“You used to see more, back when you were a little girl, right?”
This post is part stream of consciousness writing and part finishing a sentence, along with
I wanted to join in with both:
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS SATURDAY
But my weekend somehow got away from me and Sunday is nearly done.
And then my five-year-old niece asked me that all too meaningful question.
This is an excerpt of a post I did for
THE REDEFINING DISABILITY AWARENESS CHALLENGE
***Q: Are there ways that disability affects your self perception?
A: How do I perceive myself?
Disability definitely influences how I see myself. How could it not?
That’s the key word: “see”. How I see myself when I can not even see myself in a mirror.
I actually wrote a post about this topic, which I called
where I wrote about how I see myself and the social norms of makeup, beauty, and fashion and my attempts to discover my own norms.
I held my grade eight graduation picture in my hands and stared at my face. I knew that a picture was simply a flat representation of what I was, that I was more than some one-dimensional image in a frame. I couldn’t quite believe that was what I looked like, photographed like though.
I could make out my broad smile and my relatively short haircut that framed my face. I don’t know why, but I used to silently study the photo, often in my room. I don’t know what I was looking for exactly. Perhaps I was simply vane.
Okay, maybe not, but I can’t quite describe what I was trying to accomplish by this act.
I remember snippets of what I look like. I have flashes, in my mind, to what I used to see when I would look in the mirror.
Mostly I did not see enough detail to pick myself apart, as so many women do. I saw my face and hair and shoulders in the reflective surface, in a bathroom somewhere, and I did not shy away at the Me looking back.
Women rip apart their physical selves so often and I am not immune to that, not entirely. I wish I were.
Merriam-Webster defines it as: “the idea you have about the kind of person you are”.
I know, logically and in my own heart, that I am a kind, generous, and friendly person. I know I am fun and can be funny from time to time.
Perceptions, however, they aren’t quite so logical I’m afraid. I wish they were because they are able to play tricks on me. These perceptions slip in and, before I know it, I am thinking things about myself that likely are just plain untruths.
Like my exaggerated perception that makeup would make me look like a clown, other strange and incorrect perceptions plague my thoughts.
Both self perception and self esteem are so intermingled. They involve the senses, mostly seeing for people. I go by my other senses to gage ideas about my own body and how I present my best self to the world.
I trace the shape of my nose, my eyebrows, and my skin to look for acne, of which I am happy to be rid of for the most part. The skin that was once covered in bumps as a teenager is mostly smooth now.
I am left with other worries that have replaced the pimples of my youth. I wish I had less of one feature and more of another.
I hate having frizzy hair or rough nails.
How does my face compare to all those of the women who are populating the rest of the world, makeup included?
I could focus on my imperfections all day and it’s not like the mirror is going to help with that or hurt it. The scale would talk to me if I wanted it to, but the only mirror that ever spoke to me was the toy Beauty and the Beast mirror I once had.
Sometimes I think the two cancel each other out somehow, that I should be okay then, but the nagging self-image exaggerations bleed into the good personality traits I know I possess. The negative brings down any positives I’ve managed to accumulate. I’m left with doubts that anyone could stand the sight of me, the part they can see and I can not.
I feel my beating heart inside my chest, under my hand, and I know that the good person I am inside is in tact. If only I could convince myself that I am normal in my outward appearance. If I could stop the shame that has built up over years then maybe I could be sure of my first impressions, of which I am at a constant disadvantage to other people who see. When I meet someone I am strongly aware of the upper hand they have over me, as I try to show what a confident person I am and learn as much as I can about them, other than the exterior things most of us fall back on.
Sometimes I feel I am invisible and the next second I am terrified of how much I stand out. I don’t know where this all might lead me going forward. My future is as uncertain as anyone’s, but will any of this get easier with age and general wisdom? I can only hope so, but the perceptions will always exist. What’s a girl to do?***
I grasp onto other resources:
because I can then begin to feel like I am not so alone in the vanishing mirror. I can see that fashion is not unimportant, that I am allowed to care about how I look sometimes, and that I’m not going invisible.
My entire life has been one of limited sight, but I had an idea of what I looked like in the mirror, as lacking in details as it may have been, up until my early twenties. Now I am losing that. My brother tries to/tires of helping me face a future with less and less sight to rely on, I feel the parts of my body I don’t like and wish I could change, and I can’t reconcile the two worlds I’m trapped between.
My niece tries to imagine what I must have been like as a girl, as she compares that to the aunt she knows. She is learning about hers and other perceptions. I wish I could have had something more to offer her in that moment when she brought it up.
Instead, I am just tired. I am tired of having to educate the world, as I read another woman write about her experiences with self image as a woman with a visual impairment.
WHEN I LOOK IN THE MIRROR: BLINDNESS AND BODY IMAGE
Instead, I wait for her to speak. She did a good job at filling people in on things they hadn’t thought of, and I can’t blame them for that. They can then see that there’s her and me and the bloggers I mentioned above. We women with lack of sight still go through it all and more, or all in our own ways. When I look in the mirror I see less and less. I just do.
When I look in the mirror, I need to let go of the image I once saw there and try to look forward into the future, through that glass. I need to learn how to love myself still, love that which I do not see. I need to let that love sustain me, through loneliness or bad days. It’s all about the image. I wish it weren’t. I wish I wouldn’t care about being found attractive by the right person or accepted when I step out into the world. It all must start with me though. If I lack self image, if I hate what I see or don’t see in the mirror, little girls like my niece will sense that somehow. I don’t want that. I’m entirely certain of that.