This is her. The one who showed me ever so dazed through the door of beauty, and upon my discovery of how tiny, claustrophobic and torturous the room on the other side was, swiftly locked the door and left me there. This is her. She is a crack-team of digital specialists, cosmeticians, marketing sharp-shooters, managers, their managers, their managers, and an innumerable force of people willing and proven to be counted upon to throw money up in defence of the obliteration done to their self-esteem. This is her.
I have been measuring myself to this standard since I saw this advertisement at the age of twelve. Twelve. While most boys were looking to transform themselves into the Herculean hyper-masculine adored by the opposite sex doing as they were told, I was following suit. Same-sex attraction in the age of well-meaning ignorance, where my educators knew what the word ‘gay’ meant but still weren’t sure how to use it, created a vacuum where pursuit of the heteronormative standards was the surest road to romance. I knew what boys liked, and I could totally see why in this picture. But how on earth was I ever going to achieve it for my own? This question would haunt my posture, weight, gait, mannerisms, gender expression and self-esteem all through adolescence and well into adulthood.
They don’t necessarily call it body dysmorphia when although your perception of your body is inaccurate, you love it all the same. It’s hard to explain that when I look in the mirror, I see her. The reason I see her is because I learned somehow that as much as it was the shape of the body that created the attraction, it was the shape of the spirit and the sensuality that created the confidence. I know I couldn’t make a body like that no matter what I did at the gym, or what I ate- or didn’t. What I could do is invest in the inner parts of myself that believed I was as sensual, as sexual, as proud of my body as the woman in the picture.
I don’t make a habit of being naked. The body has been politicised and commoditised to the point where thousands of jobs depend on our own dissatisfaction with the body we have. The only one, I might add. We can augment and amend it, but all too rarely we have no idea what it’s doing, what it’s asking of us. Some people think of their body as a bag for their brain. Some people think of it as their summary value proposition. I think of mine as a work of fiction.
To me the key to beauty is the willingness to confront your fears about your body, your comparisons to other bodies and in spite of every single thing telling you your body is insufficient or offensive, you don’t believe it. You better believe that the only thing ugly about you is a magazine, the only thing wrong with your body is a spring fashion show, and the only c-word you should find offensive is cosmetic.
Now don’t mistake me: being healthy, being strong, the best you can be is all incredibly worthwhile. But know the difference between genuinely feeling good about yourself, and feeling good about your appearance. That could be anything from your body, to your diet, to how busy people think you are, or how accomplished. When your whole self, flaws and all, become completely inseparable and you can truly love all of it and feel stronger for it, that to me is true victory. Fucking beautiful.