter high school, I grew taller and gained weight. Thus, when the school year began, I was no longer the gawky, thin 12 year old my friends knew, but someone with more flesh on her bones. Apparently, more than they were used to, as one  friend promptly christened me with a new learned word for her, that of a certain prehistoric woolly animal. A name which stuck through out high school, that every one thought was endearing (because I appeared to tolerate them calling me that name) but cut every time I heard it referring to me ( she's still my friend by the way, I've learned to forge an uneasy peace with what she had done and have long chalked it up to youthful exuberance, she was after all, prone to giving people nicknames, whether they wanted it or not, bully for me that she was popular and that the name she gave me stuck). It gave good practice for me as well, and I learned early on to ignore the snide comments and take the well-meaning phrasings from my relatives in stride. I grew a thicker skin, padded by insecurities and hidden behind the worlds I found in books. But thicker skin or no, words still hurt no matter what they say about stick and stones doing more damage. Invisible though it may be, words hurt and scar and maim. And for someone on the cusp of adolescence, it was really bad for my self image and confidence. Although I can not trace every insecurity I have about myself from that day in my freshman year in high school, I knew that that was when I started perfecting the art of drawing attention away from myself. For most of my life, my weight figuratively weighed me down. I went through high school and college carrying that burden so to speak, it colored my relationships with people and way I saw myself.

But as much as I could not trust how I saw myself, I knew that I had other attributes, that I was smart and that smart was way better than pretty. Although of course, most days, that gave me cold comfort. Being able to get into the choice university among my peers was also a very good boost for my confidence. I did manage to lose some weight in college but that never changed the way I saw myself. Then I entered law school and substituted the sleep I lost juggling work and school work with food and gained back all the weight with some more added. But by then I had started to make peace with my body, I was learning to be comfortable in my own skin, and loving myself. The confidence I gained complemented the thick skin I had retreated into over the years for me not to care too much about what people thought or how I thought they saw me.

I will be the first to admit that there are still days when I hate the way I look but then again everyone has those days. I now know what works for me and recognize myself for who I am, a reasonably attractive, smart, and confident woman. And although there are still days when my decisions are still colored by the hurt, overwhelmed, fat young girl that I was all those years, most days, I think, I'm just me.

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