I used to be the type of person who would avoid a mirror at any cost. I would completely avoid eye contact with myself in transit to the shower. Even with clothes on, I would stand half-in the mirror and half-out, so that I would never have to see my whole body at once.
Until about a year ago, I’m not sure anyone had ever seen me completely in the nude, with the exception of a few close friends after drunken excursions.
After years of feeling shame about my appearance, I became a master at changing clothes without ever showing my body. Even with men, with my current boyfriend whom I love and was almost immediately comfortable with, I practiced a strict “lights off” policy. I would pee in the bed before I would walk to the bathroom without at least a sheet to cover myself.
I don’t think that this is particularly uncommon, especially for women. Even more so, for women who have struggled with weight, eating disorders, or low self-esteem.
At some point, a few months into my current relationship, my boyfriend asked why I always go to such strides to hide myself. I told him that I’d always been that way, and that I couldn’t imagine that it would ever change.
A few days later I stood in front of a full length mirror, completely undressed, and really looked at myself.
I stood there for a good twenty minutes, taking it all in.
I studied myself from every angle possible. I took in my thighs that need toning up. My belly that has inches of extra skin due to weight loss (and beer). I studied the rolls of my stomach that appear when I sit down.
I finally came to the conclusion that what I saw was a normal woman. Perhaps not the woman that I see often in magazines, or the woman that I always wanted to be… but still- a good looking woman with curves and hips and breasts and an ass.
After a while, I no longer even saw a body.
I saw a woman who knows how to make people laugh. A strong woman who has passions that run deep. A woman who loves hard and is loyal to her friends. A woman who isn’t afraid to live or try new things.
That was the moment when I was no longer afraid. I knew that if I couldn’t learn to accept myself, then I would never believe that anyone else could accept me for who I am.
I am still hyper-aware of my flaws. If you pointed out any 6 inch parameter of my flesh, I could tell you something wrong with it. I’m not tight in the places I want to be tight. I’m saggy in the places where I used to be perky.
At least now I can accept that it’s OK not to be “perfect.” I know that there is nothing wrong with me or anything to be ashamed of. I am who I am, and I’m worthy of love, both from myself and from others.
Now, whenever I find myself with some free time after I get out of the shower, I don’t mind being in the nude for a while. I’m still a little shy being undressed in front of other people, and I know that I will never be the type of person to parade my body in front of others- but for now, at least I am comfortable with myself.