When Believing Isn’t Seeing

by Connie

reflection

It was a beautiful spring day and my husband and I had decided, on an impulse, to visit an art festival at an open air shopping mall, just a few miles from our home.  The picture-perfect day combined with art in every medium imaginable was too much for us to resist.  It was a true gift from the Universe and we were ready to receive.  We were off to ‘feed our Souls’, as we refer to it.

I have struggled with weight and body-perception issues, both real and imagined, for my entire memorable life. As a child, I was called, ‘solid’, ‘chunky’, ‘fat a**’ and ‘lard a**’, by my parents and family.

I had photo albums of me as a child, which I couldn’t bear to open as an adult, because of the pain they stirred up inside.  My husband was aware of the emotions they churned up within me.  He had never seen the photos, and we had known each other for nearly 20 years.

Just a few weeks before the art festival, while looking for a book, I noticed the photo albums sitting on the shelf of the bookcase.  I screwed up all my courage, took some deep cleansing breaths to center myself and opened an album.  The photos progressed from me as a baby then onto toddler-hood.  I appeared to look like most other babies, perfectly normal, in both size and shape.  ‘I must have really changed when I entered grade school.’ I thought to myself.

As I flipped through the pages of photos, reaching my grade school years, I took some more deep breaths, grounding myself again, ready to confront the beginning of my self-esteem issues related to my weight.  I was an adult now, I could handle this.  I had lots of adult tools and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with whatever lay ahead.

I was finally ready to face the reality of the weight issues that so negatively affected my childhood and my self-image as an adult for all the years, since.

I turned the pages, to find photo after photo of a tall, average-weight to slightly-gangly looking kid.  What the heck?  I kept turning the pages back and forth from 1st grade through high school, in total disbelief.  I couldn’t wait for my husband to get home, so I could share what I had found.  All these years and I had somehow allowed myself to be duped.  How did I permit myself to get misled for all this time?

In addition to being photo-phobic, I’ve avoided mirrors, my whole life, because of the pain they’ve caused.  I would glance in the mirror to fix my hair in the morning, but since I was very uncomfortable looking into mirrors, it was a cursory move, at best.  I’ve always been troubled by my appearance.  Quite simply put, I’ve hated how I looked and that was that.

My husband came home and I showed him the series of photos, sharing my feelings and findings, with him.  We discussed the reality of my body as a growing kid vs. the reality of how I was raised to feel about my body.  The end result was that it didn’t really matter ‘how’ or ‘why’ my parents chose to imprint these images upon me.  The messages were there, and I had been struggling with the results, ever since.

Since I’ve chosen to be estranged from my family for over 20 years, there was no point in confronting them, or asking for their explanation.

That’s not the way I function, anyway.  “It is what it is.’, I always say.

I’ve found the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of life aren’t that important or that satisfying to me.  The here and now is all that really matters.

I’ve always been more pro-active than that…just pick-up the pieces and ‘keep on, keeping on…’  One of my favorite expressions is, ‘Adapt or die.’  If you’re not sure about that one, just ask the dinosaurs how it worked out for them.  Enough said.

I put the photo album away and placed my thoughts about the ruse into a compartment of my brain where it could subliminally ruminate, without being at the forefront of my focus.  I chalked my findings up to a ‘Life lesson’, but I didn’t explore what the lesson was, beyond categorizing it.  Life goes on.  Fast forward a few weeks to the open-air art exhibit…

Since the weather was so enjoyable, most of the women were wearing short-sleeved or sleeveless tops with shorts or Capri pants. While walking around, I suddenly had an idea.  Since I had such an inaccurate image of my own body, I asked my husband to point out women with sizes, shapes and body frames, similar to mine.

He agreed, but only after I agreed to point out 8 or 10 women whom I thought my body resembled, to him.  The hunt began.

Inevitably, the women I chose were, according to my husband, ‘radically inaccurate’.  I trust his opinion and I trust him, period, so I had no reason to question him.  I had found my examples; it was time for him to do the same.  He had presented me with three or four illustrations.  I found reason after reason to explain to him how I was, ‘wider than that…’, ‘had bigger thighs…’ or ‘flabbier arms…’  He was quickly getting discouraged.  I encouraged him to stay engaged in the process, for my sake.  Together we forged onward, while taking in the surrounding beauty of the art exhibits.

A piece of art had caught my husband’s eye at one of the booths.  I had wandered slightly ahead of him, and began ‘people watching’.  He started towards me and then double-backed, again, drawn to the same booth.  I patiently waited, watching the crowd of people interacting, while enjoying the day.

Suddenly, across the mall, I saw the reflection of a woman in the glass of a window display.  She had my ‘ideal body’, the body I’ve always wanted to have.  She had good posture; her body was tall, lean, athletic-looking, and strong.  It was my unobtainable ‘goal-body’.

As my husband started walking towards me, I began calling to him, waving at him to quickly come closer to me.  ‘Come here, come here.  I have something I want to show you.’ I said urgently.  ‘What?  What is it?’ he asked.  ‘Over there, I’ve found her!  I found a woman with the body I want, my dream body.  I want you to see her, before she walks away.’  ‘Okay, okay’ he said.  ‘Where is she?  Point her out to me.’  ‘She’s over there; you can see her reflection in the black window across the way.’  He located the window I was referring to and nodded.

I picked up my hand and discreetly began to point towards the reflection in the window.  I asked him, ‘Do you see her, huh?  She’s over there?  She’s over there, wearing the sunglasses.’  He said, ‘I think I see her, but I want to be sure, so point her out to me, again.’

I once again picked up my hand and subtly began pointing towards her, this time moving my hand in a slightly, up and down motion.  For a split second, I was immediately mortified to notice that the reflection of the woman was doing the same thing.  Had she noticed me pointing toward her, and now was she copying me, to let me know I had been caught?

I wanted the earth to swallow me up; when suddenly it hit both my husband and me at the same time…the reflection of the woman, was me!  All morning, I had been scanning hundreds of women in the crowd, looking for models of what I thought I looked like, when I stumbled, quite unexpectedly, upon the prototype of my ideal figure…and it was already mine.  My mind reeled.  How could this be?

My husband exploded in laughter, not because he was making fun of me, but because he knew this would prove to be a pivotal moment in my life.  He was happy to be there to witness it.  He grabbed me closer, kissed me and said, ‘So, she has the perfect body, huh?  Your ideal body?  Well, that’s good, because it’s you!  I’m SO proud of you for understanding that.’

The instant of my recognition was so genuine, so real that I couldn’t begin to contradict it.  Seeing may be, believing, but I knew at that moment, that believing isn’t always seeing, either.

There was no denying that I had found what I thought to be an anonymous woman in the crowd with what I thought to be the perfect body.  And it was mine, all the time.  Who knew?

For all those years, I believed the messages and tapes that had been embedded within me by my parents and family, tainting my perspective and perception for decades upon decades.

I couldn’t see the true physical me, even when I was standing right there before me!  It was all an illusion.  I suddenly had the realization that we do see what we believe; we don’t necessarily believe what we see. I had allowed my thoughts, my beliefs and my reality to be manipulated.  I had permitted this to happen, by signing my power away, by never questioning their truth. I adopted it to be my truth. But now, everything had changed.  It truly was a life-altering moment.

The Universe had clearly given me a sign that it was time for me to bring my thoughts and my beliefs about my body into alignment with my reality. It was all very exciting to me.

I couldn’t wait for the rest of my awakening and new body awareness to unfold.  I thought it was quite fitting, too, that it all took place among a celebration of art, life, beauty and the humanities.  Now, that’s what I call synchronicity.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jody February 18, 2011 at 9:09 am

oh, Con, I have tears in my eyes. I am so grateful you now see what those of us who love you, and the rest of the world, see when we look at your physical body. And it gives me hope that I will get there someday, too.

Reply

Connie February 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Jody,
It’s been a l-o-n-g journey, & to this day, I still encounter a few switchbacks along the way; related to body image.

I’m amazed, in speaking with men & women, about the subtle and unsubtle messages most of us adopt, regarding our body image and how we ‘shape up’, in our own eyes.

I’ve often said, I’ll never know how truly Amazing I could have been if I had all the years, emotion and energy I’ve directed towards body image issues.

I could have learned multiple foreign languages, along with solving philosophical questions, like, ‘Why is it the number of hot dogs never equals the number of hot dog buns, being sold, in thier respective packages?’

The best each of us can do is to love who we are, no matter what size and shape our outside wrapper is.

If we aren’t happy about the size or shape of our wrapper, we would do well to either commit to changing it or release it and turn our time, energy and emotions, towards more fruitful things.

PS-I’m confident you, too, will get there some day, Jody! It’s twue, it’s twue.

Connie

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