Love this!! :-)
Do you watch “Girls” on HBO? I looooove it – this season has been decidedly different for me, but I’m loving it nonetheless. Did you see this past week’s episode? Blew my friggin’ mind, it did…for about a hundred different reasons. First, this episode really highlighted the painful truth about friends who grow apart – it was kind of heartbreaking to watch Marnie try to plan this super-fun girlfriends weekend when no shits were given by the other girls. Speaking of the other girls….the bravery of Lena Dunham blows me away – girlfriend was in a teeny bikini for practically the whole episode, curvaceous, gorgeous bod just hanging out for the world to love…and it was a-ma-zing. Seriously. That shit moved me to tears because I can’t imagine ever liking myself enough to do that. Do you know that over the years I have apologized to others for the way I look. For real. Like some sort of psychopath. I swear I need a kick in the arse…seriously, who does that??! Grrrrr!!!!!! I wish that I could embrace this attitude:
I thought I was walking this lonely road of self-loathing alone until I read this piece by the brilliant writer – and my spirit animal – Mandy Stadtmiller:
The secret any man who sleeps with me eventually learns is that I have a scar underneath my breasts.
I’ve had laser treatments on it a number of times to make it less visible, but the scar is still there. It is a vocal imperfection, taking away from any centerfold potential a man might construct in his imagination.
Imperfection. That’s what I know my body represents. The secret of this will eventually come out.
If I take my clothes off, my breasts will cover the scar, in the right light, at the right angle, cupped in the right way, but as happens during sex, much of the body is revealed. “What happened here?” “What’s that from?” “Does it hurt?” Or my favorite: “You know, if you got a boob job, then it won’t even be visible at all.”
These are some of the things men have said to me about my scar upon seeing it for the first time.
I once wore a black lace bodysuit and I camouflaged the scar with tattoo-covering makeup, and I glanced into the mirror at the blurred forged perfection through the lace. I saw a glimpse into an alternate identity. This hallmark flaw, gone and covered. I splashed the water from my bathroom sink up onto my chest, angry at the airbrushing I was doing for — who? Myself? My pride? I washed the makeup off.
The story of my scar is quite simple and quite common. For many children.
When I was 9, doctors advised my parents that because I had a slightly concave chest, or pectus excavatum, I could have surgery to correct it. I don’t know if it was medically necessary. Neither do my parents. They just nodded yes. I remember the main argument was that I would look better in a bathing suit if I had the surgery necessary to correct it. I don’t remember being given a choice. I don’t remember much of anything except for being given the option for unlimited ice cream in the hospital and not wanting any of it, nauseous in the gray hospital bed, feeling my body had been split in two.
“This form says you had surgery to correct a ‘pectus excavatum,’” a doctor once perked up as he read my chart. He is there to examine my legs. He looks me over. “Can I see it?” he asks. I unbutton my shirt and show him my breasts. “Mm-hm,” he says. The doctor performs a minor injection to rid me of a spider vein in my ankle, but instead of ridding me of it, it worsens. I have the scar to this day. Another imperfection. More questions. More stories. More apologies.
There is a saying that energy from various situations in our lives stays with us as we go along. That unless we work out the energy to release it, that energy — trauma, fear, shame, sadness, fear — stays with us in our body throughout our lives. It’s lessened over time, but it is still there, a little fuzzy cloud around how you feel about yourself.
In the past, with any man who might see me naked, I used to go through the litany of what was wrong with me, to apologize, to excuse, to point out what I could not control — to try to get in front of the story — and relay The Story of the Scar. It was as if I understood from a very young age that the primary duty of my body was there to serve, and any fault that a man might find was a failing on my part as a woman. And so like clockwork, before any intimacy, at the start of any intimacy, I would begin my story the same: “I had a surgery when I was 9…”
There it was.
Part of me wanted to hand a card out to any prospective man who might ever see me naked with an annotated explanation: “Here are all of my faults as best as I can categorize them. Let us begin.”
It was only after I got sober in 2010 that my speech simply ended. Suddenly, the unbearable became bearable. The pain dissipated without meaning or judgment — and morphed into simple facts. There it was, a scar. It was neither bad nor good, it simply was a part of me.
And so this weekend, there I lay, naked, about to be intimate with a man who I have never been intimate with before for the first time.
This man is not someone who I expect anything from, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is the nature of our relationship. I feel good about what I’m doing, and I feel good about the clarity with which I see everything around me. I don’t need this man. He is here for my pleasure, not the other way around.
“We don’t have to do anything,” he says. “I know,” I say.
“I’ll be reading about this, won’t I?” he says.
I’m tempted to write nothing to show just how little this means to me, but I like the idea of writing about the scar. About the power of the stories we tell ourselves about our bodies.
“I miss getting high,” I tell him as I lay there beside him, and I mean it. I don’t mean that I plan to relapse, to drink again, but acknowledging this fact is my way of getting high in the one way I allow myself to now: through speaking truth.
This night has been building up for months, for over a year. He turns out the lights, and he holds me. “Let’s look out at New York together.” We do.
He kisses me and starts undressing me.
If this man can see me, if he ever really sees me, I know he never will. No man can.
I’m the only person who can ever see me. I know that now. And there’s no need to apologize.
I’sn’t she amazing? I know. I love her. I’ve done this thing she talks of a million times -apologized to others for my scars, the width of my arse, my mop hairdo that always looks primed and ready for some serious floor cleaning…but why? What’s wrong with these things? I’ll tell you – nothing. Zip. Zilcherooni, friends. Not a damn thing. I will never be discovered by a modelling agency at the local Piggly Wiggly (we don’t have those here, but I sure wish we did. I’d shop there every day, just for the name alone), but hopefully I won’t frighten small children, either. But even if I do, so what??!
I am covered in scars…some of them are pretty significant and noticeable, while others have faded to the background, just part of the landscape. My left forearm looks like it has been through a lawnmower, my right elbow is right tore up (but that scar resembles a smiley face, which is kinda cool)…there’s tons of them. All. Over. Me. Each one a small badge of honor to whatever life event they were a part of (that elbow scar? Surgery following a broken elbow that happened while taking some of my favorite students ever skating…I think of them and smile every time I look at the scar). The scar – no, gash – across my left hip is one that I’m the most sensitive about…which is dumb, as it is rarely seen. I had bone harvested from my hip and planted into my left wrist, leaving me with permanent wound marks in both places. I hate that hip scar so much – it symbolizes so much to me: the failed attempt to fix my arm (while buggering up my hip in the process), the unhappy place I was at in my life when that operation happened, the agony and misery of trying to look after myself on my own after the surgery, with my arm in a cast from fingertips to shoulder and my hip all bandaged up…it was just a rotten bloody time, and that stupid scar is a hateful reminder of some of my darkest days. Perhaps a day will come when that scar will serve as a sign along the road, reminding me of how far I’ve come. Perhaps someday…
In other news, I spend too much time in my head, you know that? As bloody busy as I am you’d think I wouldn’t have time for obsessing over trivial shit, but I do. It’s gross. I constantly fret that some people think the things that I do – and therefore me – are stupid. I don’t mean intellectually, because I think I do fine in that area…I mean something different. For example, I try to do thoughtful things like making up stupid poems, celebrating silly occasions like Birthday Eve, and bursting into song whenever the spirit moves me. I do these things to show love and encourage fun and happiness…but at times, I fret that people barely tolerate the things that I do in the spirit of good-hearted fun, and that they think I’m foolish and stupid. I usually don’t give a roaring rat’s arse what people think, but when it’s somebody I care about, I do. A lot. It bothers me. The thought of those that I care about thinking badly of me just breaks my heart. I wish that I could just do me and have that be enough – and it usually is, but…how to move past those times of self-doubt?
An expression I’ve always loved a bunch is ‘living out loud’…good, right? I have never been accused to disappearing into the background – truth is I wouldn’t even know how. But still I’m plagued with self-doubt. How do you get over that? How does a person learn to just let go? What’s the secret? I came across this article with eight tips for boosting self-confidence and moving past the doubt:
1. Stop comparing your accomplishments to your friends’ and colleagues’ accomplishments.
I find that I am most successful in my personal and professional life when I am following what works for me, and what makes me feel good, even if it is different from what someone I look up to is doing.
2. Forget about what everyone else is thinking of you.
When you care about what everyone else is thinking of you, you inhibit yourself. You’d rather do nothing and not get judged, than do somethingand risk criticism.
Worrying about what other people think of you will continue to hold you back from doing something potentially huge for yourself.
3. Just make a decision, and then correct your course as you go along.
Usually your first reaction is going to be your best since it typically comes from a place of intuition rather from the ego, and before outside opinions get in the way.
4. Write yourself a hand-written letter.
5. Listen and/or read positive material on a daily basis.
6. Write in a gratitude journal at the end of each day.
It’s far too easy to wallow in pity and focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Giving those feelings energy will only create more situations in which we come up empty handed.
Instead of focusing on what you are lacking, focus on what you do have, and what you haveaccomplished. This fosters a feeling of gratitude, and when you invest energy into gratitude now, you’ll start to find that you’ll be rewarded in the future.
Feelings of gratitude put you in a positive frame of mind. When you’re feeling positive, you’re feeling good. And when you’re feeling good, good things happen.
7. Identify your biggest fans, and then nurture those relationships.
8. Go to your mantras for support.
I’ve learned that by surrounding myself with my biggest fans, by focusing on my own goals, and by practicing gratitude I can experience love more deeply, minimizing feelings of self-doubt.
What do you think? I like a few of the ideas a lot – the gratitude writing is something I’ve flirted with off and on over the years, but I’ve never built a consistent routine around this. I should. I hear so often that people who practice this are far more at peace with themselves and their lives, so I should probably give it a whirl. There’s a beautiful red Moleskine journal (the best – and only kind I use!) sitting on my nightstand right now…there’s no time to start like the present!!! I also love the idea of not comparing your accomplishments to those around you – I used to struggle so much with this one, but I think things are improving here. Yaa me!! One idea I’m not so sure about is the whole mantra thing – I have read about it, thought about giving it a whirl, but ended up feeling stupid, so I never followed through. Here we are with the feeling stupid again…all things really are full circle, eh? I need to work on this. Starts now.
How do you do it, friends? How do you manage your self-doubting behavior and focus on being your best you? Is this something that matters to you or am I just being neurotic and worrying for nothing? I can’t wait to hear your feedback, friends! I’ll read it after I’m finished with the gratitude journal for today. There’s so much to be grateful for.