Sister Love, Self Love

January 18, 2008

This morning, as I slipped out of the shower and dashed toward my towel, I was arrested by the flashing image of some alien being–large, bulbous torso with spindly appendages,  squishy and amorphous, with a dimpled, pasty-grey hide–as my gaze flitted briefly across the mirrored door of the medicine cabinet.  Extraterrestrial close encounters in my bathroom? Ultra-magnified image of a cotton ball and stray eyelashes? Cate Blanchett in her newest role, as Truman Capote? 

Uh, no, to all of the above, sad to say. With a start, I realized that mysterious reflection was me.

My HH finally put up the medicine cabinet a few days ago, so I wasn’t yet used to having a mirror in just that location, and forgot to avert my eyes as my naked self passed by.  Now, with two mirrors basically facing each other in the bathroom, just as they tend to do in women’s dressing rooms, I am treated to the full 3-D, 360 degrees, visual equivalent of surround-sound, image of myself every time I exit from the shower.  Bummer.  BIG bummer, if you get my drift.

Why is it I’ve come to avoid looking at myself in the mirror, you may wonder?  As a child, I never really thought about my looks very much.  These days, I can barely stand to gaze at my own reflection, and most especially not naked.  For many women, this is the last frontier of self-esteem:  being able to take in our own naked reflections without censure, or nausea.

I know that my body is not where I’d like it to be, and what’s worse, I know it has been in a much better place in the past.  As much as I consciously tout–and believe in–self-acceptance and self-love, it never occurred to me that I’m sabotaging myself by avoiding my mirror image just because I don’t like what I see.  What I end up doing each time I refuse to look is nurture that kernel of low self-esteem.

As it happens, The CFO is coming to visit this weekend (a deferred trip, after the last one was cancelled due to a snow storm).  Like my mother, my older sister, and me, The CFO has struggled with her weight most of her adult life.  And when I think of her and how I feel about her, it would seem ludicrous to me to reject her based on weight gain, of course.  So, if I’m infinitely capable of lavishing unconditional love on my friends and family regarless of physical appearance, it begs the question: why can’t I do so with myself as well?  

I believe in self-acceptance, and I’ve written about this before.  And I’m repeatedly inspired by other bloggers who’ve managed to incorporate self-love into their diet routines.   But I tend to separate acceptance from approval in my assessment, sort of like the mother of a toddler who tells her naughty child, “I still love YOU, but I am very angry at what you did.”  And let me tell you, what my fat cells are doing these days really sucks.

But I’m working on it.  There’s a great scene in the otherwise nondescript movie, Safe, one of Julianne Moore’s early films (1995).  Suffering from multiple allergies to basically everything (what was once called “20th Century Disease“), Moore’s character withdraws from the “real” world to an alternative-medicine retreat where she can be sheltered from the onslaught of all civilization’s many toxins and environmental villains.  Part of her cure involves practising self-love; her therapists believe that the root of her problems stems from her inability to really love herself, unconditionally. 

The movie ends with a tone that is both somewhat mocking (of all things alternative) and also portentous: Moore stands facing herself in the mirror and repeatedly chokes on the words, “I love you,” as she stares into the reflection of her own eyes.  But watching the scene, you just know that her salvation lies in that little phrase, in truly believing it.

I think this coming weekend is the perfect place to embark on a new approach to achieving such a salvation: I’m going to throw a superabundance of affection toward the CFO over the next two days, and attempt to do the same with myself, especially next time I pass by the mirror.  There may not be any skinny dipping in my foreseeable future, but perhaps I’ll eventually step out of the shower without shielding my eyes. 

 Have a great weekend, all.

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2 Responses to “Sister Love, Self Love”


  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Ricki.

    Perhaps I should write a post about it, but I basically avoided my body–thinking about it, looking at it, touching it–for a long time because of negative emotions. Then I had cancer, and after my first surgery (which was major–I called it ‘sawing me in half’ at the time), as I recovered from it and regained my ability to do certain things, I had this wonderment come over me about my body–my so maligned body–and what it COULD do. Not what it looked like or didn’t, or what it couldn’t do–none of that mattered just then–but what it WAS capable of, and what an enormous gift that was. To be able to walk easily. To be able to laugh heartily without pain. Etc. It’s been hard to hold on to that sense of wonder as time has passed, but I do try to return back to it when I start to feel loathing of my various body parts and their states. And I try, now, to remember, as some Christian circles say (and this can be a loaded statement, but I try to take it at its highest value) that my body is my home and my temple. I can take good care of it or let it fall into disrepair. I can make it more capable of what it is intended to do, I can push it towards helping me be more able to do good things, or I can let it be another limitation for me by not valuing it and caring for it and, yes, loving it. (I fall very short of perfection on all these issues, but that’s what I try to remember.)

  2. Ricki Says:

    Sally,

    Thank you so much for this powerful comment. I know I, too, often forget how wonderful my body is–it’s what lets me live in this world, isn’t it?–and it’s necessary sometimes to step back, think about it, and truly appreciate it. I love the idea of focusing on what it can DO rather than what it looks like (or even feels like, as when my joints ache, etc.).

    Modern life does tend to encourage taking things for granted, as we are so accustomed to abundance and ease, but we forget how much harder life is/can be, and that we need to appreciate what we’ve already got. Thanks for the reminder.


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