When I look in the mirror, I do not see the girl other people see. Of course, I do see the big bush of blonde curls, of which I’m actually proud, and my blue, almond-shaped eyes that I think are pretty. But these days I catch sight of something new. Something that I quite like.
What I saw
I never used to think about myself this way. The only thing I could see was what was wrong with me, like all the flab fat I thought I had. My tummy pillow, the blubby buttocks, thighs like tree trunks, and the absence of a thigh gap — at least, the absence of it in my perception. I was a huge elephant in my view, and I was confronted with that fact every single day, multiple times. Because I didn’t weigh myself any more but still had to “measure” how I was doing, I found myself standing in front of the mirror, lifting my shirt and grabbing all that fat. The fat I never truly had; what I didn’t see, were all the bones. My ribs, my hips and my spine — I was the perfect real-life anatomy model for my classmates when I was studying Physiotherapy. And if I did notice the bones, it was because I was satisfied for about five minutes, happy with my looks.
In reality though, my reflection was one of the most depressing aspects of my life, as I found out when I moved into a house without a tall mirror. The last thing I would have expected was that not seeing myself every day would be such a relief. That letting go would be such a relief. Because I had to let go of all these ways to “measure” my beauty, I could only rely on my feelings and my self-perception. I started to focus on different things. My health, for example, and everything involved in recovering from my eating disorder. When I found myself in front of a tall mirror again a year later, the experience had changed completely. I could look at myself without immediately criticising every single imperfection, and I was astounded to find that I didn’t look that bad at all.
What I see now
As it turns out, my tummy is actually pretty flat and dare I say, slightly toned. My butt is not out of proportion, but nice and round, sort of cute. My arms look fine and I don’t have chubby wrists like I thought I had. My legs are not too bad, even though I have funny knees. What I really see when I look into the mirror these days, is a girl who has dreams, who tries to realise them, and a girl who has overcome so much already: acknowledging that I am not perfect and never can be. Yes, this also means that I am still not too fond of my thighs, but what is far more important is that I have come to realise that being beautiful is so much more than physical perfections.
Seeing what I like
When I look in the mirror, I see a slim and intelligent girl, driven by ambition. I see someone who starts to smile when she does things that make her happy. I also see someone who becomes sad when she focuses too much on her appearance, because she still struggles with insecurities. Still, I know that my returning sense of reality and the recognition that I am not an elephant, but a normal human being, are things to be proud of. And so I see so much more than what I don’t like. I see what I do like: who I am, and who I am becoming.
What do you see in the mirror?
“When I Look in the Mirror” is part of a series in which different women of all shapes and sizes share their experiences and open up about what they really see when looking at their reflections. Do you want to share your story? Send an e-mail to laura[at]beautyisnotanumber.com.